Sunday, December 12, 2010

Want To Help Audubon? Here Is Your Chance!

This fight to save access to the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands just gets more interesting as the days go by. And I, for one, cannot understand why all of those that are opposed to access and wish to turn this place into some primitive wilderness wildlife preserve, think they can get away with their collective lunacy.

I wonder if I should start to market Audubon hypocrisy collector cards. Something with a picture on one side and a description on the other detailing the issue, or "Audufact". Why not? These folks are pros when it comes to do as I say, not as I do and the list gets longer and longer as time passes by.

Perhaps the first card should detail how Audubon sued USFWS so that a non endangered, species of least concern, the Caspian Tern, could continue to decimate endangered salmon populations on the Snake River system in Washington.

Next would be their land sale of property they promised to protect in perpetuity for high density development.

And then the bridges, yes bridges, both of them. The one they oppose in Currituck because it might bring high density development to the area where they want to sell their "primitive wilderness" for high density development.

And another that describes how they oppose that same 7.5 mile bridge because of storm water runoff while advocating a 17 mile long bridge at the same time.

And another that talks about how they want to lease oil and gas rights in their wildlife sanctuary in Louisiana where they admit some 34 bird species are in decline as a result, they say, of oil and gas drilling.

Of course, I'd have to come up with a extra large card to describe the efforts they have put forth to eliminate access to this Seashore which would include the lies, misinformation and vast collection of speculation that they use as their "science" to close our beaches.

But the latest, greatest Audubon hypocrisy takes the cake.

After spending years trying to remove you and me and our vehicles from the beach, apparently the good folks at Audubon have reversed their stance toward ORV access to the Seashore.

Alerted by my friend Dottie, I went out and procured a copy of Thursdays (12/9/10) edition of the Coastland Times. My head promptly asploded.

Right there on page 4a is the headline "Volunteer scientists set out to get Christmas bird count". Buried within the story is one great line that says "the count period in North America is referred to as ""early winter"" because some birds are still in the late stages of southward migration".

I am apparently one confused individual and have been using the wrong calendars all my life. All these years I have been under the impression that "early winter" was a period of time not long after the solstice which occurs 12/21/10 this year. Who woulda thunk that all this time, the advent of "early winter" was actually about some lazy birds dragging their feet as they move South?

As hilarious as that may be, there was more!

Yes folks, the same people that have worked for so long to ban you and me from the beach especially if we're driving on the sand now openly requests the apparent loan of a "beach worthy" 4x4 so they can  count lazy birds on Ocracoke.

Wait, what? The same group of people that want to ban ORV use at the Seashore want you to lend them an ORV so that THEY can go out and drive on the sand! Those very same people that want YOU to hoof it wherever you go with all your family and beach gear, need one of us to lend them a truck so they can carry their cameras, spotting scopes and the like, in comfort.

I apologize for making your head asplode.

In any case, to assist our "friends" at Audubon since they've clearly changed their mind about beach driving, and as a public service, if you wish to assist these fine feathered folks, you may contact the Coastland Times.

Peter Vankevich is ultimately the one you want to speak to with Audubon.
I suppose you must make sure that your vehicle is beach worthy.

I don't advocate harassing the guy, this was just a public service announcement.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Search For History Of The Islands

History has always been one of my favorite subjects as the similarities between "normal issues" today and the same from yesteryear are really not that different in terms of basic needs.

We tend though, to define history as a collection of general "moments" or happenings of particular importance. Years ago I read a passage on the back cover of a farmers almanac that described this as though we look at history as a river travelling through time defined by it's moments while ignoring all that happens along the banks as we pass by. In other words, we forget about the struggling farmer or the lives of others that never made some extraordinary impact and instead focus upon the major characters and events.

Of late, a project begun to map the "assets" of Hatteras Island which will presumably include historical assets as well. You can find out about it here:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Hatteras-Island-Asset-Mapping-Project/126958044031259

And if you enjoy looking at old photos of the Outer Banks, by all means go check out the forum dedicated to that purpose at:

http://www.obxconnection.com/outer-banks-message-board/forumdisplay.php?f=10

My new little project closely mirrors the purpose of the OBC forum except with parameters.

What I'm looking for are old photos of people on the beaches of Hatteras and Ocracoke.
I'm even contemplating a prize.

To qualify, the pics must be pre 1960, identifiable by location, and they do not need to show vehicles on the beach but may. Photos with two or more generations of family on the sand would be greatly appreciated.

The idea is to make a volume of vintage photos that will catalog and date them for all to see.

I'm not looking for originals, just posted or emailed photos to copy and compile.

I know somebody out there has pics like these..lets save them for those that follow.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FEIS, Good Compromise? I Think Not!

Yesterday, the Virginian Pilot published an editorial that proclaimed the FEIS as being a good compromise. That article can be found here:

http://hamptonroads.com/2010/11/good-compromise-hatteras-driving#comment-1026426

I don't know if they will extend the character limit or nuke the reply entirely. In any case, here it is.

A good compromise on Hatteras driving, I should say not!


The fight for access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area began long before the now infamous presidential executive order 11644 signed by Nixon in 1972. In fact, the Park Service originally intended that Hatteras and Ocracoke be set aside as primitive wilderness, in complete conflict with the 1937 legislation establishing the Seashore. The Park Service’s new proposed plan is also in direct conflict with that legislation and a healthy dose of other federal statutes designed to guide NPS and other federal agencies in their management decisions.

I received my copy of the FEIS (proposed rule) Thursday the 18th of this month. The scales at the post office put this two volume, 1000 plus page document, at 8 pounds 12 ounces. And in spite of my hard earned knowledge of the subjects at hand, I have only just begun to digest this federal work. I have seen enough already to know that what has been presented in this editorial is flawed and often not fact based.

The new rule does not bring predictability to the Seashore except what areas will be permanently closed to both pedestrian and ORV use. The remaining areas will still be subjected to confusing seasonal and nesting closures as they have for the last three years. The proposed new parking areas will not assist anyone in accessing the remote portions of the islands and in fact will eliminate access to significant portions of the seashore to mobility impaired persons such as me. If you study the FEIS you will see this. And if you look beyond the published FEIS, you will also see that the reported economic impact of the Consent Decree, somewhat mild in comparison to the proposed rule, has been white-washed by NPS in their thinly veiled attempt at “putting lipstick on a pig”.

Mr. Luzzatto, When I called and spoke to you yesterday and received your blessing to extend beyond the 750 character limit, I neglected to mention Carter’s E.O. 11989 (1977) and the Park Services’ reliance and use of this order in order to justify these immense, proposed closures. This E.O. requires that NPS determine that “considerable adverse effects” either will be caused or are being caused by ORV’s before an area is closed to ORV use. To date, NPS, neither USFWS nor the various environmental groups have been able to demonstrate anything even remotely approaching “considerable adverse effects” as a result of vehicular access to the Seashore. Instead we are confronted with hundreds of pages of speculation, out of date studies, USGS protocols that were “peer reviewed” by the authors, and it gets worse. One study within the FEIS concerns bird behavior in South Africa, perhaps just a short ferry ride from Ocracoke.

A compromise this FEIS is not. Instead it is a significant derogation of the congressionally mandated mission of this Seashore that will negatively affect the lives of tens of thousands of people from all over this nation, many of whom have visited here for generations, as well as those of us that live here. Without the ability to show “considerable adverse effects”, NPS proposes to change the entire nature of this seashore and our environment. This is not a compromise; this is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes.

I encourage Mr. Luzzatto to come and visit Hatteras Island to see and hear firsthand what this proposed rule will mean to the residents and visitors to this island.

Wheat

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all :)
 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yep, Dr. Gill, We Have Radios

Back in the day, when I was a spry 10 year old..you know, back when we had to walk to school and back, in a blizzard, up hill both ways, a bunch of my neighborhood friends began to join the Colonial Williamsburg Fife and Drum Corps which meant, of course,  I had to join as well. It was an experience and privilege that in many ways, set the tone for much of the rest of my life. I was part of the last of what was then, and apparently, is still now referred to as "The Old Corps".  It was an incredible learning experience. Demands and expectations were extremely high and at times the experience itself was downright brutal.

But you're talking about a bunch of kids from Williamsburg, Virginia that are routinely called upon to greet dignitaries from home and across the globe. The list is long and through the adept hands of some that I had the pleasure to march with, it grows ever longer. Nixon, Ford, Carter, Hirohito (WWII Japanese Emperor), Sadat, Began, are some of the folks we played for while I was in the Corps.

