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: