Sunday, April 4, 2010

Heres a good read that takes a look at what happened here last year. This comes from the Outer Banks Preservation Association or OBPA.

Tight Lines,


NPS Resource Management Field Summary Reports – Synopsis

The first full season under the Consent Decree

The 2009 bird-breeding season at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore experienced better than normal nesting weather. Temperatures at the Seashore were cooler than normal. No tropical storms or nor’easters flooded the islands. Normal rainfall amounts fell. Conditions suggested better than average results might be expected. Actual numbers reported by the NPS through August 7, 2009 indicate results have not been better, and in some cases are worse, than in 2008.

In the case of the piping plover (PIPL), 2009 compared to 2008 recorded fewer breeding pairs (9 vs. 11), fewer hatched eggs (19 vs. 22), and fewer fledged chicks (6 vs. 7). The Consent Decree went into effect on May 1, 2008, after the arrival of the PIPLs for the 2008 breeding season. The results for 2008, and for 2009 (the first full year under the Consent Decree) have shown no improvement from what was experienced under the Interim Plan in effect in 2006/2007. The 2009 fledge rate of .67 per breeding pair matches the 2006 results.

American oystercatchers (AMOY) nesting results for 2009 were also worse than in 2008. Assuming all remaining chicks as of August 7 successfully fledge, 2009 will record 14 fledged chicks compared to 17 recorded in 2008. AMOY’s do not breed until four years of age, so the increase in the number of breeding pairs in recent years should be attributed to management policies prior to the Consent Decree.

Results for black skimmers and other colonial waterbirds for which closures are established have not yet been quantified by the NPS. The turtle-nesting season is still in progress with nests and false crawls numbers to-date similar to what were experienced in 2008.

Observations suggest that black skimmers continue to nest in limited numbers on the seashore with the Consent Decree having no noticeable improvement. However, as in 2008, skimmers have nested in great numbers on Cora June Island. David Allen of the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission said there were “over 100 black skimmers” and some common terns on Cora June Island after viewing pictures this summer. Although only 500 yards behind the Hatteras Village ferry docks, Cora June is not technically part of the Seashore and therefore is excluded from the NPS statistics. Also, approximately 250 to 300 black skimmers, 30 common terns and 300 least terns have been observed nesting on the beaches south of the Oregon Inlet groin on Pea Island. However, this area is also excluded from the results reported by the NPS because it is managed within the Pea Island Wildlife Reserve, even though it is a part of the Seashore.

The results have not supported the closure policies dictated by the Consent Decree. In fact, factors other than ORV or pedestrian activities have had a more significant impact on results. The NPS recognizes that predators are responsible for significant loses of bird and turtle eggs and hatchlings. Since 2002, over 800 predators have been trapped on the Seashore. Numbers of trappings have increased substantially over the past two years after the NPS hired a full-time trapper. Some have surmised that predator activity on the beaches may have actually increased as a result of the Consent Decree due to the absence of ORVs and pedestrians. Another factor negatively impacting the breeding success of all shorebirds is the loss of habitat due to vegetation growth that has occurred in areas used for nesting in prior years. The absence of ORV activity as a result of closures during the non-breeding season (September thru March) has contributed to the unchecked vegetation growth in these areas. A third factor that negatively impacts results is weather. Storms did not impact the bird-nesting season in 2009, and it remains to be seen if storms (combined with the NPS policy of not relocating turtle nests from at-risk locations) will negatively impact the 2009 turtle hatches.

When costs are considered, the appropriateness of the Consent Decree is even more questionable. Thru 8/16/2008 (only three and a half months after its implementation), the NPS spent $316,000 more than what would have been spent under the Interim Plan (per Supt. Mike Murray) and continues to incur incremental costs during 2009 (aprox. $300,000 to $400,000). As a result of the Consent Decree settlement, the plaintiffs were paid $100,000. These costs are real, but the cost to the U.S. taxpayers does not even approach the cost to the economy of the islands, nor the diminished quality of the visitors’ experience at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

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