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SELC's latest spin on the fantastic consent decree

Thursday 02 July 2009 at 09:33 am. The Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society in their lawsuit again the National Park Service over ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, has just released more of its fantasy thinking on the terrific success of the fantastic consent decree.

This time the SELC spin comes in the form of a four-minute video by SELC lawyer Julie Youngman that was released on June 15.

In it, Youngman, a colleague of SELC’s lead attorney Derb Carter, reminisces about her childhood summers on the seashore – the beautiful beaches and plethora of wildlife.

“Many of these species,” she says with a serious and straight face, “are listed as threatened or protected by the federal government.”

Many? Oh, really? The only bird listed by the federal government is the piping plover, which is listed as threatened.  All of the other birds getting resource protections are listed as species of special concern by the state of North Carolina.

Five species of sea turtles are found on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The loggerhead and green turtles are federally listed as threatened and the leatherback, hawksbill, and Kemp’s ridley are on the federal list as endangered.

So I guess those six species account for the “many” that are listed by the federal government.

Youngman goes on to discuss the disappointing 2007 breeding season for birds and turtles.  Therefore, she says, the environmental groups filed its lawsuit in the fall of 2007.

The lawsuit was settled by a consent decree, an agreement among all the parties, signed by a federal judge on April 30 of last year.

And, miraculously, the fantastic consent decree “soon posted impressive gains.”

Never mind that the spring and summer nesting and pre-nesting season was already underway on April 30 – under the Park Service’s very adequate Interim Protected Species Management Plan.

By August, after not quite four months under the decree, Derb Carter and SELC were declaring victory. In press releases and in a March status hearing with a federal judge, SELC again pronounced that the fantastic consent decree was indeed fantastic.

However, their claims of success are nothing but premature.

Sea turtle nests set a record on the seashore last summer – under rules prohibiting night driving.  But nesting was also up all along the North Carolina coast.

Piping plovers had a good nesting season last year also.

Here is what I wrote last August after a meeting between seashore Superintendent Mike Murray and local reporters:


“How is resource management going?” he asked.

Then he answered his question.

“It’s been a very challenging summer, implementing the consent decree on short notice when we were geared up for the interim plan,” he said.

Overall, it’s been a good year for birds and turtles at the seashore.  

Piping plover nesting pairs were the highest since 1997, he said. Eleven pairs of piping plovers established 13 nests and fledged seven chicks. (Last year six pairs fledged four chicks.)

“Why has it been better this year?” Murray asked.  “It’s impossible to draw conclusions.  There are many variables involved.”

He pointed to more favorable weather, earlier nesting, fewer re-nesting attempts, and predator control.

“Because of the consent decree,” he said, “the birds could settle down earlier.”

However, he also added that all of the piping plover nests were in pre-nesting areas that had already existed under the interim plan.  And he said that more experienced biologists and monitors were able to find the nests earlier and implement “exclosures” to keep predators out of the nests.

American oystercatchers are also having a good summer.  

As of Aug. 6, Murray said that 23 pairs of oystercatchers had established 33 nests, and hatched 24 chicks. Fourteen chicks had fledged by that date and several more were expected to.(Three more chicks later fledged.) Last year, 22 pairs established 39 nests and fledged 11 chicks.

Murray said there were fewer nests this year, but more oystercatcher chicks fledged.  He noted that there was less nest failure and fewer storms this year.

And sea turtles have had a record year of nesting on the seashore.  There were 109 nests as of Aug. 18, the most since statistics have been kept.  Last year, there were 82 nests.  The ratio of nests to false crawls, when a turtle comes ashore but does not lay a nest, is also better this year.

Murray noted that sea turtles nest every two to three years, so the turtles nesting on the seashore this summer are not the same animals that were here last year. Also, sea turtle nesting is also up at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and along the entire North Carolina Coast.

The consent decree mandates a night driving ban from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. from May 1 until Sept. 15 – and night driving from Sept. 16-Nov. 15 by permit only.

“There are so many variables that it is difficult to factor out one thing,” Murray said. “Wildlife managers are much more concerned about the long-term trends.”

“Is the consent decree better for the resources?” Murray asked.  “We can’t draw any conclusions.”

Is the increased turtle nesting due to the night driving ban?

“We don’t know,” he said

Murray essentially repeated that view when he testified before the federal judge in March.

And the mysterious Crotalus, who has posted on my blog from an environmental, less access for ORV point of view, said this in his comments on the blog, “Don’t beat up on Dare County…..”

Due to natural variations in populations, the only way to ascertain if any management strategy is effective or not would take at least 5 years. (Decades for sea turtles since they only nest every three years or so)


No scientist or reasonable person can declare that the management strategies of the consent decree with its night-driving ban and expanded buffers have been successful in barely more than a year.

But SELC has declared success over and over again.


