Piping plover, © USFWS

If it Ain’t Broke: It’s Politics vs. Protection at Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras is on a roll: tourism is up, wildlife is thriving, and visitors have balanced access to the beach.  So why are North Carolina Senators Hagan and Burr backing a bill that would take all that away?

Two words: special interests.  A small, vocal group of off-road vehicle (ORV) owners are pushing a disastrous agenda: they want to overturn the National Park Service’s final rule for Cape Hatteras, a set of sensible protocols designed to protect wildlife and provide for pedestrian and ORV visitors at the same time.  This would have serious consequences for endangered sea turtles, piping plovers and other wildlife that depend on the beach to raise their young.  That’s because in place of the Final Rule, Senate bill 486 calls for returning Cape Hatteras to an interim strategy that was deadly for wildlife.

The final rule was created after Defenders of Wildlife sued the National Park Service because they had not put in place an ORV plan for the park.  Instead, they had an interim strategy, which was never meant to be a long-term management plan for the seashore.  Incredibly weak and ineffective, it lacked the vital protections of the final rule and opened up a huge percentage of the beach to ORV drivers.  And that’s exactly why ORV groups want to bring it back.

Hatteras adThey don’t care that tourism numbers and sea turtle nest counts both set records under the final rule last summer.  They don’t care that in 2012, eleven piping plover chicks fledged successfully, compared to just four back in 2007 before protections were in place.  And they don’t care that before the final rule, piping plover and other shorebird species were nearly extirpated from the seashore.

And unfortunately, these vital considerations appear lost on Senators Hagan and Burr as well.  Their bill, S.486, essentially says that it’s okay to put the demands of a small group before balancing the needs of wildlife, pedestrians and drivers together.

Well, we didn’t work so hard to protect wildlife from reckless ORV use to sit and watch this legislation whisk the final rule away.  Defenders of Wildlife is taking a stand: we called North Carolinians who know and love Cape Hatteras and asked them what they thought of Senate bill 486.  They told Senator Hagan and Senator Burr that Cape Hatteras National Seashore is for everyone: people and wildlife, tourists and locals, drivers and pedestrians.  Their voices are in our radio below:

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Defenders of Wildlife has also collaborated with the Audubon Society of North Carolina and Southern Environmental Law Center to send out a print ad that appeared in the June 12, 2013 issue of the Independent Weekly newspaper.

Defenders is fighting S.486 and working hard to make sure wildlife at Cape Hatteras have a safe place to live and raise their young for generations to come.

Categories: Wildlife

8 Responses to “If it Ain’t Broke: It’s Politics vs. Protection at Cape Hatteras”

  1. John Johnson


    Do you even know where the Outer Banks are located? Have you ever been there? Do you know what a piping plover looks like? Have you read any of the studies of the “endangered piping plover”? Rather than just assume that the DOW has all the correct infor, read contrasting articles to get an unbiased picture of the situation.

    Have a great day

    John Johnson

  2. Mike D

    I have been going to the Outer Banks for more than 30 years and I can tell you that the wildlife is more in jeopardy now than before. Do you all know that they are killing foxes, raccoons and other animals to protect birds that aren’t indigenous to the area?

    As a member of the ORV community I can tell you we lead cleanups of the area and help to protect the wildlife but the current rules are unrealistic.

    • jd anderson

      “they” also trapped and killed raccoons as well. seen some of the trapped ones with my own eyes.

    • Leah

      Foxes and raccoons aren’t endangered. Sea turtles and many of the shorebirds that use Cape Hatteras *are*. That’s the key difference.

      The rules aren’t there to stop ORV use entirely, they just restrict access to a small but crucial bit of wildlife habitat when the animals need it most. As soon as the birds have fledged and the sea turtles have returned to the water, the area is opened up again. (And there are plenty of other sites open for ORV use when the piping plover nesting area is closed, too! The entitlement of the few – why should they get access to every single inch of beach – is truly astounding.)

    • david

      The rules have stop ORV use entirely on many stretches of beach. And the buffers they put around a courting pair is astounding. They may never even nest. And what makes it right to play God and select which animals deserve to live or die. Doesn’t mother nature have a say or is it all DOW and Audubon way. This is about entitlement of a few, but it’s not the ORV users.

  3. Justin

    Not that most of you could be convinced of anything, but the locals really do care about their most unique area and its wildlife. I am with Mike and JD on this one. Do your own research and look up how many hundreds of native species are being slaughtered every year. Mink, Raccoon, Fox, etc. Who is defending them? Right now, if you have a fishing rod, you cannot even walk to Cape point. If you have a camera, you can go wherever you want. I have been there and seen it with my own eyes.

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