For a taste, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLjuGqm8aVQ&feature=related

(probably my all time favorite tune, York Fusiliers, is on this video...last tune)

Anyhow, that led to a long stint of working for the foundation essentially presenting and teaching part of the history of colonial Virginia and a as yet, unformed nation.

You cant spend 17 and a half years talking about and pseudo-living in the 18th century capitol of Virginia without at some point becoming amazed at the army of citizens that banded together to defeat an army of tyranny.

They were, for the most part, poor, ill equipped, under fed and under funded. But they prevailed because they stuck it out.

Many years ago I was a guest in the home of a remarkable historian, Harold Gill. His son Hal and I had been in the Corps together and now worked at the Geddy Foundry in Colonial Williamsburg reproducing 18th century, brass, bronze, pewter, and silver objects. The purpose being to educate the public and preserve the trade as it was practiced at the time.

As we all had a mutual interest in the War For Southern Independence (1861-1865) we began a discussion about Gettysburg. The question was, if you could take any one thing back to that battle, what would it be?

My response was a battery of 105mm Howitzers to march a line of fire toward the Federal lines. The thought being, you probably wouldn't have to kill anybody cause they'd run...

His response was radios.

I've never forgotten that response and the thoughts and message that came with it. Communication would have changed the course of the war.

Its been many a day since I donned my great coat and buckled shoes to carry a basket of newly finished bronze and silver down Duke of Gloucester Street within sight of the spot where Virginia became the first colony to declare independence from Britain.

Is it any coincidence that years later I find myself embroiled in, and teaching about, yet another struggle involving a tyrannical government and their dishonest allies? Perhaps, but this time it's not about what happened in the past. This time it's happening in real time, right in our own back yard.

The oft repeated phrase "the more things change, the more they stay the same" comes to mind. Lets examine the constituent elements.

One relatively poor, underfunded, barely organised citizen army, check!

VS.

Several overly funded, law breaking, "treaty" breaking, overzealous divisions of a tyrannical government, check!

And three divisions of unscrupulous "for profit" allies (think Hessians during the Rev War), check!

I think that pretty much sums it up.

Except this time, we have radios.

One of the most difficult parts of our years long fight for freedom and preservation of access at the Seashore has been communicating the truth and reality about what has been happening on these Islands. We sit and watch the mainstream media ignore all that we tell them while they take any utterance from the NPS and their allies to be gospel.

We suffer as Derb Carter stands in front of Judge Boyle and proudly proclaims that he and his ilk have stopped all progress on legislation that would restore management of the Seashore to levels more akin to those intended by the Congress as they established this place and the media doesn't blink; the true story remains unseen.

But, we do have radios.

Back in '02 as I was completing my university level course work to acquire certification as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, we explored the workings of the Internet and learned about a theory called "the 12 degrees of separation".

The concept is that I/we, know somebody that knows somebody, that knows somebody that knows...etc and that virtually anybody in the developed world could be contacted via a chain of about 12 people.

So we're in a war for freedom and access and the Internet becomes our radio. And the more we post and re-post, the more we share our story and successfully encourage our friends to do the same, the more people are exposed to the travesty of lies, broken promises, and broken laws.

Since we cant get the help of mainstream media, it's up to us to take it to the people. We have at our disposal, facebook, for example. A free form of communication that enables us to quickly and effectively spread the word about what befalls us. Lets use it to our advantage. The "dark side" does.

It works! Let me share a letter I got just the other day via that very venue.

"Jeff, after learning more about the FEIS, I got to asking myself "What could I do"? I know its gonna take a boatload of cash to battle the dark side. There has got to be something that I could do from all the way up here in Ohio. Today alone I wrote a letter to President Obama and Jimmy Buffett. I've written letters to congress, state reps yadda yadda yadda... But I still feel the need to do something! I thought about having some sort of fundraiser up here in Ohio, but have no clue on how to pull that off. I've been involved with many charity/fund raising events in the past, but they were all local. How could I grab the attention of northeast Ohio, and get them to give a damn? Almost every day I see a car with an OBX sticker on it, and I bet the majority of the drivers of those cars have no clue what is going on down on HI. I ask you because you seem to be very knowledgeable, and you are one of the few who are on the front lines of this battle. I'm gonna keep racking my brain up here in the Buckeye State, meanwhile, if you think of anything that I can do from up here, let me know...


Thanks Wheat,
(redacted)

So what I ask and propose is that when you see a post about access, the bridge, or even the continuing hypocrisy of the "dark side", post it, share it, and strongly encourage your friends to do the same.

If all of us do this all of the time, the word will get out and maybe one day, it'll fall into the right hands and begin to raise some eyebrows so that something may be done to end this tyranny.

Yep, we've got radios Dr. Gill.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hypocrisy Redefined

Well folks, daylight savings time is upon us once again and already Christmas commercials begin to fill the airwaves. Shorter days and cooler waters bring the Drum and Stripers we think about all year, and the days of shorts and t-shirts become few. And now that the Anglers Club Tournament is over, the Islands will begin their passage to a turtles pace while we still seek gifts from the sea along these narrow ribbons of sand.

And we wait to see what befalls us this winter as the attempt at destroying the legacy, culture, and future of this magnificent Seashore continues.

The shocking part of it all, is that all of the things I mention above have been consistent for years. Winter I understand and expect, but this incessant drive to rob us of these beaches is not only amazing, but well beyond irritating.

I was cutting and salting baits for the tourney the other day and during a break I came upon a post on facebook from the Greystone Project which took my ire at those that seek to wreak havoc upon us to an entirely new level.

We've all seen hypocrisy before but Audubon, or Auto-ban if you prefer, has now redefined the term. Were there a Nobel Prize for Hypocrisy they would surely prevail. And knowing their thirst for money, would pursue.

The first time I was floored by their hypocrisy was when I watched a 60 Minutes segment by Leslie Stahl that talked about Caspian Terns that were breeding on a dredge island in the Snake River. This "species of least concern" was/is decimating the U.S. taxpayer funded, hatchery raised, micro-chip implanted, endangered Salmon. The birds eat so many of these salmon that USFWS has employees rake through the bird poop on the island to recover as many microchips as they can.

USFWS decided to trap and relocate the birds but Audubon sued to stop them and prevailed.

They sued so that a non threatened, non endangered bird that breeds worldwide, can continue to decimate an endangered species.

This year takes the cake.

We all know how Audubon has sold their property in Corolla. You know, the one they were supposed to preserve as primitive wilderness in perpetuity and never paid taxes on. And they sell it for high density development to include hundreds of retail outlets..

But at the same time they reject the proposed seven mile bridge in Currituck claiming that it will bring to much development to the very same place they sold their property, specifically for high density development.

They also complain about potential storm water run-off harming wildlife in the sound on a new Currituck bridge while at the same time advocating a 17 mile span to get from Bodie to Hatteras Island;  all the while opposing the 3ish mile short bridge option all together and helping to put human lives at risk though we hear nothing about storm water run-off and harm to wildlife on that monster span.

Huh? What?

Now these folks have upped the ante!

The Greystone Project post that sent me into tantrums and caused me to swear like a sailor for about fifteen minutes marked yet another milestone in the definition of the term hypocrisy.

Now Audubon wants to sell oil and gas leases in their privately owned "nature preserve" where they openly state that 36 species of bird are in decline. But as we've seen before, when it comes to nature vs. profit, in this case, potentially huge profit, Audubon is going for the cash and nature takes a hike.

And this is happening while Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center are suing BP for the gulf oil spill.

These are the people that want us off these beaches even though they cannot show that we impact wildlife and ignore the USFWS "Finding Of No Significant Impact" issued in 2007.

Here's the link to the article posted by Greystone:

http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2010/01/audubon_society_sanctuary_cons.html

I can't help but shake my head in dismay.

At the same time, I'm inspired by their idiocy as they have openly revealed themselves for who they truly are and confirmed what we've been saying all along. The oft used statement "it's not about the birds" rings more true now than the bells of Westminster Cathedral and Notre Dame combined.

This new profit seeking venture must have been cleared by Defenders and SELC as well, for we see no mention of a potential lawsuit to stop these proposed drilling leases. Will they profit also?

