|Beach Access Issues
| June 2, 2009
Judge agrees to minor modifications of consent decree
By IRENE NOLAN
In a hearing today in U.S. District Court in Raleigh, federal Judge
Terrence W. Boyle signed off on three modifications to a consent
decree, which has dictated beach access and resource protection on the
Cape Hatteras National Seashore since April of last year.
The consent decree settled a lawsuit against the National Park Service
by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, which were
represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Dare and
Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance were
allowed by Boyle to join the action as defendant intervenors.
All of the parties agreed to settle the lawsuit under the terms of the
consent decree until the National Park Service has a long-range
off-road vehicle plan, which must be in place by 2011.
Today, the parties – plaintiffs, defendants, and defendant
intervenors – appeared in Boyle’s court to tell him that
they had agreed to three modifications in the decree.
The modifications, which are relatively minor, include:
• One additional hour of beach access for
commercial fishermen. Under the consent decree, night driving on
the beach is prohibited from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. Commercial
fishermen sought to have that changed so that they can enter the beach
at 5 a.m. They can now do that with certain restrictions, such as
staying out of closed resource areas.
• After Sept. 15, all unhatched turtle nests
will be required to have full beach closures only from sunset until 6
a.m. instead of around the clock. (Night driving is allowed after Sept.
15 with a permit.)
• The portion of the consent decree that deals
with penalties for violations of pre-nesting closure or nesting buffer
will be changed. The National Park Service will not be required
to expand a buffer for vandalism if the violator is apprehended, either
by the work by the Park Service law enforcement staff or through
information from the public. If the buffer has been expanded and
then the violator is caught, the Park Service can retract the expansion.
Last year, there were about a half dozen intentional violations of
resource closures, but no perpetrator was arrested in any of the
cases. There have been several violations already this
year. Again, no arrests have been made.
Bobby Outten, assistant Dare County manager and county attorney, said
that the thought behind the change in the penalties for violations of
buffer expansions is intended to “give the public an incentive to
turn in the people responsible.”
Outten said the hearing lasted about 30 minutes and was
“uneventful.” It was attended, he said, mostly by attorneys
for the parties. The judge, he said, did not ask for any
At least one member of the public attended and posted this summary on the Red Drum Tackle Forum:
This last part is painful to report: The judge also noted that "the
public is being tremendously served because of the closures." He said
that the same staffing level of rangers now have "less acreage. .
.smaller. . .more concentrated areas" of public access so they're
better able to enforce drunk driving, speeding, littering, camping,
etc. laws which makes for "a safer and more wholesome" environment in
the park. (He pulled this out of a cloud presumably. There was no
testimony by NPS to this effect, nor did he reference any reports or
more information on the consent decree and the beach access issue,
check out the Beach Access and Park Issues Page and the Archives.)