Beach Access Issues
February 27, 2009

UPDATE….Judge changes time and
place for consent decree conference

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle has changed the time and place for a status conference on the consent decree, which is regulating access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches until there is a final rule on off-road vehicles.

The status conference will be on Thursday, March 5, at 10 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Elizabeth City.

(Read more details in story below)

February 20, 2009

Status conference on consent decree is set for March 3


U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle has scheduled a status conference in a court case that resulted in a consent decree that is regulating off-road vehicle use and management of natural resources in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore until there is a long-term ORV rule.

The conference will be on Tuesday, March 3, at 2 p.m. in the Terry Sanford Federal Building in Raleigh.

The consent decree resolved the issues in the case that began in October, 2007, when Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, filed suit against the National Park Service over its Interim Protected Species Management Plan that was to regulate ORV use and species management until a long-term rule is developed through negotiated rulemaking and an Environmental Impact Statement.

The plaintiffs claimed that ORV use on the seashore is illegal, since the Park Service does not have a special rule to regulate it, as has been required since 1972.  Also, they claimed that the interim plan did not go far enough to protect wildlife in the park, especially shorebirds and sea turtles. In addition, the plaintiffs asked Boyle in February, 2008, for a temporary injunction to prohibit ORV use on six popular areas of the seashore – Bodie Island spit, Cape Point and parts of the South Beach, Hatteras Inlet, and the north and south points of Ocracoke – until the lawsuit was settled.

 The defendants are the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others, including the director of the National Park Service and the superintendent of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

In December, 2007, Boyle allowed Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance to become defendant/intervenors in the lawsuit to represent the interests of the public.

The parties to the suit – environmental groups, the Park Service, and the intervenors -- reached an agreement to settle the issues last spring.  The consent decree was signed by Boyle on April 30 of last year.

The requirements of the consent decree caused unprecedented closures of seashore beaches last summer during nesting season and implemented, among other things, much larger buffer distances around bird nests and a night driving ban from May 1 until Sept. 16 to protect nesting sea turtles.

The consent decree will control Park Service management of seashore beaches again this summer and next summer. Under the terms of the consent decree, the Park Service is required to promulgate a long-term ORV rule by April 1, 2011.

The status conference will include all parties to the lawsuit and their attorneys. The environmental groups, the defendants, and the intervenors say that none has asked for the conference.

“I do not know what (Judge Boyle) wants and have been assured by all that no one requested it,” Bobby Outten, Dare County attorney and assistant county manager, said about the conference.  “Until I have reason to believe otherwise I take everyone at their word.”

The consent decree required that the National Park Service produce reports on bird and turtle nesting and an update on negotiated rulemaking by Jan. 31 of each year. The reports go to the court and all the parties involved in the suit.

Several attorneys involved in the lawsuit and consent decree think that Boyle wants to discuss the reports.


For more information on the Park Service’s reports on birds, turtles, and negotiated rulemaking, go to:

For more information on the consent decree, go to:

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