That sounds like a rather ludicrous statement, doesn’t it?
Well, Southern Environmental Law Center and friends, as the proverb says, turn about is fair play.
This statement is no more ludicrous than SELC’s media releases.
SELC has sent out media releases since 2008, noting that bird and sea turtle nesting on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has increased greatly under the terms of a consent decree that settled a lawsuit by Defenders of Wildlife and National Audubon Society over the Park Service’s lack of a long-range, off-road vehicle regulation on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Two years ago, SELC and friends were claiming that the consent decree was responsible for a record number of sea turtle nests on the seashore when the fact of the matter was that sea turtle nesting had increased in 2008 all along the North Carolina coast and through the southeast United States.
Seashore superintendent Mike Murray has said in meetings with the media and in testimony in the courtroom of the federal judge who is overseeing the consent decree that the increases over the past few years cannot be called a trend – yet – and cannot be directly attributed to the consent decree.
Facts don’t seem to matter much to these environmental organizations when they start putting their spin on what a terrific job they are doing of closing public beaches to increase bird and turtle nesting here by minor numbers, compared to other areas of the country where the species do much better.
So, I say, turn about is fair play.
The fact of this matter is that before there was a consent decree, seashore officials can find no record of a sea turtle being killed by an ORV. Nor can any local remember such an incident.
Therefore, following the logic of the environmental groups, this very tragic death must be due to the consent decree.
Some folks say that if the beaches were not closed from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. to vehicles, there may well have been witnesses to the cruel death of the nesting loggerhead .
Some say other factors play into this incident in which an ORV crushed a loggerhead in the early morning hours of June 24. The Park Service has made no headway in identifying the ORV or its driver.
The Park Service doesn’t have enough law enforcement to sufficiently cover all the miles of seashore closed at night. It doesn’t have the equipment that might have videotaped the truck that traveled over the ramp to the beach after it was closed.
Last year, local beach access advocates offered to form a “community watch.” They proposed these volunteers would park their ORVs at the ramps – not moving and staying all night -- to watch for violators of resource closures.
For whatever reason, the Park Service never took them up on the offer.
The Park Service has been handed increased responsibilities under the consent decree with precious little money for all the policing that the environmental groups want.
Now the environmental groups want everyone off the beach from sunset to sunrise and all the ramps physically closed – as in chained – until turtle patrols have cleared the beach.
None of this is required in the consent decree under which the seashore is now being managed.
If park officials cave into this demand by special interest groups on a power trip and seemingly hell bent on closing public lands in a dubious attempt to protect birds and turtles, it will an inexcusable affront to all of us who live here and who love to visit these islands.
Negotiated rulemaking failed. The Park Service took over with its Draft Environmental Impact Statement and their preferred alternative, issued in March, and proposed rule, which is due this fall.
The park now has public comment from the DEIS and will issue a Final EIS later this year. And there will be a public comment period on the proposed rule.
They – and we – need to let the process run its course.
Meanwhile, there is no record of a turtle being killed by an ORV on the seashore before the consent decree.
Therefore, the consent decree caused the death of the turtle.
It makes about as much sense as the media releases from the special interest groups.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
More stories on the death of the loggerhead turtle on Ocracoke can be found on the Beach Access Page.