June 20, 2012
Guest Column
Special interest groups are destroying Hatteras Island


There is something terribly wrong in our country today, and there is no place where it is more evident than Cape Hatteras.

The inhabitants of this tiny island that consists of seven villages are under siege by repressive government no less than the framers of the Constitution were -- those who, out of desperation, fled from their homeland where generations of "their" families had lived.

We, the people of the United States, are supposed to be living under the rule of law created by our founding documents, guaranteeing our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Those fundamental rights are systematically being stripped away from us, and one would wonder if there is any solution.

The simplicity of the early days of the Audubon Society, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other similar groups and agencies that saw the necessity of protecting and preserving our precious natural resources, and rightfully so, has evolved into a very radical and deliberate paradigm shift towards a sense of absolute control over the public by these agencies and special interest groups.

But the most unbelievable aspect about what is happening is how all of these groups somehow trump the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They have become the puppeteers of our society and their influence affects every aspect of our daily lives, from commerce, to tourism, to recreation.

Generations of families have made their living on our beaches and the waters of the Pamlico Sound, but today many have had to leave the prosperity of the fishing and crabbing industry because of restrictions and regulations that have been imposed upon them by the Marine Fisheries since 1976. For those who struggle to carry on the generational tradition, it becomes more and more difficult and less and less lucrative every year.

There are hundreds of square miles of water that make up the Pamlico Sound, but it is almost impossible to keep a sufficient ferry channel open between Hatteras Island and Ocracoke because of all the environmental hype and seasonal regulations restricting pipeline dredging, out of fear of disturbing some eel grass, a fish, or a bird.

The channel that connects the two islands serves not only as the lifeline, but is also the evacuation route for the residents of Ocracoke Island during hurricane season. Within the past couple of year, $1.5 million has been spent trying to quick fix the problem utilizing the Army Corps of Engineers side-caster dredge. The results of that in Hatteras Inlet can best be summed up in a quote by Albert Einstein: "To keep doing the same failed thing over and over again, expecting a different result, is insanity."

To say that we are being systematically stripped of our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, is not exaggeration or melodrama. The Department of the Interior took 85 percent of our island from our grandparents and great-grandparents when they turned it into a "national seashore."

Agreements and promises that were made to local islanders back then that life would continue on just as it always had were accepted by the people and were honored by the DOI for decades. And we shared our beautiful island and beaches with people from all over the country and around the world.

But today those promises and agreements are as uncertain as the wind, and the National Park Service is once more taking our land from us by denying access to many areas of our beaches and charging outrageous amounts of money for permits to access other areas.

 They have destroyed the beauty of our beaches and the shoreline on the Pamlico side of the island with their thousands of signs and sticks and strings. And local merchants and businesses have suffered tremendous financial loss as a result of the things that are being imposed upon them.

Conservation and preservation have become perverted and lost in the money game created by special interest groups keeping our courts tied up with lawsuits involving any and every absurd thing imaginable, and are probably one of the main contributors to slow job growth and loss of jobs.

The NPS has tried to establish as factual that the piping plover is indigenous to Hatteras Island and because of their small numbers are somehow subject to extinction, neither of which is true.

Piping plovers thrive where they are indigenous. The NPS has used this rhetoric to strengthen their agenda of closing down access to our public beaches by creating a make-believe crisis to the ecosystem. The only crisis to the ecosystem on Hatteras Island is being perpetrated by the NPS, not the residents or visiting public.

Within just a two-year period in 2010 and 2011, the NPS set 19,025 traps, resulting in 857 species trapped, 102 of which were cats. Among other species that were trapped and killed were raccoons, opossums, minks, nutria, coyotes, red fox, and gray fox -- all for a bird that is not indigenous to the island. It is tragic that this is permitted in modern society.

If the Park Service wants to increase the population of the piping plover, wisdom would dictate, and the humane solution to the problem would be, to trap the piping plover and raise them and release them back into the wild, "not" kill hundreds and hundreds of our precious wildlife animals.

This island still belongs to we the people. Portsmouth Island used to be the hub among this little chain of islands known as the Outer Banks. Today it is a bird sanctuary for the NPS. That will never to happen to us!

The residents of Hatteras Island want to see action taken to address the Department of the Interior and to establish some degree of control over the NPS, the marine fisheries regulators, and the myriad of special interest groups that are destroying our way of life here in North Carolina.

(Malcolm Peele has deep roots on Hatteras Island.  He says he was the only one in his family not born here.  He was born in Norfolk after his father left the island to take a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He came back to the island, which his family called “down home,” but left again for 20 years for the same reason his father had – to find work. He moved back in 2003.

“I love this place that many of us refer to as "Paradise," and I will fight right along with the next person who feels the same way I do about Hatteras Island and the Outer Banks,” Peele says.)

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