I know this much is certain, If Dare County were to propose an exploratory drilling platform at the Fresenden Center to fund the upcoming lawsuits necessary to force NPS to obey the laws extant and return this Seashore to the people, SELC would be standing at the courtroom door waiting to file an intent before you could bait a hook.

Lets all hope that Audubon and their co-conspirators are given the national media thrashing they deserve for all of these actions.

Perhaps the new Congress will also lend us a hand and finally allow passage of legislation that will forever end this 30 plus year fight for free and open access to the nations first National Seashore Recreational Area.
And also, with the first Republican House and Senate in North Carolina since the late 19th century and Bassnight out of the "sit on the fence and do nothing" mode, we can look forward to resolution assisting not only access but the new bridge as well.

Write these people, pressure them to act, and do not relent.

Remember also that the time for us to act to preserve access draws nigh and funding is needed for the legal expenses that will come with that action. I urge all that read this to take the time to assist the Outer Banks Preservation Association in raising the necessary monies. Please log on to http://www.obpa.org/ to find out how and where you can help. Every dollar that goes into the legal fund helps us regain that which has unlawfully been taken from us, and helps to preserve this Seashore for future generations.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Remember Or Forget The Past?

I must admit, it’s quite an honor to have so many friends and acquaintances coming up to me on the beach and pestering me to continue my writings here, though truthfully, there hasn’t been much to write about.


I was asked why I didn’t comment about the NPS decision to move a turtle nest to a location in front of Ramp 44, knowingly creating a situation that would terminate reasonable access to Cape Point for an undetermined time frame as well as forcing many to drive the incredibly rutted “salt pond road” which would have been as easy by boat as it was via my truck. Thanks again, Mr. Murray for providing yet another, unsafe, salt water filled, vehicle damaging, journey to and from the beach.

The issue of course was the decision to place the nest where it was as opposed to moving it 60 odd yards to the right which would have put it on higher, safer ground, and still allowed access to the Point via 44. After all, a nest was moved from the narrows to a location several hundred yards to the North, earlier in the year because of storm swells and surf forecasted to be in the 12 foot range.

Now before anyone starts fussing at me, I am well aware that North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission protocols state that the nests must be moved straight back from their original location toward the foot of the dune line. However, this particular nest was moved into an area that is particularly prone to flooding during high surf where relocation some 60 or so yards further North would have placed it in an area that typically remains dry even during storm conditions and also allowed for safe access to Cape Point

The nest issue is now a moot point but the condition of the “salt pond road’ is not and I would hope that NPS repairs this egress quickly and in a manner not like that which was utilized in the “reconstruction” of the foot of Ramp 44 else many months will pass before the road is usable again. After all, the law, specifically the “enabling legislation”, requires you, Mr. Murray, to develop this area for recreational use as needed; ergo, fix the damn road.

What got me thinking about this post wasn’t just the prodding I received but a conversation I had with a friend of mine on the Point some days ago. In this case, a retired surgeon who is always pleasant to talk to and loves to fish the Point and liked this place so much that he and his wife decided to move to, and live here when they weren’t off on their interesting adventures elsewhere.

As you may surmise, the conversation was in regards to future access and cetera. What struck me were two comments he made about access and the future of Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Both comments were directly related in the context of the conversation and as fishing that day was only slightly faster than continental drift, I had a lot of time to think of what he spoke.

The phrase he first shared was that there has to be a way to strike a balance between access and wildlife. The second, that Hatteras (and Ocracoke) need stop thinking about how things used to be and begin to think how things can be in the future.

Taken at face value, which I’m sure he intended them to be, both statements are true, but…

That’s not usually the way the first statement is used. Frequently stated, “We need to strike a balance”, is a comment often justifying closures of significant portions of the Seashore to access of any form. It’s also been used to temper the ire of the extremists who seek to deprive the public of these amazing, user maintained beaches.

My issue with the comment, particularly in junction with the latter stated, “think not about the past but of the future instead”, is that with the phrase “strike a balance” comes the implication that things were out of balance prior to all of the events that have had such a devastating impact on these islands.

Where is the science and statistics that imply that access impeded or harmed wildlife? Where can DOW, Audubon and SELC and the National Park Service show real harm? Where is the” injury in fact” as required by the Supreme Court?

Why do we have to fix what wasn’t broken to begin with?

The Congress addresses the issue in the National Environmental Policy Act as well. In 40CFR1500.1 section b) states “NEPA procedures must insure that environmental information is available to public officials and citizens before decisions are made and before actions are taken. The information must be of high quality. Accurate scientific analysis, expert agency comments, and public scrutiny are essential to implementing NEPA. Most important, NEPA documents must concentrate on the issues that are truly significant to the action in question, rather than amassing needless detail.”

The reality is that things were balanced before all of this nonsensical, taxpayer wasting, economically destructive, access denial began; else the various parties that would remove us from these beaches would have cause, which they decidedly, do not.

It is therefore imperative that we remember how things were on these islands prior to the 2007 Interim Management Strategy, The decree of forced consent, and the 810 page aberration that is the2010 DEIS because what was access back then is what access should be in the future.

Richard Nixon’s Executive Order 11644 requires NPS to establish a set of rules for off road vehicle use and even as amended by Carter does not warrant denial of vehicle use unless harm exists. So where is this harm? Of the thousands of pages of studies, comments, and the like, that I and many others have read regarding these issues, conspicuously absent is any real evidence of harm or injury to wildlife.

Instead, we are overwhelmed by enough speculation to open a Vegas betting parlor and collection of ignored and broken federal law.

Adding insult to injury, NPS takes what is supposed to be an ORV management plan and applies it to all forms of access to the Seashore while disregarding the economic impacts of their proposed rule as well as the traditional cultural values and use patterns of both residents and visitors alike as required by NEPA, claiming that there is insufficient evidence.

NPS was given a task of writing a rule to manage ORV use. Such a rule had been in place, albeit unofficially, since 1978. That rule provided free and open access for the citizens of this nation as was intended by congress. And that rule should be the policy of Seashore management until such a time as science and statistic bear out the notion that access to these beaches impedes and causes significant impact to wildlife.

It should be pointed out that as NPS proffered what became the 2007 Interim Management Strategy, which was much like the 1978 IMS under which the Seashore had since been operated, official or not, The United States Fish and Wilflife Service issued, in respect to the proposed rule, a FONSI, a finding of no significant impact. In other words, access as it had been managed since '78 was not causing harm to wildlife and there exists the governments own admission of that fact.

So, to the good doctor I say, I will continue to remember the Seashore as it was before this recent mess began. I will continue to belabor NPS and the extremists about their inability to show harm and their violation of law. And I will continue to fight the senseless changes proposed by those people and the harm they have inflicted, and plan to inflict, upon us all.

Some things, my friend, are worth fighting for. This is one of them. I hope that you and thousands of others will join us in this fight to “preserve, protect, not prohibit”.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Access, The Bridge, And Now They Want To Kill The Horses!

OF ACCESS

When I was growing up, one of the most anticipated moments of the year was when we packed it up and left Virginia to visit my mothers home in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where we'd spend a nice chunk of summer. Coming from Williamsburg, where at the time, traditional values and ways of life were a very big part of almost all things, visiting her tiny hometown where generations of families had lived and died, further enhanced my appreciation and understanding of that aspect of life; tradition.

And what a contrast. All of the streets and even the main road were dirt. My Grandmother still spoke, wrote, and read Scots Gaelic. She also held a tract of land that was a royal grant from King George III, tax free, "forever and a day". She refused an electric oven in favor of the coal fired stove she'd always cooked on and not one soul complained. (laughing) Tradition!

Just a few miles down the road was the coast and another tradition filled hamlet called Port Morien. Every morning, excepting Sunday of course, the watermen would leave the docks to ply the seas in search of lobsters, cod, mackerel, and other tasty treats. The same is true here on Hatteras Island and always has been. And in both cases, the respective governments and their regulators have mucked it up.

I suppose when some folks think of commercial fishing down here, they think of different things such as charter boats or crabbers, oystermen, or those that set nets of one sort or another, out to sea, to harvest their catch. But they're not the only ones. A few of these folks also fish directly from the beach as they were promised that they would always have the right to do. It is after all, a traditional activity that even the National Environmental Policy Act requires be considered in any management decision, relative in this case, to the Seashore.

Last check, two turtle nests on South beach, separated by probably a half mile or better were keeping that much beach closed and preventing these guys from being able to fish that entire swath. This closure also prevented any access by recreational fishermen and those families that just wanted some quality beach time. In other words, everybody!

Ok Mike, you're required to provide the commercial fishermen access and the enabling legislation requires you to "develop" the area if its for recreation, it's needed, and it's adaptable. The interdunal road between Ramp 44 and Ramp 49 is still there and it needs opened in order to satisfy extant federal law. I should need say no more though I likely will.

TO THE HORSES

The point of the "tradition" comments comes largely from the story about the horses I read today. The critters in question live on the north end of Bodie Island at or about Corolla. These are descendants of Spanish Mustangs that arrived here 500 years ago and have rightfully earned a place in the hearts of many and a place on these islands as well.

Enter the gubment, again. The same one that's trying to force us off our beaches, doing the best job they can at delaying the construction of a new bridge, is now wanting to eliminate the horses.

 Some might say that's an alarmist statement and I can understand that. However, anybody that's been involved with the fight for beach access in some fashion or another is well aware that the time honored tactic that affects us so dramatically is that the gubment takes things in pieces.

It's a sure fire bet that any animal USFWS considers a nuisance has got cross-hairs on its back. If you don't believe me, go talk to the "thousands" of geese they gassed, yes gassed, at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge even though they had no way of discriminating between migratory and resident birds.

So anyway, here's a link to the article. These folks are determined to get anything they don't like off these beaches.

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_WILD_HORSES?SITE=NCWIN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

GUARD THE BRIDGE!

Well it appears that NCDOT has had enough of the federal horse poop they can handle and wants to proceed with the record of decision that would replace the ailing Bonner Bridge after 30 years of study.

As always, the best place to read about it is Island Free Press.

http://islandfreepress.org/PivotBlog/

Also Bridge Moms have a new way to help with a new letter on their facebook page. If you care about someone that crosses that bridge and you're a mom of any definition, please help by spending a little of your time to support a new bridge.

http://www.facebook.com/bridgemoms?v=wall

Well folks, I hope you'll find it in your hearts to help. Ive got some reels to spool and rigs to tie so I'm off to chores.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thoughts And Pictures From The Point

I would be telling a tall tale if I were to say anything other than the last week has been quite interesting. In fact, in some cases, it was a lot more interesting than I would have preferred.

Enter Hurricane Earl that thankfully began to fall apart and eventually took a seaward course away from the Island. Having been in Charleston two days after Hugo and seen what 140mph+ winds can do to a place, and living through the devastation caused in York County Va. during Isabel, I decided to scoot. I should have stayed but "better safe than sorry" made sense at the time.

Earl on the way.


After spending what felt like an eternity wondering how my abode and it's contents had fared the storm, Dare County announced that Highway 12 would open South of the Bonner Bridge at 7am Saturday morning. I woke at 2am and was on the road at 3:15 heading HOME. Anyone that knows me well is aware that it just about takes an act of God to get me to leave the Island to begin with, and I can never get back to soon. Arriving at the bridge at about 6:15 I spent the wait with friends I've known for years which made it kinda fun though we all wondered how things were, and what we would find when we arrived.

Parked before the bridge.


What I didn't realize as I was sitting there talking to everybody was that my brake hose had just come undone and the result, of course, was that I essentially had no brakes for the ride home, stress city. I made it though, and all was well. Thankfully my friend Ed was coming to town and Sunday morning he was able to get a temporary fix in order so I could remain mobile. This island first takes your heart, then your money, and then your truck.

I made it back out on the sand Sunday afternoon after helping repair damage to a friends trailer (post brake work) and wet a line without much success, but, such is the norm after a good blow. I did get the pleasure of some great company and a chance to talk to Kim Mosher about the newly released video "Piping Mad" which has since gone "viral" on the net and has fired up a lot of people about the travesty and impact of the absurd management policies in place here now, and proposed for the future; all in violation of federal law. She, her husband, and the Greystone Project, funded by a generous gift from Rob Schonk have done one heck of a job of exploring some of the issues that plague us and deny the people of this nation access to their public lands without the use of sound science, or the weight of law.

What I didn't like about the experience was being accused by someone else of having published the video before it was ready for release which I did not do.

After the weekend wound down, I ended up out on the sand again and took some pics which I thought I'd share.

The first one says it all. I was out on the Point at about 6:15am the other day and set up to put out a bait with some friends. Not long after I arrived, a truck pulled up and a feller and his (probably 8yr old) son got out and proceeded to toss lures for bluefish or spanish mackerel. Well after a bit, that young feller hooked up on a right big bluefish and immediately gained the attention of everybody. Unfortunately, in spite of fighting it for all he was worth, the fish bit his line and he lost it. I think every soul on the sand that morning said "awwww, bummer", or some variation on that theme. 
Later that morning the dad hooked up on a nice yearling drum and managed to land it while his son watched excitedly. That little feller was so proud of his dad it put a smile on everyone's face. And as I watched this scene unfold, all I could think of was, that's what this place is all about: that's why Congress created this Seashore.

I cant count the number of times I've seen this exact scenario out there on the sand as its bound to be in the hundreds if not thousands. The picture says it all.





Of course, one of the really neat things about being on the Point is the sunrise and sunset. What's even more fun is that it's possible to stand in one spot and watch both in a single day. If you've never experienced that, I highly recommend it. Anyway, a sunrise.



Another neat thing about this place is that it gives the opportunity to reflect with just the sound of the surf and the birds.



We also spend a lot of time watching the water while we're on the sand as it often betrays bottom structure that will hold fish. Being 35 miles out in the ocean where the Labrador Current and Gulf Stream collide can produce some spectacular wave action capable of throwing water five or six stories into the air though usually only about half that.

I've talked before about the "Point Community" which makes up folks from all walks of life and from all across the country. It's always fun to fish with these good friends and make new ones as well.

This pic has all the elements, good friends and some nice wave action.




                                                           Ed and Grumpy at the Point.

It saddens me that pictures like these and the people shown in them are the true endangered species found on these beaches. If the "dark side" gets there way, never again will photos like these be published because no one will be allowed here to take them.

Please take the time to watch the video "Piping Mad" and help any way you can. One place to watch can be found at http://www.preservebeachaccess.org/ 

Supporting the fight for access can be accomplished by donating to a variety of organizations including The Outer Banks Preservation Association, http://www.obpa.org/  The North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, http://www.ncbba.org/ and others. We cant fight this fight alone and need your help. Again, this is a national, not a local issue. Thanks!

Tight Lines,

Wheat






Friday, September 3, 2010

A Good Day For The Islands And A Sad Day For Me

Well, hurricane Earl is now just about history having moved off after having become a lot weaker as it approached our precious island and homes. As expected, just about everything got flooded to one extent or another and some wind damage occurred as well. A friend of mine lost his trailer which doubles as home when he, his wife, and son come from Raleigh to this place they love so much. And my thoughts go out to Frank Folb who has worked so hard and for so long to preserve access to these beaches, as his shop was apparently flooded this morning as the storm passed.

What hurts is that my good friend decided to throw in the towel and not replace this temporary dwelling. We have spent countless hours standing on the sand fishing, breaking bread, weathering 30mph winds and driving rains, all in the quest for whatever prize we could draw from the depths, sometimes to no avail. But that never mattered as it was about being here and being part of an amazing community of people from all walks of life, from all over this nation, and even the world, who love this place so dearly.

It's not the advent of a new child that prevents the replacement of the lodgings. It's what's on the horizon in terms of access to these shores, or more accurately the impending unjustified, unscientific, and unlawful denial of access to our beaches. Chalk up a victory for the dark side, including NPS, at the usual expense to our community and the American people.

For those of us that love this place so much, this is an incredibly emotional battle that is, unfortunately, far from over. Perhaps though, for the first time, we have finally opened a crack in the door that will allow us to tell our story to the nation. Our cries for help have been ignored for so long in the media, in Washington and Raleigh as well.

Many of you have heard me say good things are coming. Well after a long period of appropriate silence, the day has finally arrived when I and many others can finally spread the word. So without further delay, from work of The Greystone Project and a long list of great folks, including a fine and generous donor, the video "Piping Mad" has been released this day.

It brought tears to my eyes more than once and still does as I know these people and I know their pain and loss.

