Last Chance to Pipe Up for Piping Plovers

Piping plover with chicksCape Hatteras National Seashore is a natural treasure on North Carolina’s coast. And tourists aren’t the only ones flocking to the seashore’s beaches each year–the 67 miles of shoreline provide homes to an array of wildlife, from piping plovers to loggerhead sea turtles. Sadly, decades of unregulated beach driving have taken a serious toll on these threatened and endangered animals.

Defenders and other conservation groups successfully pushed for a temporary science-based management plan which, in just four years, has allowed these birds and turtles to make a comeback. In 2007, imperiled sea turtles created just 82 nests on the shore. But in 2010, after 3 years of temporary protections, that number rose to 153.

But that recovery may be lost if stronger, permanent measures are not put in place. Just last year, a threatened loggerhead sea turtle was tragically run over and killed while making her way to nest on a Cape Hatteras beach. The practice of posting signs regarding the nighttime beach driving restrictions during turtle nesting season did not deter the off-road vehicle drivers and did not protect the turtle.

Now the National Park Service is proposing new, permanent regulations for off-road vehicle use on the seashore’s beaches. But instead of protecting the animals that call the seashore home, these regulations jeopardize much-needed wildlife protections and put the future for sea turtles and shorebirds like the piping plover in doubt.

Crushed nesting loggerhead

Last year, this loggerhead was crushed by an off-road vehicle while nesting on Cape Hatteras shores.

The proposed regulations will determine how Cape Hatteras is managed for decades, and will set a precedent for other national parks. A balanced plan would guarantee adequate space and protections for wildlife, while still allowing responsible beach driving in some areas so that all visitors can fully enjoy this national treasure. But as written, the proposed regulation does not mandate specific, science-based protections for the wildlife that depends on the seashore. In fact, it only sets aside areas for off-road vehicles. The proposal reserves just 26 of the seashore’s 67 miles of beach for pedestrians and wildlife year-round while the rest is set aside for year-round and seasonal beach driving.

You can make a difference! The National Park Service needs to know that people like you support management at your national parks that safeguards wildlife from off-road driving and balances the needs of all seashore users. The Park Service is accepting comments until Tuesday, September 6. Make your voice heard now.