Sea turtle hatchlings, © William Curtsinger/National Geographic

Turtles and Tourists Thrive at Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

The good news just keeps on coming for Hatteras wildlife. Last week, a federal court upheld Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s beach driving rule, which has led to two consecutive years of great news for sea turtle and piping plover nest rates, along with record tourism numbers. Indeed, since it was put in place, the park has counted a record number of sea turtle nests (222 in 2012 and 254 in 2013) and both visitations to the National Seashore and proceeds from visitor lodging increased during the nesting season.

Nonetheless, in 2012, a local group sued the National Park Service in an attempt to undo the rule. Defenders of Wildlife and our conservation allies in North Carolina sprang into action, fighting to protect the rule and the sea turtles and shorebirds that benefit from it.

© Defenders of Wildlife

Click to enlarge

And fortunately, on June 20th, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled in favor of the Park Service, Defenders and our conservation allies, which is great news for wildlife.

This suit was just one of many attacks on the rule. Over and over again, off-road vehicle interest groups have tried to block, weaken or do away with any kind of beach driving regulation at Cape Hatteras. Just last year Defenders launched a radio ad campaign calling on North Carolinians to tell their senators to protect Hatteras wildlife. Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr had introduced harmful legislation that would render the year-old beach driving rule useless, even though both wildlife and tourism are thriving.

It’s just common sense to strike a balance between enjoying our beaches and protecting our wildlife, and the success at Cape Hatteras is a great example. To celebrate the second anniversary of the beach driving rule, Defenders of Wildlife launched a print ad campaign in Outer Banks Magazine and IndyWeek, welcoming visitors and turtles alike back to the beach for the 2014 beach season.

Best wishes to everyone for another summer of thriving wildlife and tourism at Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

Haley McKey is a Communications Associate at Defenders of Wildlife

39 Responses to “Turtles and Tourists Thrive at Cape Hatteras National Seashore!”

  1. Alexander Yeung

    Sea turtles have a chance of survival with the help of us who care for them. Keep up the good work.

  2. Mike

    Thanks for nothing. Now a person cannot even walk on the beaches to fish or swim. These beaches were designated as Recreational Seashores but there is no recreating on them now. A person walking does not harm the Turtles, we are in awe of them.

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      The beach driving rule applies to off-road vehicles, not to pedestrians. As mentioned, visits to the National Seashore have actually increased.

  3. Lay Williams

    This is BS propaganda. Turtle nesting everywhere was up the last two years, with no difference between CHNSRA and other coastline with no ORV restrictions, and tourism may be up forDare County, but not so for Hatteras Island, where the beach closures have been implemented. Businesses that rely on fishing tourism have suffered declines there that threaten the local economy, and the NPS continues to shut down even walking on the beach. They just closed over 200 yards of beach in front of rental cottages in Avon because terns had scratched the sand. There were no nests, and terns are not an endangered species. There were already areas roped off for nesting north of the village but the NPS decided that if birds even think about building a nest, they will lock humans out from using the beach even though the birds may just move to other areas if human activity disturbs them.

  4. Mike

    sorry but you are wrong DOWL the rules have included walking on the beach so you and I neither can take a walk along the beach.

  5. pete

    Cite your references. Tourism on the actual island of Hatteras have declined, as have dollars spent there. data is skewed if you use the county as a whole. many people go to Nags Head instead of Hatteras. I would be very interested in how the number of visitors to the seashore was counted. my guess by car counters on Bodie Island which is not on Hatteras, and gets a huge amount of traffic from people at nags head etc. that are not affected by this. The beach driving rule, and the pedestrian access restrictions go hand in hand as pedestrians cannot go on huge portions of beach, even ones that have no animals currently nesting.
    I encourage everyone do do their due diligence, and study up on both sides of ANY issue (not just this one) before throwing money or political support at any group. Too often facts are grossly skewed if not outright fabricated to get ones way.

    • Defenders of Wildlife

      Sources for this data are the National Park Service and the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

  6. C Miller

    The picture I have of my daughter playing next to a closure clearly shows the shoreline closed sign and pedestrians are the first thing listed. So it’s not just for ORV’s.

  7. Marge

    The most careful conservationists are the ones that want to be able to continue to use those resources. Many generations of fathers and sons have driven out to the point and spent time together. Now because of this idiotic extremist view that beach access by humans is inherently bad for the environment… livelihoods have been lost and my children are deprived of the experience of the type of fishing that can only happen at the point. It amazes me that nature is being “protected” by people who have no idea how to appreciate or find joy in it. This whole article is false. Tourism and the locals have been deprived and suffered. Imagine even if you are not going to drive on the beach and you rent a cottage… You may find that you can’t go out onto the beach at that location because of the possibility of a nest. No actual nest…. Just the possibility and you can’t walk along the beach, swim or fish. It is total insanity.