Please watch this and please join the fight to preserve access to this amazing place by joining or contributing to OBPA. http://www.obpa.org/

Here's the link for the short version. The Long version entitled "Weathering The Storm" should be released soon.
www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=593797982139&ref=mf

Thanks to everybody that made this project happen and all of you that have worked for so long to support access both financially and by spreading the word about the tragedy that besets us all, regardless of where you live or your walk of life.

Together, we can win this fight!

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Earl

Well gang, its getting time to make a choice..stay or go..getting things ready just in case. For those that chose to come for the weekend, well, to use the DOW, SELC Autoban rhetoric..could happen, might happen, possibly, etc.. so don't cancel yet as its all going to depend on the track of this here storm thingy.

Only time will tell how badly the turtle nests get messed up. With 20+ foot waves breaking along the shore line and blowing out the dunes, its not possible to tell. Whats sure is that a cubic yard of seawater weighs in at about 1,784 pounds and when put in motion can wreak havoc on anything it slams against.

Hopefully Earl tracks East instead of smacking us around. Only time will tell.

Back to the preparations..

Tight Lines and everyone stay safe,

Wheat

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Well Deserved Answer To a Valid Question

A day or so after my last post in support of OBPA, I came to realize that a comment to same needed "moderation" which is, I suppose, a fancy way of saying I need to accept or reject what was written. It was left by someone that declined to leave a name which I would normally reject or ask for the person to come forward. In this case the person that commented did come forth and turned out to be an individual that I have had discourse with in the past and have respect for, as he has often asked some excellent questions and put forth opinion that though I may not agree with, I certainly respect.

This time John asked a tough and complex question but thankfully never challenged my ability to consider the opinion of another without having actually agree with it as it was fair and well thought out. I intend to publish his comment, as promised, at the end of my previous post just as soon as I answer it here.

In an attempt to simplify things, his comment can be broken down into three sections. Though I don't try and present them here as though they were in some sort of order, because, as can be discerned within his comment, they are thoroughly intertwined.

In the first instance I am asked why I left out what we have long thought of as the "second part" of the enabling legislation as I had addressed only the "first part" in my post and he felt that the second portion was what was important to the various people and organizations that have worked hard to limit access to the Seashore with their efforts. The answer to that is simple and can be found in my blog post of  6/13/07 which has been published here and elsewhere and deals specifically with the meaning of the "enabling legislation" that created this Seashore.

In the second instant he quotes me as such ", "But the Park Service and the assorted environmental groups; again, without the ability to show that access to this seashore is harming wildlife, are attempting to remove you and me from this sand all together. Not only is this unjustified, but it is illegal as well." and he follows with the statement "and is not true".

In fact this is true John. The record of human/wildlife interactions that has resulted in harm to the latter is in fact sparse at best. For example, since Piping Plovers, the "poster bird" for the environmental groups, sections of NPS and USFWS, arrived for the first time and began to breed here in 1960, not one single incident of harm of any sort can be documented as caused by an ORV or pedestrian anywhere on this Seashore. In contrast, it has been well documented that coastal storms and predation account for 100% of plover mortality and harm. These are facts my friend, not the rhetoric that has been incessantly thrown at us by those who would remove us from these beaches which contains repeatedly the "terms" could have, may have, might have, possibly have..etc.

I stand by my statement and can back it up with the fact that, nowhere exists documented scientific study or evidence that access to these beaches by ORV or pedestrian traffic is having a significant impact on wildlife. Instead, we are assailed by an unprecedented level of speculation and blatant lies. Take for example, Derb Carter, attorney for SELC who had the gall to claim in testimony before a congressional committee in 2008, that because of the "consent decree", turtle nesting numbers were up within the bounds of Seashore. That's is an outright lie and for perhaps the foremost expert discussion on the subject I need defer to Larry Hardham, president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club who authored the following:

Sunday, 22 August 2010 14:07


Where is the truth on sea turtle nesting success?

By LARRY HARDHAM

After the 2008 sea turtle nesting season, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the National Audubon Society, and Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) first started claiming that the consent decree had improved sea turtle nesting at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (CHNSRA).

I got upset because I had naively expected the whole truth and nothing but the truth rather than propaganda from these presumed reputable organizations.

Unfortunately, even after they were told that sea turtle nesting in 2008 was at record levels throughout North Carolina (highest since 2000), they continued their spin on how the consent decree improved nesting at CHNSRA.

It turns out that not only was the 2008 sea turtle nesting activity in North Carolina at record levels, but in 2008 South Carolina had its best year since 2000, Georgia loggerhead turtles also had their best year since 2000, and Florida had its best year since 2002.

All of this information was available to these three groups, and they did not modify their misleading spin.

Now in their press release of May 12, 2010, regarding their comment on the Park Service's Draft Environmental Impact Statement on off-road vehicle rulemaking on the seashore, these groups again claim that "The last two years had record numbers of turtle nests."

This implies -again - that the consent decree, which was implemented on May 1, 2008, to settle a lawsuit by the environmental groups against the Park Service, is responsible for the increase in sea turtle nesting at Cape Hatteras.

Here are the facts:

•In 2007 (a full year) under the Interim Plan, CHNSRA had 14.5 percent of the total nesting activity in North Carolina and 15.4 percent of loggerhead nesting in North Carolina.

•In the two years of 2008 and 2009 under the consent decree, CHNSRA had 14.5 percent of the total nesting activity in North Carolina (the same as 2007 under the Interim Plan) and only 15.05 percent of loggerhead nesting in North Carolina (less than under the Interim Plan of 2007). Since the consent decree went into effect on May 1, 2008, and the first sea turtle nest was not laid until May 10, a true comparison for the nesting season can be made -- unlike piping plovers. There were already breeding pairs of piping plovers on the seashore when the consent decree went into effect.

•As a side note, false crawls -- when sea turtles come ashore but do not nest--were 27 percent lower than in the four years from 2000-2003 than they were in 2008 and 2009 under the consent decree. This was despite the fact that during the 2000-2003 years, night driving on the beaches was allowed and there were more visitors on the seashore. Three of these four years set record numbers with average visitation of 2,706,175 recreational visitors per year to CHNSRA. Under the past two years under the consent decree, visitation was 22.2 percent lower with an average of 2,214,468 recreational visitors.

•False crawls are measured by using the number of false crawls compared to the number of nests and expressed as a ratio. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers a false crawl to nest ratio of 1:1 as normal for an undeveloped beach. The false crawl to nest ratio at CHNSRA for the years 2000-2003 with night driving averaged 0.75:1 -- substantially less than an undeveloped beach -- and the false crawl to nest ratio for 2008 and 2009 was 0.95:1 -- with no night driving.

•Furthermore, the consent decree -- which is very similar to Alternative D of the DEIS regarding sea turtle management, which closes 40.8 miles of the seashore to ORV use and is supported by SELC, Audubon, and DOW -- resulted in and average loss (nests with a zero hatch rate) of 33.86 percent of nests laid at CHNSRA, or over twice the rate of loss categorized as catastrophic in the 2009 Loggerhead Recovery Plan for Georgia in 2001. All losses were due to inundation or erosion with no hurricane within 400 miles of our coast. What is the term used for a rate over twice that of catastrophic? Is it a "take" under the Endangered Species Act? If so, then these three groups support a plan that more than likely will produce the same catastrophic (times two) results as did the consent decree.

•National Park Service officials at CHNSRA also have this information and have chosen not to look at their own data. The most relevant science for CHNSRA must come from CHNSRA data.

One basic conclusion from this data is that false crawls, with night driving and night recreational use, had not been a problem until the NPS introduced flexible and reflective carsonite stakes to replace the wood 2-by-2 stakes at all closures in 2004.

There is no valid reason for a night driving ban at CHNS based on data from CHNS!

A sad by-product of the misleading and flawed sea turtle claims of SELC, Audubon, and DOW is that their supporters, much of the news media, many politicians, perhaps some judges, and other environmental groups believe these half truths and omissions as fact.

Perhaps it would better serve the public if the aforementioned groups find a more reliable source for factual information. If the general public only knew the truth, they might stop donating their hard-earned money to these groups that intentionally supply misleading information and half truths.

The important thing for sea turtles on the seashore is to develop a plan that allows for lower nest losses and more hatchlings to get to the ocean. Increased numbers of nests are of little value unless they hatch and the hatchlings actually get into the ocean.

