April 29, 2015
State makes proposals to Park
Service on wildlife buffers
By IRENE NOLAN
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has made its
recommendations to the National Park Service on how it should respond
to requirements in legislation passed in December by Congress that
requires some changes in the seashore's Off-Road Vehicle Plan.
other things, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore legislation, passed
as part of the National Defense Authorization Bill, instructs the
Secretary of the 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.
state Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) staff has been meeting with
Park Service staff for several months to work out the recommendations
on reducing buffer distances to gain more public access to the seashore
Gordon Myers, WRC executive director, outlined the
state agency's recommendations in an April 15 letter to seashore
Superintendent David Hallac.
"This letter provides our current thoughts on appropriate buffers for listed species conservation," Myers wrote to Hallac.
the letter, Myers outlines the differences between state and federal law
on endangered species. While human disturbance can affect wildlife
nesting, Myers writes, "there is a need to modify buffers on occasion
to maintain public access while reducing disturbance to nesting birds
and sea turtles.
The WRC staff is proposing that the Park
Service use an "iterative" decision model to modify buffers, which "can
help balance wildlife conservation and public access needs."
iterative approach is what the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation
Alliance also proposed in its recommendations to the Park Service on
how to meet the legislative mandate.
An "iterative" approach is
a process or arriving at a decision or desired result by repeating
rounds of analysis. It is sometimes used in processes in which the
decision is not easily revocable or where the consequences of
revocation could be costly.
In this approach, an optimum buffer
distance is set for such events as nests or hatched chicks. If the
optimum buffer does not block public access, it is applied. If it
does block public access, an alternate route is examined. If the buffer
continues to block access with an alternate route, a modified buffer is
applied. And so on.
This approach is more flexible than under
the current plan and allows for adaptive management by the
superintendent -- changing the plan to meet the current circumstances.
the application of appropriate buffer protections," Myers wrote, "the
NPS should use adaptive management practices to refine its management
The optimum buffers proposed by WRC for nesting birds and turtles are similar to those now used by the Park Service.
WRC proposes modified buffers when public access is blocked, and those
are very close to what the access groups have proposed.
Some changes to the current buffers include:
meters for American oystercatcher breeding behavior and nesting
compared to the current 150 and 150 meters instead of 200 for unfledged
- 50 meters for colonial waterbird breeding, nesting, and unfledged chicks compared to the current 200.
meters for piping plover breeding and nesting, compared to the current
75, and 200 meters compared to the current 1, 000 for unfledged chicks.
meters instead of 10 for sea turtle nests during incubation. Also, WRC
proposes that when no corridor or bypass is available around some
nests, NPS could relocate them according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service guidelines to reduce some access conflicts.
The WRC also acknowledges that reduction in buffer distances might require more intensive monitoring by seashore biologists.
access closure should always be the last option and is at the sole
discretion of the superintendent," Myers concludes in the letter.
also notes that WRC can provide funds to support research or other
adaptive management actions that conserve wildlife resources.
Click here to read the entire letter from the state Wildlife Resources Commission to the Park Service.