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”.