Outer Banks Preservation Association, North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, and the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club have submitted a plan to do just that as part of their DEIS comment. It is available at http://www.obpa-nc.org/turtles/TurtleMgmtProgram.pdf. This proposed plan is based on methods used at other sea turtle nesting sites that have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the appropriate state departments, and all are operating under the same Loggerhead Recovery Plan as CHNSRA.

In a nutshell, the plan calls for the use of the following at CHNS:

•A relocation guideline of "the debris line of the spring high tide" line as used in South Carolina rather than the "average high tide line," which is impossible to calculate, as required by North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) for CHNSRA. South Carolina lost less than 15 percent of its nests in 2009, while we lost more than 35 percent on the seashore. The fact that South Carolina relocated more than 40 percent of its nests in 2009 contributed greatly to this lower percentage of lost nests. Nests laid "near dune crossovers" are also relocated in South Carolina. At Cape Canaveral National Seashore in Florida, sea turtle nests are relocated if "the nest is located at the base of a heavily traveled boardwalk." Yet CHNSRA is told by the state Wildlife Resources Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service that nests can not be moved for the convenience of recreational use.

•The use of "relocation zones" as used at Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge on Hatteras Island for at least 15 years and at Cape Lookout National Seashore. Cape Lookout lost only 17 percent of its nests in 2009, while Cape Hatteras lost more than 35 percent. Over the last 20 years the emergence rate for relocated nests at Cape Lookout has been 66 percent as compared to only 57 percent for nests not relocated.

•A complete all night "nest watch" program, which would assure that hatchlings actually get into the ocean and provide access along our beaches without $150 fines issued to a pedestrian walking along our shoreline. Thus, the 10-by-10 meter closures around a nest would have to be expanded only at night during a hatch.

•A night driving ban is not indicated for CHNS as our "science" at the seashore clearly shows ORV activity and other recreational activity at night is not a contributor to the false crawl to nest ratio. Records show that during 2000 through 2003, the false crawl to nest ratio was only 75 percent of the level that the Fish and Wildlife Service expects of a beach with no human activity.

The combination of the above four concepts will dramatically increase sea turtle production at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, while allowing increased access to our seashore.

(Larry Hardham is president of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club, was a member of the Park Service's Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, and has been a volunteer turtle watcher at Pea island National Wildlife Refuge for 15 years. The facts cited in the article come from the National Park Service Web site: http:www.nature.nps.gov/stats, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Annual Reports for sea turtles 2000-2009, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for ORV rulemaking on the seashore, and the guidelines of marine turtle permit holders from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.)

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Johns third question and statement was that don't the environmentalists and others that follow their lead own the Seashore too? To which I will reply yes, of course. But coupled with this question is the repeated statement that filing lawsuit is the only way they can be heard which, sorry John, is preposterous.

These people have had alot more opportunity to have their voice heard than we could ever hope for, yet. We don't get 20 million dollar donations from Toyota like Audubon does. We don't have the weighs and means to influence congress as these people do. Derb Carter must have really enjoyed himself when he told Judge Boyle last Spring that "they" had successfully ended any attempt at overturning the "consent decree" in congress and as pointed out before, this is a guy that will and does lie directly to our elected representatives while these days we see sports figures going to jail for same.

These people participated in the development 2007 Interim Management Strategy and had just as much voice as did those that fight for access to our beaches. The same holds true during the 2010 DEIS comment period and will undoubtedly hold true during the comment following the issuance of the final rule though it's a safe bet that they will inform NPS that once again they intend to sue.

John, these folks have been up our rear for years. They have sued again and again because they have an agenda , a large part of which is profiting at the expense of the American taxpayer and the hypocrisy is astounding. It's not about protecting wildlife, it's about profiting from the language contained within the Endangered Species Act which allows for civilian lawsuits. We, the people, have in the past been charged upwards of $640.00 per hour in lawsuits across this nation that do not benefit wildlife but do harm the people and certainly line the pockets of a host of lawyers.

I'd go on but you've probably already read about the bridge, Audubon selling the land in Currituck, etc..

I hope that answered your questions.

Please, for those that read this, go to http://www.obpa.org/ and drop off a few dollars to help support our fight to regain and preserve access to these beautiful, user maintained beaches. We have a long row to hoe and need your help.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Call For Help

Howdy friends!


It’s been a long hot summer and I haven’t had a lot that I can write about on these pages without repeating myself though I will probably do some of that here this day as it’s hard not to from time to time.

When I first started coming down to the Seashore from Virginia, I had no clue of the expanse of these beaches and just how extraordinary they are. Neither was I aware of the community of visitors that call this place their second home and how much they care for this amazing place. In fact, it was several years before I began the journey to this ribbon of sand and experienced the “rush”; that moment when the mind, body, and soul completely relax because you know the Island is just around the corner or more accurately, just over the bridge. Those that have been here a few times know exactly what I’m talking about and also know that what I write here is no exaggeration.

It’s unfortunate that most of the visitors to our beaches have no clue that within short order, the “landscape” of the Seashore which changes so much, is about to change again to an extraordinary degree.

It used to be that changes around here were due to big storms which often resulted in almost the entire Island being flooded and washed over by the sea and we’d all have to wait to see what was different though we always carried the knowledge that once the storm had passed, we would be able to venture back out onto the sand 24 hours a day, every day. And we did so while respecting the, and working to, preserve the wildlife and the Seashore as a whole.




Those that are versed in the dynamics of this amazing place understand that when wildlife is harmed here, less than 5% of these incidents can be attributed to human activity of any sort though those that wish to change the nature of our access to our Seashore still ignore and refuse to admit it.

Many folks that come to these beaches to enjoy time with their families or even just to get away and fish for a while have no clue that this will be the last year that they will enjoy the sort of freedom of movement they have in the past and that huge portions of our beaches will be permanently off limits to all access; particularly some of the most oft visited portions of the islands that comprise the Seashore. Nor do they realize that for a significant portion of the year, something as simple as bringing ones dog with them on vacation to the sand will result in a ticket, fine, and a possible appearance in Federal court. That’s all part of the proposed plan for access to the Seashore that the National Park Service is about to impose. It makes the draconian “consent decree” that we have suffered under for the last three years look like “child’s play”.

Many seem to think that this is a local issue.

It’s not! This is a National problem.

                                      My friend bowed up on a Spinner Shark at the Point

We, the American people, own this stretch of sand; excepting the eight villages contained within the Seashore. And we, the American people are being robbed of this place by our government, and as the people, we also pay environmental groups to sue us (thats you and me folks), who continue to file or threaten to sue so as to influence policy even though their claims don’t match the reality of the dynamics of these islands or even the unproven, speculative claims of harm to wildlife.

To defeat this nightmare and preserve these beaches for future generations of families and their children as was required by the Congress when they established the Seashore, we need your help and we need it now.




When the Congress established this Seashore, the first National Seashore in our country’s history, it was an area that was created entirely for the recreational pursuits of the people of this nation. The legislation that established this area states clearly that any area that is needed and adaptable for recreational use “is to be developed for such uses as needed”. But the Park Service and the assorted environmental groups; again, without the ability to show that access to this seashore is harming wildlife, are attempting to remove you and me from this sand all together. Not only is this unjustified, but it is illegal as well.


Otter tracks, NPS will kill this animal if they can!
(authors note: these are actually Nutria tracks as properly identified by "Crotalus" but the animal will still meet the same fate as described above. Thanks Crot.


So far they’ve managed to get away with it to the detriment of not only the local economy as our recession started a year prior to the nations as a whole because of denied access, but also to those who chose to visit these pristine, user maintained beaches.


Years ago I asked friends and folks that visited local internet “fishing boards”, which are run by local tackle shops, to match a challenge in support of the efforts of the Outer Banks Preservation Association so that monies could be raised to help fund our efforts to fight this absurd, illegal, and unfounded land grab by the our government and the lawyers who profit at the American taxpayers’ expense.



I’m asking again.



We have an incredible array of issues to deal with here that will ultimately only be resolved in a Federal court which will cost a lot of money. Then again, what part of our government doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg? This time though, it’s about your right to access your Seashore, with your family, as well as the future of literally thousands of residents of the Islands. What is scary, especially for anybody that lives near any public lands, is that if this cannot be successfully challenged, be it only for a lack of funds, the people of this nation will lose access to much of the entire national park system. If you take the time, do the research as I and many others have done as a part of this fight to regain our rightful, congressionally mandated access to this Seashore, and you will find what I say is the truth.