  8. Melanie Maluto

    This article is terribly misleading. 26 mikes of 64 have been closed forever permanently to both OR V’S and pedestrians. Many more than that are VFA (vehicle free areas). Turtle nesting is up everywhere and the beaches behind the villages which were always supposed to remain open are now being closed. The birds like to nest near people. It keeps down the predators. Oh that’s right now NPS has a predator eradication program where they are now trapping and killing foxes, racoons, etc. The whole thing is a big flipping mess. People who drive and or walk on the beach want nothing more than to see all wildlife flourish but of course DOW paints us out to he barbarians. I find it very difficult to teach my children about conservation of our natural resources when I am trying to do it from the couch. Why shout the care about something they will never see??

  9. KBR

    Mike, you are correct!! One example ,vacationers in Avon just last week in three locations were restricted from entering the beach via the private access. They were forced to walk approx. 50 yards down and around the encloser.To boot,the birds had not nested yet, but were believed to be trying to nest. HELL GIVE ME ALL THE BEACH and I’D NEST TOO !!!!!

  10. Rob

    I am not a local of the outer banks (wish I was) just a once week a year visitor from Pittsburgh …I feel absolutely terrible for the people of hatteras island(visitors and especially locals)…for the first ever I got a vacation home in avon this year And I absolutely loved it we had a great time and it was beautiful!! When I was there is when the beach got closed in front of the vacation homes in avon (not mine) but if it was I would have been very disappointed and angry that I paid thousands of dollars for an ocean front house that I now can’t access the beach because a bird walked across it …and I saw the above comment about still walking on the closed beaches which is wrong cause I witnessed it I was just there the beaches that are closed…are closed to anyone anything…and of couse the there are more and more people visiting the outer banks once most people go once they love it but they are also probably unaware of this situation…myself and I would assume a lot of the fishermen will probably not vacation in that area because of the chance of renting a house and finding out when I get down there the beach is closed !!! I have been vacationing in the outer banks since I was 4 years old(1985) never stayed south of duck always north now as long as I can remember they have been able to deal with horses and sea turtles without closing beaches and they probably have at least 10 times the vacation population in corolla that hatteras island has but some how they make it work…I don’t understand…if this keeps up u will not continue to see an increase in tourism because who wants to go on vacation to the beach when u can’t go on the beach

  11. Bill

    I live on Hatteras Island. I have the opportunity to see first hand what the excessive closures and the ridiculous buffers have done to the island – to tourism (don’t use Dare County figures – we aren’t north of the Bonner Bridge) and the economy. I suspect whoever wrote this has never been here and has no idea as to the reality of the situation. Despite the closures, the same basic number of Plovers survive each year (8-10), regardless of how many tax dollars are wasted and “predatory” animals are trapped and killed. The measures taken have denied all access to the beaches. This has never been about driving on the beach, it is about denial of all access. If you don’t believe me, come and I will show. What you see and what you read are not even related.

  12. Cheryl Burnette

    I was appalled to find that I could not walk on the beaches at Avon in May. I was hoping it was temporary. I avoided turtle nesting areas in the past as they were roped off. But closing down the whole seashore smacks of politics. We normally come down in September too but if beach is closed still , no way.Don’t tell me tourism is up. I don’t believe it. Talked to plenty of disgruntled tourists.The ripple effect is just beginning.

  13. Carol Dillon Dawson

    Whenever you want a true article written about Cape Hatteras and what has actually happened, interview a business owner or better yet, one of the 43 business owners that have closed since the NPS closed the beaches of cape Hatteras! These birds have thousands of dredge islands to breed on, they do not need the most famous fishing area along the Eastern seaboard! You cannot even walk on these beaches, 1000 METER RADIUS around each bird egg. We can kill human eggs but not non endangered bird eggs. ” breed a bird, kill an island” you see this quote all over Hatteras island! This isn’t about a bird, it’s an agenda to destroy Hatteras island. They want people off the island. I was born in Buxton , my family was shipwrecked here, good luck getting us to move! You can find data to say whatever you want it to say, I own businesses on this island I can can tell you 100% that the beach closures have DESTROYED the business economy here! Don’t just give your money blindly to the environmental interest groups, learn the truth! I have seen birds and turtles nesting here my entire life, often marked nests, if I see any now, let’s just say those bird eggs and turtle nests are no longer safe, sad really, because the people of Hatteras island are stewards of nature! Not anymore!

