The Battle Over a North Carolina Beach Continues

The Battle Over a North Carolina Beach Continues

On Cape Hatteras National Seashore, a revolutionary management plan is finally putting embattled sea turtles and birds on near-equal footing with ORV drivers. But powerful interests are working hard to undo it.

By Ted Williams/Photography by Emiliano Granado
Published: September-October 2012
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Ted Williams

Ted Williams is freelance writer.

Type: Author | From: Audubon Magazine


Do you have any idea how

Do you have any idea how stupid Audubon and Ted Williams look when they make up stuff? The fact is the new policies versus old policies have not improved any species success. Bird fledge rates are the same and turtles false crawl is the same. The only thing that has changed the past several years is that economy of the villages located within the seashore are being negatively affected and severe loss of access to pedestrians and ORVs during the prime tourist season.
The new policies have discouraged thousands of fishermen from recreating at the seashore. These new policies need to be reevaluated and apply common sense to them. The complete closure of inlets is complete unacceptable, especially since there is no valid reason for their closure as birds traditionally don't nest there.

Consult the Public Record

“Make up stuff.” Please! The information we reported is all in the public record for all who care to bestir themselves. But local motorheads are too lazy. Instead they recycle untruths they hear from their neighbors and on the Red Drum Idiot Channel. The dramatic nesting success I reported is taken from Park Service data. Go check for yourself. Do you imagine that the feds “make up stuff” like that? Have you heard that 2012 is an all-time record year for sea-turtle nesting on the seashore? Of course you haven’t. But you could have learned that with a 30-second Google search. The economic data, which I carefully cited in the piece, also on the public record, gives the lie to the local canard that you’ve just regurgitated. The local economy is booming. And one reason for this is that visitors are no longer afraid to walk on the beach. The reason “birds traditionally” didn’t nest in the areas you mention is because they were traditionally run off by ORVs. And the main reason fishermen are “discouraged from recreating at the seashore” is the constant stream of BS from locals that there’s no beach access. Even with that stream of BS overall visitation is up, as I also reported, again using Park Service data.

John, Reading this article I

Reading this article I didn't think Ted was implying that all the  locals  who drive on the beach are mean spirited "motor head" bullies. The  Laissez-faire NPS management of ORVs of the last 40 years has attracted visitors and  residents to Hatteras Island that fit Ted's description.

 The  Park should do more for the few commercial fishermen that work the seashore beaches. A good start would be clearing the beach of vehicles etc when and where the comms want to fish. It is difficult to haul a traditional seine net ashore if there are parked vehicles, sport fishing, surfing etc in the vicinity.  The enabling legislation guaranteed that   the legal resident of the villages be able to fish  (commercial net fishing)  but does not guarantee ORV access. 
 I find it disingenuous to even bring up commercial fishing in this context.

The  parents that are offended by Park's trapping program would have to look pretty hard to see trapping operations.  How would they would explain to their young children that pulling a fish out of the water to suffocate on land is ok but trapping predatory  animals to save a species from being extirpated from historical nesting and forging habitat or extinction is wrong? Park rangers shot one fox out in daylight at Cape Point. The fox was exhibiting suspicious (rabid) behavior. Your description of the trapping program is not accurate. The only thing in your face about the trapping program is the constant reminder by the ORV access groups's bumper stickers and propaganda. I see right through that.

I doubt the people that are getting up early walking the beach picking up trash, marking turtle crawls etc  are the individuals responsible for bad behavior or sport  a F----you Audubon bumper sticker on their vehicle. 
I can sympathize  with people that are denied access (foot or vehicle)  to go recreate where  they are accustomed  to  because of new park regulation.  I do not understand a bumper sticker that says "F--- You"  or  spiteful vindictive action against others including  vandalizing property.

making it up as they go along

Picking up litter does not make a person a wonderful wildlife protector, and trapping alien predators does not make land managers bad people, and attacking the messenger doesn't invalidate the message, and as for the assertion that the piping plover is "only endangered here on Hattaras Island"... oy, the ignorance, it's hurting my brain. The piping plover is globally threatened, for those interested in facts, and is officially endangered in several states. As for the illiterate posts from people suggesting that Ted Williams procreate with himself, do you have any idea how stupid you look when you write like that?

Obviously not a subject matter expert

Having grown up on Hatteras Island, I find this article to be the epitomy of an obviously closed-minded, self centered, and overrated individual who claims to be a journalist. Mr Williams, if you had done your research (as any mediocre journalist would know to do) you would know that the "redneck motorhead beach bully thugs" you refer to are actually some of the greatest proponents to the conservation of wildlife you will ever find. You failed to mention in your "article" the dozens of locals that walk the beach (after DRIVING to their favorite spot) on a very regular basis very early in the morning to exercise themselves and their dogs that will place driftwood and/or beach debris around a sea turtle nest to mark it so others will know it's there and keep clear. You would have mentioned the surfers waitin on the dune for the sun to come up, capturing an injured bird and abandoning their epic early morning surf session to make sure the bird got the care it needed. Maybe you would have a story about the commercial fisherman watching their mortgage payment, truck payment, and dinner swim off into the sunrise because because they refused to disturb the sea turtle that made the beach for a rest from his swim. I can tell you these kind of stories because I've lived them on Hatteras Island. Yes, I was the guy that marked that turtle nest from the night before. I was the one that cared for that bird instead of enjoying an early morning surf session. I was the one that skipped dinner and necessary payments for a day so that a weary Loggerhead could catch a rest in the middle of his long swim. The people of Hatteras Island know that the wildlife is a very integral part of the tourism industry that drives their economy and do more than their part to ensure those resources are protected. That being said, you also failed to mention the other ways in which (and I'm going here now) the "eco-terrorist wildlife thugs"are "protecting" these poor defenseless plovers. What about the inhumane traps they are using to trap the fox, the possom, the raccoons, oh yeah and the occasional family dog which they call predatory species. Maybe you could have touched on the "enforcers" in trucks on the beach hunting these predators in rather close proximity to the open areas of beach where families with children get to witness their "conservation" efforts. Possibly the boats patrolling the soundside doing the same would make for a little substance in your poorly written, inflammatory article. But that wouldn't wouldn't have made the space constraint you were working with. I understand. Oh yeah, it might have enlightened Audubon's readers and membership to the truth about saving a bird that is only endangered here on Hatteras Island.
In closing, I can say that I understand the threats claimed to have been received.I do not condone any of the irrational behavior but I do understand it. So Mr Williams please open your mind just a little and take a look at what is happening to this community and its economy before writing another one sided article that will only "add more fuel to the fire". And yes, this is destroying the economy of the lower Dare County region. You can lie about the facts but the facts don't lie.