                                                       Sunrise and nice crepuscular rays!

So I’m asking everyone that reads this post to venture to http://www.obpa.org/ to have a glance at the issues and to donate what you can to this fight to save this amazing place for those of us who have the astounding pleasure of visiting these beaches. Time is running short and we need all the help we can muster which is why I just became a life member of OBPA and essentially donated 25 years of dues in one fell swoop. I don’t expect anyone to follow that lead nor would I ask, but please do help. If you are an American citizen, and you enjoy the ability to explore the areas set aside by the Congress for you to visit, please donate to this most worthy and noble cause.

Donations which will assist our fight are easily accomplished via the OBPA website link above through mailing or PayPal. Memberships can be acquired and of interest to many is the OBPA calendar which features prizes many times a week to include free boat charters, vacation house rentals, fishing tackle and a whole host of other things which have all been donated by private individuals and businesses that are part of the Island community. Not to mention, it’s a beautiful calendar with great pictures from the Seashore.

Well, this has been one long post; but for a good reason.  I hope everybody that reads it will send a few bucks to help fight the fight. For those that have never ventured this far south when you visit the “OBX”, you have no idea what you are missing.

If you choose to join this fight by donating, please let me know here or on facebook so I can thank you personally and remember, please, that this is your fight also as this is YOUR Seashore!

Incidentally, OBPA is a 501 (c) non-profit entity and any and all donations are tax deductible. I would also like to point out that not one single person fighting for access to this Seashore is on any payroll excepting of course the attorneys hired to provide you and me a chance to preserve these beaches for future generations.

We will continue to work for access and much is in the works so keep the faith, it’s worth it!

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Bridge Comment

Drew Joyner, Human Environment Unit Head, NCDOT


1598 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699

Dear Mr. Joyner,

I want to thank you for the opportunity to provide public comment on the proposed construction of a replacement for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge which links Bodie and Hatteras Islands as part of N.C. Highway 12.

This bridge, opened in 1963, provides an exceptionally vital link for the residents of Hatteras Island as it is through the use and travels via this edifice that virtually all of our various and sundry life supplies reach their destination. The Bonner Bridge also provides the only practical avenue for evacuation during major coastal storm events as well as the most often utilized route for visitor traffic which the economy of Hatteras Island is almost entirely dependent.

This span has long passed its projected life expectancy and needs replaced. Currently the bridge stands with a sufficiency rating of only two out a possible 100 and has required literally millions of dollars in repair costs in the 17 years since it was due for replacement. I would remind your office of a bridge in Minnesota which collapsed not many years ago, taking several lives, which enjoyed a significantly higher rating. I would also remind you of the video that circulated a few years ago where divers inspecting the Bonner Bridge piles where able to literally remove significant chunks of concrete from these piles with their bare hands. The bridge is deteriorating daily and it is of the utmost importance that construction of a new span begins immediately.

With an estimated five thousand vehicles crossing Oregon Inlet daily, a number that can swell to around ten thousand during the summer months, catastrophic failure of this vital transportation link will surely lead to a great loss of life and simultaneously destroy the economy of Hatteras and probably Ocracoke Island as well.

Mr. Joyner, the replacement of this bridge has been studied for two decades with very little forward progress and it is time to dispense with additional, redundant study, as this will further increase the likelihood of failure of the existing span prior to the completion of a new, well engineered, avenue of egress.

On August 6th, 2010, Island Free Press (www.islandfreepress.org) published a brief chronology of this process which I understand to be the longest set of studies ever conducted by NCDOT for a transportation project.

It reads as follows:

• 1990. State begins feasibility study for replacing Bonner Bridge

• November, 1993. Draft Environmental Impact Statement on bridge replacement is released for review. It favors a parallel bridge.

• Early 1994. Public hearings on DEIS.

• 1996. Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement is issued, which was never signed because of lack of consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

• 2001. Because it had been more than seven years since the completion of the DEIS, a re-evaluation is conducted to determine if the preliminary FEIS remains a viable alternative. Decision is made to prepare a supplement to the DEIS.

• 2002. Work begins on Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS).supplement to DEIS.

• September, 2005. Supplemental DEIS completed and signed. It includes five alternatives, including short- and long-bridge options.

• November, 2005. Public hearings are held on SDEIS.

• February, 2007. Supplement to SDEIS is signed. This supplement to the supplement includes two new parallel bridge options.

• March, 2007. Two public meeting are held on the supplement to the Supplemental DEIS.

• September, 2008. Final Environmental Impact Statement is signed. It favors Parallel Bridge with Phased Approach /Rodanthe Bridge as the preferred alternative and addresses comments made the SDEIS and SSDEIS.

• May, 2009. Parallel Bridge Corridor with Highway 12 Transportation Management Plan Alternative was added to the FEIS and selected as the preferred alternative. This is a variation on parallel bridge alternatives addressed in FEIS.

• October, 2009. Revised Section 4 (f) evaluation is issued in response to comments received on the FEIS. It determines Pamlico Sound Bridge – the long bridge -- is not feasible.

• January, 2010. Federal Highway Administration requests an Environmental Assessment of the preferred alternative in the FEIS.

• May, 2010. Environmental Assessment is released.

• June, 2010. Public comment period on EA is announced with public meetings scheduled for July.

• Next up. Examine public comments on new EA and determine if more environmental studies are needed. If no more studies are needed, a Record of Decision could be issued in September.

And now we’re told that additional study may be needed before your department issues a record of decision. Mr. Joyner, this has gone on too long already and the only tangible result to date is a further and unnecessary compromise of public safety.

It is also abundantly clear that NCDOT faces litigation regarding right of way reserved by North Carolina through the area known as Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge which effectively covers the northern most thirteen miles of Hatteras Island. Environmental lawyers, most notably Derb Carter from the Southern Environmental Law Center have made claims that this documented, legal right of way is void stating that the Refuge was acquired under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which is patently false. This area was in fact acquired under 16 USC 459 as part of the establishment of what Congress determined would be part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Recreational Area (amended 1940)) in 1937. The Congress also stated that:

16 USC 459 SEC. 5. “Notwithstanding any other provisions of this act, lands and waters now or hereafter included in any migratory bird refuge under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture, within the boundaries of the national seashore as designated by the Secretary of the Interior under section 1 hereof, shall continue as such refuge under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture for the protection of migratory birds, but such lands and waters shall be a part of the aforesaid national seashore and shall be administered by the National Park Service for recreational uses not inconsistent with the purposes of such refuge under such rules and regulations as the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture may jointly approve.”

This is further reflected within the 2006 Interim Management Strategy published by USFWS which points out that said refuge is merely an overlay of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.

In fact, sir, the refuge in question was established not by the Congress as is required by the Constitution of The United States but by Executive Order and has never been vetted in any form by the aforementioned legislative body as required by law and is, as such, an illegal entity and so its status as a “refuge” should not play into any decision that NCDOT makes regarding the replacement of this lifeline so vital to those of us that reside here as well as those who choose to visit our pristine, user maintained beaches.

Mr. Joyner, very soon, school buses full of children will again begin to cross the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge along with many others who come to fish and bathe on our beaches and the lives of these children and adults depend on a safe and efficient method of egress to and from Hatteras Island. Only a new bridge, long overdue, can provide that. I find it rather ironic, in a very sad, way that a driver can be ticketed for speeding through a NCDOT work zone and yet for the last 17 years, thousands of American families have been forced to cross this vital but deteriorating link on and off this island while potentially risking death because of a project that should have been completed long ago.

I would be remiss not to include a comment regarding the positive economic impact that this unbelievably overdue project would bring to Dare County. The current economic crisis as well as the court sanctioned “Consent Decree” that has for three years closed most of the beaches within the Seashore has taken Dare from being a “donor county” to that which had one of the highest unemployment rates in North Carolina. The construction of this much needed edifice will undoubtedly go a long way to rectify that situation as it will increase the need for goods and services and spur the local economy putting many residents back to work as well as increase the demand for housing.

Mr. Joyner, the time for a record of decision is long past. We need a new bridge now! To delay this action further, puts lives at risk, threatens our economy to an astounding degree, and will serve no purpose other than to expend additional millions of taxpayer dollars attempting to repair a span long overdue for replacement. As such, it is imperative that NCDOT issue a record of decision in favor of the immediate replacement of this bridge.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this commentary.

