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Hi, and welcome to my "Editor's Blog"! In this space I'll be attempting to keep our readers informed on fast-breaking news and issues affecting our islands. Visit often. There's a lot going on!

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A different look at the costs and benefits of seashore management policies

Friday 30 March 2012 at 3:11 pm

Ever since Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, and the Southern Environmental Law Center took aim on the National Park Service for not have an off-road vehicle management plan, the groups have managed to get their message out masterfully.

You’ve got to admire these folks.  They’re well funded, and it shows.  Their public information campaign of press releases and wildlife alerts stay on message and hammer that message home to all who will listen month after month, year after year.

The spin they put on their role in saving wildlife at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore should be the envy of any political consultant in this Presidential campaign year.

It isn’t that their message contains untruths.  Mostly, the problem is that they contain partial truths.

There are a couple of recent examples of how the environmental groups present their spin, making the same points they have made over and over since the consent decree settled a lawsuit by the groups against the Park Service.  

One is an SELC press release from March 13 announcing that a federal judge in Washington, D.C., granted the request of the environmental groups to intervene in the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance’s lawsuit against the Park Service over the final ORV plan and regulation.

Another is a letter from Jason Rylander, senior staff attorney for Defenders of Wildlife, urging supporters to contact their congressmen to oppose a bill that U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., has introduced to overturn the consent decree and the final rule and return the seashore to management under the 2007 Interim Protected Species Management Strategy and Environmental Assessment.

Here a few examples of misstatements or partial truths from those two documents – ones that have been mentioned in dozens of other release and alerts to members in the past four or five years.

The “impact of unrestricted ORV use has taken its toll on the habitat that seabirds and sea turtles rely on.”  Not true. There has not been unrestricted ORV use at the seashore in more than three decades – since the Park Service’s first attempt at an ORV plan was sent to Washington and then disappeared.  Since at least the late 1970s, there have been closures for nesting shorebirds, ORV trails, ramps, etc.

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Walking in the water

Friday 23 March 2012 at 4:42 pm

Some of the Park Service’s new signage on the seashore has caused quite a stir this week with coverage in print, online, and broadcast media and plenty of discussion in the social media and blogs.

The signs have been erected recently to inform the public about the new rules under the Park Service’s off-road vehicle plan and final rule that became effective Feb. 15.

The signs in question have been placed in pedestrian-only areas, such as in the Hook west of Cape Point, where the accompanying photo was taken.

They are in the pedestrian-only areas that have pre-nesting closures that were put in place last week.

In those areas, pedestrian access is allowed along the shoreline until shorebird breeding activity is observed.

However, some folks think the Park Service has taken its new rules just a bit too far.

“Leave no footprints behind,” the signs advise. “Walk in the water where footprints wash away.”

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Killing animals to save animals - the 2011 report

Friday 16 March 2012 at 3:36 pm

Last year the National Park Service removed 56 percent fewer predators from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore than it did in 2010.

In 2011, according to the Park Service predator management summary, a total of 263 targeted species were removed. That is considerably fewer than the 594 that were removed last year.

The animals trapped in 2011 included 117 raccoons, 37 opossums, 26 minks, 33 nutria, 41 feral cats, eight coyotes, and one red fox.

The feral cats were captured in live cages and taken to the Dare County SPCA.  The other animals were killed or euthanized.

That’s still a lot of animals, but it’s far fewer than the 130 raccoons, 111 opossums and 220 opossum kits, eight mink, 47 nutria, five gray foxes, two coyotes, nine red foxes and 61 feral cats that were trapped in 2010.

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A history of beach access - or how we got to where we are today

Friday 09 March 2012 at 4:05 pm

Last week, a regular reader of The Island Free Press sent me an e-mail and asked if I could publish a timeline on the beach access issue. He said he thought that a summary of what led us to where we are today would be useful to him and to others who are new to the IFP and the islands.

I did write a summary of the issue, entitled “The beach driving crisis and how we got here.” That article was published on the very first day that The Island Free Press was online, Sept. 5, 2007.

I went back to read it for the first time in more than four years.  Just reading it again was interesting in light of all that has happened since then.  I had almost forgotten what some long-ago superintendents had to say about how it happened that the seashore never had an ORV management plan for the 40 years that it has been required.

Today, I am going to publish that article again, in its entirety, and I have added a postscript, summing up major events since then.

This blog is a long one. I hope it is useful for those who are new to the islands and the ORV issue. And I think those who have followed the issue closely will find it interesting and maybe useful to review what has happened at the seashore since the 1970s.

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Don't give up now

Friday 02 March 2012 at 4:46 pm

Events this week have presented us with several opportunities to speak out on the issue of reasonable beach access.

And, even if you are getting tired of commenting and feeling as if no one is listening, now is no time to give up.

Salvo Jimmy has been posting his sentiments on that subject on various websites, including this one, and I agree with him.

Yesterday, the National Park Service opened the public scoping period for the new infrastructure improvements called for in the final plan and needed to improve visitor access to areas that are now vehicle-free.

“The reason you want to comment is that if few comments are submitted and things come out bad, like they put priority on parking for VFAs (Vehicle-free areas) instead of new ramps, we have no case whatever for challenge,” Salvo Jimmy noted.  

And don’t just look at oceanside access when you are commenting.  Soundside access areas and parking will also be addressed in the Environmental Assessment the Park Service is preparing. Windsurfers and kiteboarders, take note.

The Park Service gave no advance notice that the public comment period would be opening yesterday.  The media release was issued yesterday morning.

The comment period closes on March 31, so don’t wait too long to get your comments together.

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