Over 1/2 of the "South Beach" was left as an ORV area. The other 1/2  was  not a "pedestrian area" but a vehicle free area. This is because this remote section  of seashore beach   was originally set aside as  a resting and  feeding area for shorebirds.  The fact that you could park your car and walk as far as you felt safe or comfortable into this area is another compromise.   

In my opinion the  South Beach in the last 50 years had lost all of it primitive wilderness aspect by being "discovered" by day campers in SUVs. All of these beaches were sparsely visited  when the park was established. Commercial fishing was the cultural historical use of these remote areas not 1000's of day campers parked on the beaches.

When I look into these very small sections of  VFAs and see few people  I understand  why CHNS was established and why this park is managed by the NPS. There is specific value, both culturally and historically, that is enumerated in the enabling legislation  in identifying and preserving  sparsely used unencumbered shorelines (primitive wilderness). I am glad  (even in a token way) that a small section has been identified and managed with those goals in mind.

Compromise....grand concept.

Compromise....grand concept. Compromise seems to mean packed beaches in concentrated areas to me. Not only does the area lose it's charm when those are the conditions you are dealing with in the late/past peak season, but it seems like having people on top of each other like that would be more damaging to what's left open.

How many nests were in the South Beach area this year?

"In my opinion the South Beach in the last 50 years had lost all of it primitive wilderness aspect by being "discovered" by day campers in SUVs. All of these beaches were sparsely visited when the park was established. Commercial fishing was the cultural historical use of these remote areas not 1000's of day campers parked on the beaches."

Recreational fishing and calmer waters swimming have also always been part of the cultural historical use of these remote areas. And never have been 1000s of "day campers" in that area, your opinion would have been more sincere sounding without false dramatization. At best there was a couple hundred vehicles on the bustiest holiday weekends and that is not the norm.

"There is specific value, both culturally and historically, that is enumerated in the enabling legislation in identifying and preserving sparsely used unencumbered shorelines (primitive wilderness). I am glad (even in a token way) that a small section has been identified and managed with those goals in mind."

The enabling legislation made this identification and designated the northern most 13 miles of the island, they called Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. These 13 miles were originally part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.

How many nests were in the South Beach area this year? How many months was this completely off limits to everyone, except for NPS biotechs driving all over place trying to find birds? I support reasonable closures for nesting birds but don't support "VFA"s or "pedestrian only area" designation of this area. Fact is that ORV use of this area would reduce vegetation and actually make it more favorable for nesting shorebirds.

Not the cultural historical tradition

The south beach is not the only calm swimming water or fishing area  in the Park. You  could still safely do both in other places in the park. The 1000's of day campers was in reference to all of CHNS not just the few miles of south beach and should have been in a separate paragraph. I didn't mean to imply there were 1000's of vehicles parked on South Beach. However before the final rule  there were no quotas to keep that from happening. The section  of south beach that is now a VFA  might on a busy day have had a car parked every 50"feet.  Under the currant  regulations a 2 mile stretch of beach could have 528 cars parked there. This is not the recreational experience I want to participate in. I don't believe  this kind of visitation, 100's of vehicles crammed on narrow a beach (narrow as compared to 50 years ago) is what is supported in the EL  for CHNS nor is it the cultural historical tradition of  Hatteras Island.   VFA on the south beach were conceived as a way to provide  resting and feeding areas for birds  not  providing vehicle free pedestrian access or preserving primitive wilderness, not that it doesn't also address those uses.

Walking is an old and established cultural tradition of accessing the Park. 

The issue for Audubon is   protecting critical species not restricting recreational opportunities. 

There is nothing written that suggests that PINWR was to be the "primitive wilderness" designated for CHNS. PINWR is managed by FWS to  protect and improve natural resources (migratory  birds) they decided no vehicles on the beach as a way to facilitate their mission. 

Using ORVs for habitat improvement by destroying native plants is counter intuitive. You would still have to restrict driving from pre-nesting, nesting,  chicks had fledged and provide some resting and feeding areas.

Helping Birds by Wiping Out Native Plants. Yeah, right.

You cannot be serious. Nuking native vegetation with ORVs (as was done traditionally before the new regs) would HELP birds? Hello!!! Please explain why the birds and sea turtles plummeted until ORVs were modestly controlled in 2008 and have steadily increased since. Want stats? Read my piece.

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