Cape Hatteras National Seashore Wildlife Protection
Preserving Wildlife on Cape Hatteras
SELC’s Derb Carter Testifies on Tourism & Wildlife Success
Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center testifed on March 14 before the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation in the U.S. House of Representatives regarding bill H.R. 819 that would overturn the National Park Service’s successful management of beach driving at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Read more in the press release.
The first year under a long-awaited rule to manage beach driving at Cape Hatteras National Seashore was record-breaking for both Hatteras tourism and the rare sea turtles that nest on the seashore’s beaches, according to official records. The off-road vehicle management rule is the final step by the National Park Service in a public process agreed to by all parties—including Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance and local counties—concerned about beach driving on the national seashore. It balances safe use of the seashore's beaches for beach-nesting wildlife, pedestrians and families with beach driving.
Rare sea turtles and shorebirds that nest on the seashore’s beaches have rebounded under the new rule, continuing a trend since April 2008 when the National Park Service enacted temporary seasonal protections under an agreement among all parties while it conducted a multi-year rule-making process with input from thousands of Americans. Before April 2008, piping plover numbers within Cape Hatteras National Seashore declined to an all time low of no chicks surviving to fledge in 2002 and 2004. Since April 2008, beach nesting wildlife showed signs of recovery under beach driving management, while local tourism and park visitation also increased.
Responsibility to Manage & Protect
As stewards of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the National Park Service is charged with regulating beach driving under an Executive Order issued by President Nixon in 1972. The recently finalized rule for beach driving at Hatteras designates the majority of the beaches open to off-road vehicles while restricting beach driving only when and where needed for the safety of sea turtles, shorebirds, and pedestrians. The final rule incorporates protections similar to those put in place in 2008 that balance wildlife conservation with enjoyment of fishing, surfing, responsible beach driving and other activities.
Despite the success of beach driving restrictions for both wildlife and tourism, beach driving enthusiasts have challenged the final rule in court. They also now seek to overturn the rule, the American public’s input, and the Consent Decree that they agreed to in court—approved by a federal judge in April 2008—through legislation.