The effort to restore reasonable access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches got some national attention today — at long last.
?Fox and Friends,? the early morning news show on the Fox News cable network, featured a segment on beach access this morning.
The segment was part of Fox?s ?It?s Your Land? series of articles and was titled, ?Environmentalists? Crusade.?
John Couch, president of the Outer Banks Preservation Association, appeared live in the show?s studio in Washington, D.C., to talk about the extensive beach closures under the 2008 consent decree that settled a lawsuit against the National Park Service by Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society over what the environmental groups say were inadequate protections for nesting birds and sea turtles on seashore beaches.
Couch was interviewed by Brian Kilmeade, one of the hosts of the show.
The 3 ?-minute segment focused on the economic effects of the closures on businesses and gave Couch an opportunity to talk about the effects of the contentious buffer zones for piping plover chicks ? 1,000 meters in all directions from the nest.
In response, Kilmeade read a statement from Derb Carter, attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, which represented Defenders and Audubon in the lawsuit.
?The consent decree does not directly close any beaches to ORV use,? Carter said. But, the statement continued, the beaches might be closed to ORVs if ?threatened piping plovers and other protected shorebirds? are nesting in the area.
Really? The consent decree does not ?directly? close any beaches?
That will be news to many folks.
The SELC statement also went on to say that ?all bird species appear to be benefitting?.?
That has become the theme song of the environmental groups ? that the consent decree has already ? in just three summers — brought great benefit to nesting birds and turtles.
Of course, it is too early to attribute the slight increases in bird nesting to the decree. Couch noted that the weather has an effect on successful piping plover fledging rate, and the weather was about perfect for the birds this summer.
SELC?s statement on the Fox program did not directly mention that record number of sea turtles nesting on the seashore this summer, but Carter and his cohorts have bragged about that in media releases and in the court of the federal judge who is overseeing the case.
If you google ?sea turtles? and ?record nesting,? you will see that nesting success reached records along most areas of the southeast coast this summer. In fact, an Associated Press article just last week addressed record number of turtle nests on Topsail Island in North Carolina, just south of Cape Hatteras.
Couch did not have a chance to address all of the issues of beach access that have hurt Hatteras and Ocracoke island residents and visitors since environmental groups decided to press the National Park Service on its lack of an off-road vehicle regulation and species management.
That regulation, expected to be final next year, will be a life and lifestyle changing experience for all of us.
?I was disappointed that I didn?t get to make all of the points that I wanted to,? Couch said after his Fox News debut.
But he noted that — at long last — the issue of access, which has been discussed and debated here for decades, got some national attention. And, he said, perhaps more will follow.
?We are one of many players across the country who are dealing with (environmental groups),? Couch said, adding that ?we?re just struggling? to get back to a reasonable approach on conservation.
And, the groups in favor of reasonable access to the nation?s seashore finally got to throw a punch against the well-financed and media-savvy paid staffers at such environmental groups as Audubon and Defenders of Wildlife.
We will see if it makes a difference.
CLICK HERE TO SEE A VIDEO OF JOHN COUCH ON ?FOX AND FRIENDS?