For the latest fantasy by Julie Youngman, go to:

http://www.southernenvironment.org/multimedia/videos/the_inside_story_turning_the_tide

twelve comments

Sandy Reel

Their own graphs show the cyclical and fickle nature of the breeding results of these creatures.
http://www.southernenvironment.org/uploa..

Again, from their own data they show that between 1992 and 1996 the number of breeding pairs of plovers was highest, under the Interim Plan. Sure they jumped up in 2008 but they were coming up anyway. So now they’re twisting conclusions from their own twisted data.

Sandy Reel (Email ) - 02-07-’09 11:03
TexacoRide

Of course they continue to spin, spin, spin. They don’t want anyone to know the truth about what is really going on. The only way to stop it is for the various access organizations to mount a mass campaign of press releases all over the country showing what liars they are.

TexacoRide (Email ) - 02-07-’09 12:54
Crotalus

Thanks for the plug Irene. And if you mean by “less access” as something in the form of the interim plan, you’re quite correct.

TexacoRide, the access side has its own spinmeisters as well. There are several posts out there declaring the Consent Decree hasn’t worked based upon two-years “trends”.
Ain’t no such critter as a “two-year trend”.

Crotalus (Email ) - 02-07-’09 14:02
Mike Berry

First they use unsettled law to target the weakest entities they can find, such as the economically stressed communities of the Outer Banks that do not have the financial resources to fight back.

When the community does fight back, the environmentalists mock them and their elected representatives.

They constantly and deliberately distort and misrepresent environmental benefits, misuse science, and they hide or ignore the socially irresponsible consequences of their actions.

Then they use press releases, annual reports, and increasingly the Internet to hype and spin their cheap legal victories and voice their pseudo science.

They direct most of their hype to the popular press that fails to dig deep for the facts and full story.

Thanks for exposing the SELC spin Irene. I wish more of the media would read and republish your work, with credits of course.

Mike Berry (Email ) - 02-07-’09 14:23
TexacoRide

TexacoRide, the access side has its own spinmeisters as well. There are several posts out there declaring the Consent Decree hasn’t worked based upon two-years “trends”.
Ain’t no such critter as a “two-year trend”.

I don’t disagree Crot. Just like any election campain, both “candidates” will try to spin things their way. My “candidate” in this fight is reasonable and open access such as that the Interim Plan produced. This CONsent Decree is ridiculous. Therefore, I will listen to the spin of the access side and do everything I can to discredit you and your “eco-loons”

TexacoRide (Email ) - 02-07-’09 16:29
Crotalus

My “eco-loons”?

Hardly. I guess you missed the part in my post above about the Interim Plan?

Crotalus (Email ) - 02-07-’09 21:25
John Alley

At least it was something to watch, other than Michael Jackson.

D-Day: War’s over, man. Wormer dropped the big one.
Bluto: Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!
Otter: Germans?
Boon: Forget it, he’s rolling.
Bluto: And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough…
[thinks hard]
Bluto: the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!
[runs out, alone; then returns]
Bluto: What the ***** happened to the Delta I used to know? Where’s the spirit? Where’s the guts, huh? This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re gonna let it be the worst. “Ooh, we’re afraid to go with you Bluto, we might get in trouble.” Well just kiss my ass from now on! Not me! I’m not gonna take this. Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…
Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic, but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.
Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.
D-Day: Let’s do it.
Bluto: Let’s do it!

John Alley - 02-07-’09 21:41
Jim Harris

These are the comments I left on their (SELC) survey.

The truth, first & foremost. Turtles nesting numbers were up in all of NC coast. Nothing SELC did affected that. Less than 50% of turtle nests produced hatchlings. Less that 50% of hatchlings made it to the water. Nothing SELC ET-Al did had anything to do with any nesting success. The birds that nested were born 2-3yrs before your lawsuit. Your unwillingness to compromise on anything that would give access to humans, scuttled Negociated Rule Making.

So you have now entered the fray over critical habitat, it will be refreshing to have SELC pay when we win this just like we won the previous cases on the same subject.

Why does SELC want to destroy the economies of Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands? Why do you stand in the way of vegetation removal on the west & south sides of the dredge & bait ponds at the point, which would create safe habitat for plovers and colony nesting birds. Is it, that doing that would open beach use for humans?

Why does SELC oppose replacing the Bonner Bridge? Why don’t you want the citizens of Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands to have a safe bridge to evacuate during dangerous weather?

Jim Harris (Email ) - 02-07-’09 21:44
Larry Cullen

Thanks Irene!
Seems like Carter and company are starting the spin for the end of the consent decree already. It is amazing how these eco-nuts can spin a little into a whole little and get their uninformed and sympathetic minions all worked up over nothing at all. I only wish there was a court to take to task the spin-meisters of the world and punish their inaccuracy and white lies. How do they sleep at night? Oh yes I forgot! They are paid for their opinions!!!…it makes them easier to spin and profit!