  14. pete

    Outer banks Visitor Bureau is ALL of the Outer Banks. Carova-Nags Head are not effected by this, and have a much larger tourism base so they skew the data. run the data on Hatteras island alone and you will see that tourism is down. rental houses that used to be 100% booked all summer now have dozens-Hundreds of vacancies because people are going to the Northern Outer banks, or elsewhere. I would like to know how the NPS counts. most likely car counters at the northern end of the park which is not Hatteras. those numbers include countess day trippers going to Bodie island and Pea Island from the northern beaches (once again not Hatteras Island) Plus the NPS has incentive to give as large a number as they can-more visitors means the potential for more funding. They are a political organization just like any Government department.

  15. Bonnie

    Sorry….not buying what you are selling…..these closures hurt Hatteras Island!

  16. Daniel Barron

    You people are crazy! My family and I have been vacationing at Cape Hatteras for over 50 years. What you TREE HUGGERS have gotten out of control. Tourism is down. The local economy is suffering. Don’t you care about the people who live there? Read the comments from those of us who vacation there or live there,

  17. Olivia

    I’ve been looking through the comments (because I want to know what people think about it) and I agree that people should be at least able to WALK on the beach. It isn’t about restricting areas, it’s about making sure humans and animals can live alongside each other. I think as long as you can’t go too near to any nests and/or nesting areas but sharing the beach is very important. HOWEVER animals having children is more important than a stroll on the beach. But I can see why people would complain. There is definitely a good argument on each side.

  18. Lead Chuncker

    If you think it only pertains to ” Off Road Vehicles ” you are sadly mistaken . Very little is even open to even step foot on. You and the Audubon have totally removed humans from enjoying the beaches of Cape Hatteras and making residents that depend on tourism suffer at your hands . Something must be done so all can enjoy what my state has to offer. You should do a little research for your self and see what is really happening here instead of relying on the words of others !

    • BigT

      What their supporters do not realize is that as of the last access report on July 8th, is that there is only Open to Pedestrians 22.41 miles out of the 72 miles of beaches, and only Open to ORVs 10.23 miles. Which will be much less when the next report comes out in the next day or two.

      Remember DOW,Audubon supporters, 26 miles of the 72 is completely closed to you as well, no walking, no driving, no nothing,FOREVER unless things change and we can come to a common ground, please research things before you just donate. Fisherman do not want to see any birds or turtles killed either, why would they, then this just takes more away from them. Yes there is good being done, but there is a lot that is being done that keeps you off to seeing this beautiful place. Do some reading and researching about Hatteras and the way it was, the island residents always were are still are the best stewards of the Island, they clean up the beaches, and are the ones that own the businesses that you go to to get your goods. There are no big box stores on this Island, only family run businesses that rely on both the people that drive on the beach, and that is only street legal and registered and insured vehicles, no dune buggies, atv’s or motorcycles, and the people that walk on the beach, and there is only like 4k full time residents there, so support them and help them to continue their way of life, don’t take that away from them!!

  19. Adam

    While the initial DOW mission may have been well intentioned your actions in this issue are extremely destructive and in the long term counter productive. There are many ways to work on protecting and helping species recover and remain in the wild. A better use of your time and money would be to setup programs to coordinate voluntary nest sitters (done in other locations), increase and refine captive breeding programs and educate visitors to HELP conserve these resources.
    Instead you DOW have pushed a beautiful place enjoyed by millions in the past and owned by everyone (national seashore), to the brink of collapse and the total removal of any human use of the island. Then again this might well be your intention. So please do everyone (including the turtles) a favor and go away. Leave it to the people who actually care about this place to take care of it. We will do a better job than you and your government cronies.

  20. Rick

    Has any of these environmentalists ever been to the Outer Banks. Before these ridiculous closures, the ORVers helped in locating, protecting and respecting the birds and turtles. The businesses and the economy of Hatteras Island are hurting. The beach goers are hurting. We coexisted with the birds and turtles before. Now what do we do? We get told to avoid them and not disturb them. Not only that NPS kills other animals to protect birds??? Someone please explain the environmental logic in this act.

    Furthermore, why all this fuss about protecting plovers, go further north and in places like manitoba, there are so many, they are considered pests.

    Are there birds where you have your offices? If so maybe you should close the building to humans just in case a bird wants to nest there.

  21. Brent

    Misinformation. Pure and simple. The beach closures are effecting Hatteras Island and the people’s way of life. These closures are taking away beaches that were designed for “recreational use”. There’s not enough sound science that supports the idea that a piping plover needs more space than the Queen of England to survive. Something doesn’t add up. Follow the money.

