Monday, May 24, 2010

Ok Kurt, I'll Play The Game

I reckon I'm back..sorry gang, I needed a brain break which of course, didn't work.

Believe it or not, just because the DEIS comment period is over, many continue to pour over the document and find errors, inconsistencies and outright mis-truths.

Last week I mentioned an article by Kurt Repanshek at national parks Traveller and when the rain started this morning I whipped out a response. I'd definitely classify his article as recommended reading if only for the wealth of information contained within the comments though the article has merit also. Some of the comments I find hilarious and uninformed, but there's a few in there that are spot on.  It can be found at:

And here is my response.

I want to thank you for the article as it is perhaps the most moderate piece you’ve written on this exhausting subject. Many are the issues that make up the fight for access to this amazing place.

You stated that development of the Seashore “might have been a grand idea in the 1930s” as though it were no longer true. Those of us that live within the bounds of the Seashore and those that visit are very glad that it was established; else we would be just another Nags Head or Myrtle Beach with wall to wall motels, malls, and chain stores. Though the boundaries of the villages were expanded to allow for future growth to accommodate the anticipated visitation, mentioned by former NPS director, Conrad Wirth, the community is still small and 98% of the businesses on the Islands are “mom and pop” shops with less than a dozen employees. It’s fun to think that I’m 70 miles away from fast food and 100 miles from Wal-Mart.

I think if you’re going to mention plovers at the Seashore it behooves you give light to the fact that since the plover first arrived on these beaches in 1960, not one single plover death or destroyed nest can be attributed to an ORV. For decades we shared the same beach areas with these birds as they nested and all without harm. I think you should also mention that 100% of all documented plover mortality at the Seashore has been to either storms or predation.

You should also mention that the Atlantic population of charadrius melodus, aka, the Piping Plover, is just over one hundred breeding pair away from being eligible for delisting from the Endangered Species Act. USFWS sets the target population at 2000 breeding pair which will likely be achieved this year or next, as last year’s count was 1889 pair.

Though the plover has become a symbol in this war for access, I don’t know anybody who wishes harm to these birds. As a community, I think we’re collectively very proud of the fact that no harm has come to these birds as a result of our use of this resource. However, the concept, indeed reality, of a 771 acre closure for a single plover chick is beyond reasonable.

If you’re going to talk turtles, I feel it’s important to mention that here at the Seashore, we have a better false crawl to nest ratio than USFWS sets for a completely undisturbed beach. Also that it has been documented that almost 40% of the turtle nests at the seashore are lost here annually because of storms, predation, and the refusal by NPS to move nests that are prone to washout and flooding in high risk areas which is completely unrelated to ORV use at the Seashore.

Kurt, apparently you need to make a trip to the Seashore. You mention “rip-rap, seawalls, groins, and jetties”. We one set of jetties or what used to be jetties as they have decayed to the point of almost non existence. We don’t have seawalls, rip-rap or groins here, we have sand. Your inclusion of these terms in your article implies that such things exist here when in fact they don’t, not within the Seashore, not on the ocean beaches. This isn’t Myrtle Beach.

You just have to love Chris Canfield, President of Audubon N.C. For the last few years he’s been screaming about increased ORV use, and that we’re crowding the Seashore, etc. Now he’s quoting the Voglesong study (again) to give the impression that only a minute portion of the visitors to the Islands come to access the beaches by ORV. At issue is that when Voglesong was peer reviewed as required, those that gave their opinion deemed the study essentially worthless and not worthy of further review as the data and its collection was flawed so horribly.

And yes, Mr. Canfield, we know it’s about birds other than the plover. The question is do you know that in N.C. ”species of concern” means nothing more than the state wants to know more about the birds? Are you aware of the DEIS public comment made by Gordon Myers, Chairman of the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, whose policies effectively dictate wildlife management policy to NPS here at the Seashore stating: “State-listed "species of concern," - such as the American oystercatcher - do not require the extensive buffers and beach closures mandated for federally listed species such as the piping plover.” And, “To treat it as synonymous with threatened and endangered is not congruent”?

Canfield also probably didn’t tell you about the beachfront property on Bodie Island that Audubon just sold for 25 million dollars. The area was supposed to be reserved as a nature area and being beachfront is subject to tern and oystercatcher nesting. They sold it so it could be developed and the plans have just been approved. Nice job Mr. Canfield!

You’d think that somebody from the National Parks Conservation Assn. might learn a little about the Seashore before they make comment. Kristen Brengle clearly has no idea of how this seashore operates. Her assumption that “we” close the beaches in front of the villages for tourism dollars is patently false. The seasonal closures are “safety” closures enacted by NPS because of the number of pedestrians on those beaches and prevent all but NPS vehicles and perhaps commercial fisherman from entering these areas. Nobody has an issue with this.

If Ms. Brengle had any idea as to how the closures have come to be under the consent decree and the tremendous loss of access and the resulting economic impact on the islands, she would know that her statements “So to say that now, with the closures specifically for off-road vehicles use, they’re not used to it, I don’t think that that’s a true statement”, and, “And to make it seem like a closure here and there to protect some turtle and bird nesting is such a concept that’s wildly out of sync with how things have been managed down there is incorrect” are utterly ridiculous. She apparently fails to realize that these closures not only affect ORV’s, but all access, period.