Larry Cullen - 03-07-’09 00:57
Barbara Ackley

On this day of celebration for all Americans, read about the loss of freedom at CAHA: http://www.co.dare.nc.us/Announce/freedo...

What can those of us do who don’t wish to take up arms? What can the true environmentalist do?

We can consider the failure of the Consent Degree and implore to National Park Service to do better. It is probable that regulations such as the Consent Degree will go on for a long time unless we act now.

If the National Park Service doesn’t have a plan ready for Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area or it is immediately challenged by either side after next year, all local or visiting birds, turtles or people will suffer. Let there be no doubt, when the NPS reveals their plan to govern the recreational area, the user public must challenge the proposed regulation.

It is expected that the Park’s proposed regulation will be somewhere between the Interim Species Plan and the Consent Degree. There will be permanent closures to protect the birds and turtles, meanwhile killing the other natural wildlife.

Looking at the beaches this summer we can see that they are quite narrow. There simply is not sufficient preferred sand area that is safe for the birds and turtles to nest. Many nests and chicks have already disappeared.

Many marked turtle nests are at or below the new moon flood tide rack lines. Those that have been moved are up against steep dunes on steep beaches, some at the rack line, some still very close to the ocean. Creeping vegetation has made many of these dunes in front of the man made primary dunes toward the ocean. The natural process of the shore is westword making a more gradual sloping beach than what has been made due to restricting OVRs.

CAHA loses almost half of the turtle nests (approximately 100 eggs each) due to flooding. We don’t watch our nests and don’t know how many hatchlings escape the claws of the ghost crabs. Many shore areas are going to a corral system in order to save the turtles from certain loss. These corrals are located in safer places, even behind the dunes if necessary. The nests are watched and moved to the ocean when they hatch. The eggs are kept in covered "buckets" to keep out ghost crabs and other predators. We saw such a corral at Padre Island National Seashore in operation this May.

Why hasn’t CAHA done this? Because it is not natural! Duh. Losing turtles is. Just keep the ORVs away in case they might run over 1 egg or 1 hatchling, but intentionally cause over 50 percent lose.

The National Park System caused the lose. We have pointed out this info many times over several years. We have submitted pictures of flooded nests. We have proven wrong many of the objections. Cape Hatteras Anglers Club even applied for a permit to conduct a temperature experiment and it was conducted volunterily 2 years ago. To date, we have not seen this study published which showed little change in sex of the hatchlings could be expected due to relocation. The slight change actually showed more females would result, which are the ones needed to lay the eggs!

What can the real environmentalists do? Tell Mike Murray about it and urge him to start doing this now. It is not against the consent decree! It actually saves turtles. Insist that he look at the data he has, the resource reports. Make sure these activities are in the Preferred Alternative of the Plan.

What can the true environmentalist do now. Like the turtles, there are measures that can be taken to save the birds. The consent decree isn’t working here either. The annual and weekly CAHA Resource Reports show this. Again this year, storms have taken nests. Each year half of the American Oyster Catcher nests are washed away. Why? The same reason as the turtle loss. Creeping vegetation, seaward dunes, steep beaches, ocean overwash.

For several years we have pointed the problem out to the National Park Service. The desired habitat is now not available. All that is needed is to restore the beaches of the interior water areas, the ponds and dredge holes. Actually, CAHA had submitted a request for a small experimental area to create bird habitat. After following the progress for several weeks this winter, Thayer Brioli explained that the higher ups were too busy to review it.

The bird habitat could be restored next year. It is not against the consent decree; it can be done before the CD starts next year. Insist that this be done.

Look for our successes, don’t expand our failures. The animal species will be increased. The people population will be able to enjoy a brief haven area away from the stresses of our current economic depression.

This is a call to action, not arms. All true environmentalists – token, moderate, extreme can agree on the need. Request the NPS begin saving the deminishing species with the best local available science. This action can start now, inspite of the consent decree!

Barbara Ackley - 03-07-’09 11:51
steve coleman

Jim Harris asks "Why does SELC want to destroy the economies of Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands".

The answer is because they can.

Any thinking person can see through the transparent and deceitful propoganda that the SELC is spinning out.

The problem is this is not controlled by thinking people. The judges and legislators are not thinking people. The NPS is not a group of thinking people.

Instead you see a herd instinct of non-thinking people blindly following the so-called green agenda. No thought needed. Just vote green. It’s a pity the legislators have not shown an ability to think. Whatever it is and whatever the cost vote for it. It’s easier than actually thinking and understanding the issue.

The only thinking people here are the SELC / DOW / Autoban society who recognize this and are cleverly using it to their advantage to shut down everything they can. Because they can.

Our beach access is doomed unless we can get people to think.

steve coleman - 05-07-’09 21:19
Renee Tomberlin

It would be nice if one could see the comments that have been made on the video at their website. I left one and I’m sure that others have done so. Mine was not very nice.

Renee Tomberlin (Email ) - 06-07-’09 10:58




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