  22. Lat Williams

    Not only have the ORV closures allowed predators easy access to the nests, but it has also allowed vegetation to spread much closer toward the ocean. Coastal birds and turtles do not nest in vegetation, they build their nests on/in open sand beaches. The unintended consequence of your and the NPS actions is that you have reduced the nesting habitat and pushed it into a zone that is prone to high storm tides that wash out the nests!

  23. Cat

    I’m all for protecting our invaluable resources but this article is skewed by pure propaganda. This has drastically hurt local commerce and completely altered the Hatteras experience. When the people of the outer banks agreed to give the land to the NPS, it was with an explicit agreement that the park would always be accessible to the people and for the people.
    Now there are closures cut off from pedestrians, you can’t fly a kite or kiteboard and the permanent closures are a disgrace. I also have pictures of these signs that show closures to all access. How about you interview the people and get your facts straight.

  24. Julie

    I am only a visitor to the outer banks but I can see that this situation has gone too far. Way too far. Hatteras is not even the favored nesting area of the piping plover but regardless the and the turtles can and will be protected without closing down entire beaches including some of the most amazing beaches and fishing spots in this country! It seems from the comment by “Defenders of wildlife” that the publisher of this article does not even know what’s going on. Have you even been to Hatteras any time recent? ALL of the enclosures are most definitely closed off to pedestrians. Not just to ORV. I lived in Kitty Hawk when I was very young. I clearly remember the kind pleasant people down there all over the outer banks and how much they care about the wildlife. They taught me to love and respect the wildlife. My father who LOVED the outer banks and all of it’s wildlife passed away when I was very young and as a result my mother moved us to Va. I was very sad to leave the area. Some of my most special childhood memories was of my father taking us to cape point and fishing while we played. Now when I visit I am not allowed to WALK to that place and see it. The enclosures need to be smaller. They are much bigger than necessary. The birds can definitely be protected without shutting out all people and without destroying the economy of a group of people who many of have traced their roots on that island back to the 17 and 18 hundreds!!!!

  25. Barbie

    Fishermen and pedestrians alike, love the sea turtles. We (as an avid fisherman) don’t mind the small roped off enclosers to protect the sea turtle nests. They don’t take up the entire beach. AND turtles nest at NIGHT! When fishermen and pedestrians are off the beach anyway. What I HATE is that the closing of the beaches is affecting the economy and the reputation of these wonderful beaches. When I started coming to the Outer Beaches 20+ years ago, there was driving on the beaches with no damage. People shared the space nicely. But because the beach access is so small now, it is more crowded, fishing is not as good, and there is constant competition for beach space. Fishermen are on “top” of swimmers and vice versa which makes everyone involved cranky. Hatteras Point, which is known WORLDwide for it’s great fishing is rarely open. That hurts the economy of this place. People are going elsewhere to fish and enjoy the beaches because we are not being allowed to use the beaches here. It is sad. I agree we need to protect our valuable resources, but this article is greatly skewed! The piping plover is not even native to this area. THink about it………..any other species that moves in is viewed as a threat and nuisance to the existing environment and great means are used to get rid of the invasive species. Why is that not happening here? Also, native animals (foxes, etc) are being killed because they are seen in the area where the nests are. How is that fair or protecting the natural resources. Here is a suggestion: When you see the nest of a piping plover–rope off a small area around the nest, just like you do for the sea turtles, BUT keep the beaches open. People on the beaches see the roped off section (generally a 4 ft x 4ft area) for the sea turtles and stay away. I bet if you did that for the bird nests and keep the beaches open, then pretty much everyone would be happy. The economy would pick back up because people would once again start coming back to the Outer Beaches.

  26. Nicole Kaspar

    I have been visiting Cape Hatteras for over 25 years (and am a non-permanent resident homeowner in Avon), and it amazes me people actually believe tourism is up on Hatteras Island. Never would have thought 25 years ago that the threat to my home was not the hurricanes or the shifting sands, but the NPS and nesting birds. The true “Defenders of Wildlife” are the seamen and the local people of Hatteras Island that have been protecting it for centuries – the wildlife and ecosystem there is THEIR lifeline as well. How can you publish this propaganda, especially stating that the closures are only to ORV’s and not pedestrians? You haven’t been to Hatteras Island in a while, I take it… if ever. Pedestrians are indeed not allowed. But since you said it as truth, if I walk into a “Only ORV-restricted area,” I’ll be sure to let you know what the ranger says about it, and forward any fines I may get to your organization address, and you can take care of it for me.

