Beach Access and Park Issues
March 2, 2011

Judge Boyle schedules a status conference on consent decree

By IRENE NOLAN



Federal district court Judge Terrence Boyle has scheduled a status conference on Thursday, April 7, on the consent decree that settled a lawsuit against the National Park Service over its lack of an off-road vehicle management plan at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The conference will be at 2 p.m. at the Federal Building in Raleigh.

The lawsuit was filed in October, 2007, by the National Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife, which were represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.  Later Dare and Hyde counties and the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance were allowed by Boyle as defendant-intervenors in the case.

Boyle agreed to the consent decree, signed onto by all of the parties to the lawsuit, on April 30, 2008.

The seashore has been managed under the terms of the consent decree since 2008.  This will be the fourth year of the consent decree.

As part of the consent decree, the National Park Service must submit resource management annual reports to all parties and the court. Boyle has summoned the parties for a status conference each spring.

Boyle had a status conference on the 2009 annual reports in March of last year, and had another conference on the status of ORV rulemaking on Dec. 2.

The Park Service issued its annual reports for 2010 at the end of January. They include last year’s nesting information on protected species and an update on the park’s effort to put an off-road vehicle management plan in place.

According to the terms of the consent decree, the National Park Service was to have a final ORV rule in place by April 1.

However, at the December status conference, the U.S. attorney representing the Park Service explained to the judge that the deadline would not be met.

None of the parties involved voiced an objection to the missed deadline at that time, and apparently the park will be managed under the terms of the consent decree again this summer.

Park Service officials have said they hope to have a final rule in place by the fall.



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