And then there was this comment by Mike Murray, Superintendent of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. “So, lack of parking is a big root cause to the dilemma we face today,” he says. “People have become dependent upon driving and parking on the beach.” With all due respect Mike, that is absurd and you know it.

I was there at the “meet and greet” meeting you held at the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club when you described the times you spent as a child with your family driving on the beaches of the Seashore. I was there in that standing room only meeting when you stated that “as far as I’m concerned, beach driving is a traditional form of access”, words I will never forget.

To suggest that the use of the Seashore for vehicular access and parking is because of the lack of parking along the roadside and within the villages is a blatant attempt at re-inventing the intended purpose of this resource which is apparently in vogue within NPS these days and contradicts your own experience and opinion, Mike.

About the numbers you quoted, the 2.2 million visitors NPS reports is an invalid number as it incorporates visitor use of Fort Raleigh and the Wright Brothers site as well neither of which are part of the Seashore and are in fact miles away. The reality of the majority of businesses on the Islands reporting 40 to 60% percent loss of sales since the inception of the consent decree and the subsequent beach closures is in argument with that number. For that number to be true, six thousand visitors would have been on the Islands every single day of the year last. And yet for the first time in my memory of visiting here for 30 years and living here for four, mid morning, all summer long, I could drive from Buxton to Avon and never pass another vehicle. What normally would have been the busiest stretch of road on the island was empty day after day, virtually all day.

The revenue figure you report is distorted and misleading though no fault of your own I’d think. It’s almost as though there were two Dare Counties, Kurt. There’s upper Dare which includes the incorporated, populated, and heavily developed areas like Nags Head or Kitty Hawk and then there’s the Seashore and the villages contained within. What goes on up there, 70 miles away, is no reflection on what happens down here.

That figure also falsely reports the spending of locals within the county as it is included and is not tourist income. The other distorting factor comes in that Dare is now taxing services like extra pillows, roll away beds and such where prior to the consent decree, they were not.

Whether you wish to factor all of these things into the equation or not, one thing cannot be denied, since the inception of the consent decree, Dare County has gone from being the number two “donor” county in the state to that with the highest unemployment rate.

The impairment issue is moot as after years of study to try and prove impairment by various and sundry methods, both the government and environmental groups have yet to show that traditional use of the Seashore has caused such. An unfortunate and yet ridiculous trend that is beginning to emerge as a result of the long, failed, attempt at showing harm is the call by anti-access groups that we, as users of this resource, should be required to conduct study to prove that we in fact aren’t harming the environment or the wildlife. This effectively requests us to prove a negative and if decades of study cannot produce evidence of harm, there is no need to attempt to prove no harm is done.

Before I close, I’d like to address your use of the enabling legislation in a reply you posted, Kurt. Your view that the latter portion would be seized and used by environmental groups is correct. They’ve been doing that for years in attempt to claim that the intended purpose of the Seashore was “to be reserved as primitive wilderness” and protect the “unique flora and fauna now contained within this area”.

You’re forgetting the exemption and what it says. Oddly, it was included in your quote. Let’s have a look at that.

“Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed,”

Here the Congress tells NPS in very simple terms that this area is to be developed for recreational use “as needed”. In other words, when the people come to enjoy their resource it shall be made available to them for the above mentioned activities and “other recreational activities of a similar nature”.

It is because of this statement that the Congress used the term “reserved” as opposed to “preserved” as “primitive wilderness” in the remaining phrase in this portion of the enabling legislation. Use of the word “preserve” would have negated the first portion of the section where Congress implores the NPS to develop the area as needed.

Now before anybody starts screaming that I advocate no protection for the wildlife that nests here at the Seashore, I’ll come right out and state that I do believe that reasonable and warranted protections should be in place when necessary. What I don’t agree with is the draconian closures that are part of the consent decree or the NPS proposed Alt. (F) as neither can be justified by sound, peer reviewed science, federal law, or the use history of this resource. Without the ability to show that visitor usage has caused or is causing real harm or impairment to the area, these very real and proposed devastating closures are patently unwarranted.

Thanks Kurt,

Tight Lines,


1 comment:

  1. Wheat,

    Good stuff over there! Way to go.

    It's always a "spirited" debate on that site, as so many of the posters are West Coaster's that only know of CHNSRA through the massive amounts of spin that spews forth from the dark side and the NPS google earth access map of little truth.

    Notice how the naysayers turn tail when you offer them the photographic proof behind your words! It drives home the point that everyone shoul ALLWAYS carry a still camera and/or video camera with you every time you're on the beach.

    Said photographic evidence of the right types of activities could possibly be the piece of evidence that turns the tide in our favor in the litigation this is to come.

    We need to be Citizen Journalists, ALL of us, as the Mainstream Media will no longer do the job for us, as they did in times past.

    Great Blog, Jeff! Always thought provoking and inspirationl, thanks for taking the time to keep us informed.