Jeffrey Golding
Buxton, N.C.
27920

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Got A Question Mr. Murray...

It’s been a while since I sat down here with the intention of writing for the blog. But then, since the DEIS comment period, things have been a bit slow on the Island and I needed a brain break. The wheels are turning again, the inks in the well, and a new nib on the gander’s gift.


In theory, on the morrow, Cape Point should finally be open for full access which will be welcomed. As many know, Hatteras Inlet was finally opened last week; having been closed for the last months in spite of the fact that no birds have nested there for years. I was out there today and it was a pleasure to drive and fish the rip.

It’s Cape Point that I’m concerned with or more accurately, the turtle nests that will soon come into hatch window and require full beach closures effectively eliminating access to the Point via Ramps 43 and 44. The Hook is covered up with Least Terns, also full beach closure which cuts off access via the salt pond road and 45.

I wrote about this before but did not ask the obvious question. That is, when is NPS going to begin the construction of a road behind the dunes and around the turtle nests so we can still have access?

By law, as per the “enabling legislation” they are required to. The area is adaptable, it’s clearly needed and it is unquestionably for recreational use; the three tenants stipulated by the Congress specific to this area. Remember, they said “shall be developed for such uses as needed” not, “give it a thought”.

So, Mr. Murray, where is our road?

On another note, it’s getting close to the end of public comment on our much needed bridge replacement as the deadline is the ninth of next month. If you like coming to Hatteras, and value your life and the lives of those you love, please take the time to learn about the issues and tell NCDOT to build the bridge NOW!

Irene Nolan at www.islandfreepress.org has written some excellent commentary on the subject and provides links for information and where to submit comment. Please have a look and help us replace this three mile span that should have been replaced 17 years ago and now enjoys a service rating of 2 out of 100.



Tight Lines,



Wheat

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Summer At Cape Point?

Without question, the largest single draw at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is Cape Point. It is here, and within Diamond Shoals which stretch sometimes for miles in a Southeasterly direction, that the nutrient rich waters from the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Currents collide creating one of the most dynamic beach systems found anywhere on the Seashore.
The nature of the ever changing beach and submarine structure also draws alot of sea life which translates to attracting fishermen and their families to this special stretch of sand. It's not all about fishing though. The western edge of the Point begins an area we refer to as "The Hook" where the beach bends from a North to a Westward direction and offers excellent swimming and shelling as well as "other recreational activities of a similar nature".

It is here that every Spring and Fall, drum fisherman from all over the world congregate to catch and release the majestic Red Drum. Often fishing into the dawn hours and battling chest high waves and sometimes sharks, here you'll find some of the most skilled surf fisherman anywhere.

Since these draconian closures began as a result of the NPS pandering to SELC and company, perhaps the most often asked question on this Island is "when are they going to open the Point?" I got hit with it twice yesterday as I shopped for victuals.

At the time I was asked, the answer should have been next week. (last plover fledged plus three weeks as per the decree of forced consent) Now I'm not so sure.

You see, there are Oystercatcher still out there. All hatched but NPS has a penchant for extending closure times for these birds for sometimes weeks at a time. The "weak flier" excuse has kept many areas closed that should have been opened weeks earlier. And considering Cyndy Holda's decidedly anti access views, I'm not going to hold my breath on that one.

The other issue is turtles. Check out this weeks resource management report available at http://www.islandfreepress.org/ and you'll find nests have sprung up on both sides of Ramp 45 and directly in front of and to the South of Ramp 44. Once they hit hatch window in about six weeks, full beach closures go into effect which will close both ramps to Point access. The only ray of hope is that the nest East of 45 is not close enough to close the Salt Pond Road. if a turtle nests in the Hook, though the nest will rot, it could keep the Point closed until sometime in September effectively killing any hopes of salvaging the remaining portion of the summer season.

How this plays out will depend on decisions made by people we pay who were directed by Congress to establish, develop, and maintain this Seashore for the purpose of recreational pursuit, not a damn wildlife refuge.

Tight Lines,

Wheat

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Tragic Death At The Seashore

It’s always hard to write about a subject that causes me great anger. This is particularly true when that emotion is directed in several different ways and at various individuals and organizations. I don’t know who to yell at first.


So I’ll begin with the idiot.

Fair warning, there are some graphic pictures involved in this post.

At some point, Wednesday last or in the early hours Thursday an individual or group of people went for a drive on the beach off of Ramp 72 just outside of Ocracoke Village and proceeded to run over and kill a Loggerhead turtle.

The NPS suggests that this occurred sometime between the hours of 10PM and 6AM which are the hours where beach driving is not permitted except by official vehicles, as per the court sanctioned “consent decree”. The decedent was discovered at approximately 6:10 AM Thursday morning by Michelle Bogardus, NPS senior turtle biologist.

Apparently, in addition, SW of Ramp 70, a new, then unmarked nest was driven over and some eggs were crushed. This discovery occurred at almost 7AM, almost a full hour after the beaches were open for legal ORV access by non official vehicles. Where was the dawn turtle patrol required by the ‘consent decree” and why wasn’t the nest wasn’t marked off as required by same?

Who killed the turtle?

As quoted at
 http://islandfreepress.org/2010Archives/06.25.2010-ParkServiceSeekingDriverOfORVThatCrushedLoggerheadOnOcracoke.html

John Anglin, Lead Ranger for NPS said “There are people out there in the community who were not involved but who have heard something,” To me, this sounds as though Mr. Anglin assumes that the residents of Ocracoke are either involved or omniscient. Neither of which is likely and perhaps serves as a window as to just how NPS really feels about those of us that live on these Islands.

Let’s look at the facts Mr. Anglin.

As the photographs will bear, whoever was driving that vehicle was not properly aired down. Had you enough beach driving experience and were attentive to detail, you would know the difference between the tracks left by someone who had lowered their tire pressure sufficiently and someone whose tires were spinning faster than they were advancing along the beach. The latter leaves a track resembling sifted flour as opposed to a defined, displaced footprint. If you don’t believe me, follow just about any NPS “observer” vehicle and then look at their tracks. This is especially true with the smaller NPS vehicles found on our beaches which are usually not aired down properly and are, as a result, stuck quite frequently. A subject I have touched upon in this very blog.

Anybody that lives here, John, knows about airing tires down.

It’s also rather obvious that the vehicle in question had relatively low clearance as clearly distinguishable behind the turtle is the imprint of the gas tank which struck the sand.

It is evident that this low clearance, improperly aired down vehicle was not capable of travelling down the beach at any speed else the track would have been much different and was travelling without headlights or they would have seen the turtle. Anybody having a tough time driving the sand in a low clearance vehicle is not going to try and strike a massive object.

It’s also clear that whoever it was that perpetrated this awful act had no fear of ending up in trouble for doing so as they continued down the beach as far as the eye can see in the photo. Why no fear? Is it because they were in an official vehicle and could blame it on some “cowboy”? I only ask because NPS has a penchant for blaming ORV operators for many things that simply don’t make sense and are in some cases, entirely speculative and as such is fair. Of note, is that during the hours NPS assumes this happened, theirs were the only vehicles legally allowed on the beach.

What it comes down to is that the individual who killed the turtle was breaking the law, probably either because of illegal entry or driving without headlights, or both. It could have been anybody, including an NPS employee.

The reality is that it’s the responsibility of NPS to patrol these beaches and enforce the law. Virtually every act of vandalism recorded within the bounds of the Seashore this year has gone unseen, unreported until well after the fact, and without an arrest by NPS but the public has been repeatedly punished by the acts of a few.

The sad part is that our access community has repeatedly approached NPS with the concept of a citizen’s watch and has been turned down every time. Such a watch would have probably prevented this tragedy as the individuals would have been seen and law enforcement notified. I wrote about this very subject for Island Free Press a couple of years ago.

Of course, such an act doesn’t go unnoticed by DOW, Audubon, and SELC who are now calling for barriers to be erected at sundown on each of the ramps within the Seashore. My only response to that thought process is to remind these characters that during the almost sixty years where unrestricted night driving was conducted at the Seashore, an incident like this never happened.

Remember too that because of NPS policy here at the Seashore, almost 40% of the nests laid on our beaches are lost each year due to storms, predation and management practice.

All that these people and NPS have managed to accomplish since the “07 IMS is to attempt to fix something that wasn’t broken to begin with.

Again, the pics are graphic.

Tight Lines,

Wheat