  27. Joe

    As a loyal visitor to the Cape Hatteras National Recreation Area for 25 year, I wish you group would state the truth about the situation on Cape Hatteras. There has been no balance for the users of the Outer Banks(pedestrians & ORV users) closures are closed to EVERYONE. Areas the size of Air Craft Carriers Closed to protect the birds is extreme when in other areas of the country the closure areas are 1/10 the size. With the DOW, SELC, & other enviromental backing the NPS, they have been allowed the NPS to use “science” to control access to the Outer Banks. Talk to the locals on Hatteras Island if you want to talk about “Thriviing”. People are struggling for employment and to keep business afloat. There has been no cooperation between the NPS and the users of Cape Hatteras. Maybe you should meet with some locals and see how they are “Thriving”

  28. chris

    Thank you for not arbitrarily removing the comments that do not support your article. I have been a visitor to the Hatteras Island for the last 25 years. I assure you the source information you use in the article is skewed. Northern Dare and Southern Dare counties are two different worlds. One is a bustling vacation area. The other is a series of small quiet villages. Each attracts their own type of visitor. The village visitors go because they want to utilize a resource they care about. Weather that be fishing, birding, surfing, shell collecting or just getting away from the hustle and bustle that lurks 30 miles North. Now no one is allowed on those stretches of beach.

  29. Marie

    As stated by others, there is a lot of misinformation in this article. I am stunned that you would write an article denying that the closures affect pedestrians and continue to restate when numerous people who have actually been there tell you your information is wrong. You need to issue a correction.
    As also stated you do not even seem to know the geography of the area & that Hatteras Island is just 1 small part of the Outer Banks, so while Northern Beaches & the entrance to the park north of the Bonner Bridge may have increased business, Hatteras & Ocracoke Islands most definitely do not.

  30. Fon

    Where do you get your information? According to NPS’ own statistics, visitation at CHNS was DOWN in 2013 vs. 2012, and while slightly up over 2011, have remained fairly consistent over the past five years, and are substantially down from those of 10 years ago. Interesting enough, another site which tracks sea turtle nesting and hatching statistics, (which I am not able to name or quote specifics from due not having permission) reports indicate that while counted nests are up in 2013 vs. 2012, the actual number of successful hatchlings, has remained virtually the same. This would indicate that closings have had no impact on successful propagation, right? There are many more devastating factors, like weather, predators, and accidental loss by supposed researchers and volunteers, if you care to actually look. Point is, you can find data to support almost any POV, it’s how you use it that true conservationists from, lobbyists, fundraisers, and internet do-gooders.

  31. Jeff M.

    The DoW and Audubon-influenced ORV plan has been disastrous for Hatteras Island and has not increased turtle breeding success over what has happened along the East coast the last two years. At the same time DoW press releases continue to mislead the public into thinking that the ORV plan has been a saviour for turtles.

    You (DoW) should be ashamed of yourselves, and then you should get in your car and visit Cape Hatteras so you can see it with your own two eyes. Maybe then you will understand that you are being deceived. The local businesses can use the money you’ll spend, too. Just don’t tell them you’re with DoW because there exists a deep bitterness for the people that have destroyed family tradition and separated residents and visitors alike from the natural resources they have continued to protect even before DoW was conceived. Maybe after your visit you can get to the business of actually creating a ‘balance’ between human and wildlife. It does not exist at this time.

  32. conman

    Why would you not post a statement pointing out the use of a picture that does not reflect turtles on the CHNS? Just what is it that the DOW and USF&W wants to accomplish with this kind of false propaganda? All is not well and both agencies know it.

  33. RAR0819

    In response to your comment, “…off-road vehicle interest groups have tried to block, weaken or do away with any kind of beach driving regulation at Cape Hatteras.” That is completely untrue. The groups are asking for common sense and balance, not just for Off Road vehicles, but for pedestrians as well.
    If you truly had a strong and valid agenda, you would not need to skew it with lies or embellishment.

    This is no longer about the right or wrong way to help wildlife, it’s all about power and leverage…just another political group battling for money and notoriety. What a collosal sham.

    – Sometimes the better path is found on common ground.

  34. Dan Zielinski

    Funny how groups that do not even live in the state want to stop driving on beaches. Fact is Sea Turtle population has made comebacks over last 10years before these save the world groups started. Use some common sense about beach access. Every year as soon as fish are starting to be caught the beaches get closed down. Oh, I find it hard to believe tourism has improved. Many businesses are barely surviving in Cape Hatteras thanks to bird watchers or tree huggers.

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