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?


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 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:, 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.)

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 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,


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 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,


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 ( 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.