There are many people that fight the fight for beach access at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. Over the years, I have come to know many of them and have developed a deep respect for their knowledge and drive to ensure that we can preserve access to our Seashore for generations to come.
One of those people is Dr. Mike Berry, a man who has worked within the same government that seeks to close our beaches, for decades.
Yesterday, Mike attended the status conference held in Judge Terrance Boyle's court relating to access where NPS asked for yet another extension of the decree of forced consent, extending it till November 15th of this year.
What follows is a copy of Dr. Berry's comments regarding this hearing. It made my stomach turn.
Please get involved in this issue and support your right to access this Seashore!
We can win this if we work together to do so.
Yesterday April 7 I attended the consent decree conference held by Judge Boyle in Raleigh. I have attended 3 of the 4 conferences Judge Boyle has held beginning on April 30, 2008. As best as I could determine, there were only three of us in the observer section of the courtroom interested in public access to the national seashore. These formal conferences, among other things, indicate the interests, intentions and underlying objectives of the participants.
Judge Boyle began by saying that the Federal Government (NPS) filed a motion to extend the delivery date of a final ORV Plan from April 1, 2011 to November 15, 2011 and to keep the provisions of the consent decree in place for that extension. The federal attorney rose and confirmed the request for extension to court and emphasized that an extension to promulgate the final (but bureaucratically delayed) ORV Plan is all the government requested.
The Judge asked for a summary of the 2010 bird and turtle resource report. The federal attorney ( in a collegial manner) pointed to SELC attorney indicating she had a chart that reflected the fact the species numbers for the 2010 closure season were very good. Mike Murray then rose summarizing those numbers emphasizing that fledged Plovers (16) and turtle nests (158) were the highest ever reported or the Cape Hatteras National Seashore—(implying that the consent decree was producing significant results and in so doing also indirectly implying pending provisions of the final plan would also produce similar results.)
The Judge asked about visitation statistics to the seashore and Murray indicated that there were over 2 million visitors in 2010 (implying that the consent decree did not adversely affect visitation). Murray did not focus on areas and businesses most affected by closures for example on the Avon or Buxton communities of Hatteras Island.
Judge asked about the number of ORVs on/accessing the seashore. NPS responded that on peak days such as Memorial Day, the ORV numbers were about the same as previous years but packed into much smaller areas. The Judge asked about the future driving permit requirement and then stated that “visitors would have to plan ahead” and would probably not have the required permit to allow them to drive on to the seashore, thus limiting ORVs. The Judge appeared pleased.
The Judge asked if the Federal Government or Interveners wanted any changes to the current consent decree, both said “No”. The Judge granted the extension of the consent decree without change.
In my nearly 40 years of witnessing activities in Federal Court related to environmental policy I have never until yesterday seen the “defendant” deliberately argue the “plaintiff’s” case. The SELC attorney said not a single word, the federal government and interveners gave away/conceded the case (denial of public access).
Yesterday, I witnessed a blatant collaboration between the Federal Government and well funded and politically connected environment activist entities to unnecessary restrict public access to the national seashore. The Federal Government, NPS and the Court, made no attempt to advocate for balanced and reasonable public access to the national seashore. Again, they created a highly restrictive environmental policy through the backdoor, beyond public view.
The stage is now set for justification and validation of the future access restrictions imposed on the public by NPS Alternative F. Without ever arguing the facts (science, economic, legal process) before the public in court, The “Cape Hatters National Seashore Recreational Area” set aside for hard working citizens will soon be transformed into a “National Bird and Turtle Use Area.” Animal species now have priority over humans—and it’s all legal.
NPS won the battle by being sued.
Chapel Hill, NC