April 15, 2015
Access groups make proposals
to NPS on buffers, corridors
By IRENE NOLAN
Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) has made public its
proposals to the National Park Service on how it believes seashore
resource management policies should be changed to comply with
legislation passed by Congress last December.
The Cape Hatteras
National Seashore legislation, passed as part of the National Defense
Authorization Bill, instructs the Secretary of Interior to review and
adjust wildlife protection buffers, keep them in place the shortest
possible duration, designate vehicle and pedestrian corridors around
resource closures, and confer with the state of North Carolina on
certain buffers and protections.
It also makes other
modifications to the final Off-Road Vehicle Plan, such as conducting a
public process to consider such changes as the earlier opening of
beaches that are closed at night during the summer, extending seasonal
ORV routes in the fall and spring, and modifying the size and location
of vehicle-free areas. And it instructs seashore officials to construct
new vehicle access points and roads as expeditiously as possible.
proposals that CHAPA sent to seashore Superintendent Dave Hallac on
April 10 deal with the portion of the legislation that addresses the
need for the Park Service to revisit the buffers and designate vehicle
and pedestrian corridors around resource closures.
an umbrella organization comprised of groups that support more
reasonable access to seashore beaches than is allowed under the ORV
plan that became effective in 2012. The alliance includes the Outer
Banks Preservation Association, The North Carolina Beach Buggy
Association, and Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, and members of the
Hatteras Island business community.
In a cover letter to Hallac,
David Scarborough, treasurer of OBPA, noted that CHAPA's
recommendations were formulated after members of the group met with
Pete Benjamin, field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;
Gordon Myers, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife
Resources Commission, and Hallac and members of the seashore staff.
package covered by this letter refines and summarizes proposals we have
previously discussed for changes to the current resource management
policies and practices that we believe necessary for compliance with
the portion of the legislation required to be implemented within 180
days of its passage," Scarborough wrote to Hallac.
notes that the new law requires “..that the buffers are of the
shortest duration and cover the smallest area necessary to protect a
species…” and designation of "pedestrian and vehicle corridors around
areas of the National Seashore closed because of wildlife buffers, to
allow access to areas that are open.”
Scarborough said that
CHAPA believes that its proposals provide necessary and appropriate
resource protections while allowing more reasonable pedestrian and
vehicle access than the current ORV management plan.
proposal includes documents on protections for American oystercatchers
and colonial waterbirds, which are not federally listed but are
state listed as "species of concern," piping plovers, which are
federally listened as threatened, and sea turtles, federally listed as
endangered and/or threatened.
"The documents have evolved over
the course of our conversations," Scarborough said of the meetings with
other agencies and seashore staff.
CHAPA outlines a "multi-step decision-making process" for resource management that allows for flexibility.
documents also include a grid which CHAPA calls a "buffer and corridors
decision matrix" that outlines current buffers, proposed new standard
buffers, procedures for bypasses and corridors around closures, and the
duration of the buffers.
Here are some of the highlights of the CHAPA proposals:
buffers for American oystercatchers would not change. They are
150 meters for courtship, nesting, and abandoned and lost nests and 200
meters for unfledged chicks and post fledging.
- Standard buffers
for colonial waterbirds would be reduced from 75 meters to 50 meters
for courtship, nesting, and abandoned nests, and from 200 meters to 150
meters for unfledged chicks.
- Standard buffers for piping plovers
would be reduced from 75 meters to 50 meters for courtship nesting, and
abandoned nests and from 1,000 meters to 200 meters on each side of the
brood for the first week and 100 meters after that. These buffers,
CHAPA said, are based on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 1996
Piping Plover Recovery Plan.
- Additional NPS staff members should
be used if required to monitor the movement of unfledged piping plover
chicks to enable the smaller buffers.
- Pedestrians and vehicles should not be prohibited in pre-nesting closures for oystercatchers and colonial waterbirds.
- All pre-nesting closures should be removed no later than July 31.
all cases, if buffers close pedestrian or vehicle access, the park
should look first to a bypass, separated from the resource by natural
or manmade barriers, such as dunes. If a bypass is not available,
the park should consider a corridor around or through the closure.
neither a bypass or corridor is possible, the park should consider
modified, lesser buffer distances. If the buffer cannot be
modified, the superintendent should have the discretion to reduce the
buffer to a minimum on a case-by-case basis.
- The duration of resource closures would be reduced from two weeks to one week if a nest is abandoned.
- All buffers are to be removed immediately after chicks fledge.
turtle nest buffers would be about the same as they currently are under
park resource policies. Hatch-window buffers would be reduced and more
emphasis would be placed on bypasses and corridors around nests in the
- If no temporary bypass or alternate route is available during the hatch window, the nest would be relocated.
recommendations also call for solid light-impermeable fencing extending
to the high tide line during the period of Sept. 15-Nov. 15 when night
driving is permitted on ORV routes with no turtle nests. The purpose of
the fencing would be to protect hatchlings from disturbance from
headlights of vehicles in ORV routes. This would stop situations such
as the one that arose last fall when the ORV route from Ramp 44 to Cape
Point was closed from Oct. 6 until Nov. 25 because of possible light
disturbance to a nest that was adjacent -- to but not in -- the ORV
Hallac has said that the seashore's recommendations for
complying with the new legislation will be made public in mid- to late
April and will be followed by five public meetings.
staff members have been meeting for several months to collect and
evaluate peer-reviewed science on buffers, which Hallac says will also
be made public. The Park Service has also included the state Wildlife
Resources Commission and Fish and Wildlife in its discussions.
Department of Interior must report back to Congress on what it proposes
to do about modifying buffers and providing corridors and bypasses by
It is possible that some, but not all, of the seashore's recommendations could be implemented during the current nesting season.
Park Service has until the end of the year to comply with the other
parts of the legislation. Hallac says that staff members will
turn its attention to them when the first part on buffers is completed.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to see the all of the documents on buffers and corridors that CHAPA sent to the Park Service.