Island Free Press reader Mike Metzgar, a member of the board of directors of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association, still quite often sends us links to articles in the media about controversies at other parks.
I read them all and find them interesting and informative -- and especially informative in what they tell us about the National Park Service and its relationships with the communities in which parks are located.
What the articles tell us is that we are not alone in our recent disagreements with the Park Service over such issues as regulations, science, and transparency.
A couple years ago, I rounded up a bunch of stories that Mike had e-mailed over the past months in a blog entitled, "We are not alone."
Mike has sent us many stories since that blog but some of those we've received from him this summer have especially caught my attention.
So, here's "We are not alone, Part II." If you want more information, there are links to media coverage at the end of the blog.
KITEBOARDING BAN AT CAPE COD
In June, the Cape Cod National Seashore banned kiteboarding for all areas within the seashore -- on the ocean and in the bay -- except for a quarter-mile corridor.
Seashore officials said the ban was to protect migratory and nesting shorebirds, including the threatened piping plover, the endangered roseate tern, and the red knot, which has been proposed for listing as a threatened species.
There, as here at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, officials think that the big, colorful kites will be seen by the birds as a predator and will scare them off their nests or disturb their feeding.
There have been no discussions about banning kiteboarding at Cape Hatteras.
Kiteboarders at Cape Cod have asked to see the science behind the decision to ban the sport, but have gotten little in return.
One kiteboarder, who is also a lawyer, asked to see the scientific research two years ago when kiteboarding was banned in the bay and received a single master's thesis in return.
"They keep taking and taking it all away from us and they never give anything back," said Richard Lay, a Wellfleet native in a report in the Cape Cod Times. "We have hundreds of people coming to (the Cape) to kiteboard and they don't have anyplace to go other than the two or three beaches that are massively overcrowded."
PIPING PLOVERS AT CAPE COD
According to the Cape Cod Times, the park officials at Cape Cod National Seashore had a presentation for the media at the end of July to talk about piping plover nesting at the seashore.
It seems that nesting pairs of the threatened shorebird are plummeting at the seashore, which is on track to see its lowest number of chicks fledged in 10 years.
This year, there were only 68 nesting pairs at the seashore, compared to 84 in 2003.
Chicks that have fledged have dropped by an even larger percentage.
At the time of the media presentation, only 27 chicks had fledged, down from 130 a decade ago. If all the chicks still on the ground at the end of July fledge -- which is unlikely -- that will bring the total for the season go 61, just slightly more than last year's all-time low of 46.
Predators are a major cause of chick loss at Cape Cod, as it is here at Cape Hatteras.
The seashore has used exclosures -- cages over the nests -- to protect them in the past but stopped that practice in 2012 because officials think they may attract predators and keep the adult birds from coming and going.
Now, they are apparently rethinking exclosures and studying them. One-third of the nests are covered by exclosures this year, and the plovers are having greater hatching success in exclosure-covered nests.
Also, the Cape Cod Times story notes that an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that allows smaller buffers around some nests to ensure public access expires this year. Seashore officials said they did not know if it would be renewed.
Sure would be nice to have some less extensive buffers at Cape Hatteras, wouldn't it?
Anyway, the number of fledged birds is dropping like a rock at Cape Cod despite the fact that it has had its current off-road vehicle management plan since 1999 and despite other beach closures and regulations, such as the kiteboarding ban.
A CULTURAL CLASH IN THE OZARKS
The National Park Service is formulating new rules and regulations at the Ozark National Scenic Riverways.
The new General Management Plan isn't final yet, but what is being proposed is causing a cultural clash between park officials and environmental groups on one side and local residents and visitors on the other.
Here is a passage from a story The Kansas City Star wrote about the controversy over what folks can and cannot do in the park, which was created when the federal government took land from the locals in 1964.
"The two rivers and park, which draw 1.5 million visitors each year, were meant for recreation, critics argue. And they accuse the park service and 'Sierra Club types' of attacking their culture and ruining their fun and businesses.
Environmental groups, on the other hand, wish the proposal would go even further to crack down on some activities.
Park officials describe the conflict as 'resource management versus recreation.
There’s also some environmental correctness versus rural grit, and a sense of collective good versus rugged individualism."
It sounds very similar to what has happened here at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the past decade or two.
The article also notes that the new plan is coming at "a boom time for anti-government fervor -- just more Washington telling citizens what to do."
"And President Barack Obama looms large.
At a debate in May in front of the Shannon County Courthouse in Eminence, Mo., Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder called for the federal government to turn the park over to Missouri. The Republican railed about British tyranny, quoted the Declaration of Independence and threw in Obamacare and Benghazi."
A lot of this "anti-Washington" fervor has also been evident here at the seashore in the past few years. Any number of people have encouraged the state of North Carolina to seize the seashore, to take it back.
The chances of that happening are nil to nothing, but that hasn't tamped down the enthusiasm for it.
To find out more about the clash in the Ozarks, you'll have to read the story. The link is at the end of the blog, and the article is very well written and balanced.
A FOND GOODBYE AT POINT REYES NATIONAL SEASHORE
Folks gathered at the Drakes Bay Oyster Co. on July 31 to say goodbye to the farming operation in Point Reyes National Seashore that was finally forced to close down by the National Park Service.
In 2012, then Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar refused to renew the 40-year lease of the popular oyster farm that supplied oysters to many businesses in the area, mainly restaurants.
Park officials and environmental groups claimed that the operation was harming the flora and fauna in the estuary, especially the harbor seals.
The owner of Drakes Bay and locals claimed that the operation was not harming the estuary and that the National Park Service had no science to show otherwise.
Finally, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., requested a National Academy of Sciences investigation into the Drakes Bay research.
This is from a 2009 "Shooting the Breeze" blog on the clash over the science:
"The academy reviewed the documents and reports from Park Service scientists that claimed the oyster farm’s motorboats were destroying eelgrass and spooking seals off sandbars during the birthing season – among other things.
However, in a report issued in May, the academy found insufficient data to determine that seals and other wildlife were being harmed, and it criticized the Park Service science, saying it has 'exaggerated the negative and overlooked potentially beneficial effects of the oyster culture operation.'"
The dispute about the science at Point Reyes has many, many similarities to the dispute over the science upon which the Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials have based the huge buffers for nesting shorebirds and chicks here.
Despite what the Park Service claims, the science in the case of Cape Hatteras has not been peer reviewed. It is, at best, "the best available science," but it is in no way sufficient.
A federal judge gave the oyster farm a 30-day reprieve after the restaurants that depend on the Drakes Bay oysters asked for an injunction to stop the farm's closure.
A hearing in that case is scheduled in September, but the businesses admit they don't have much chance of winning.
This, likely, is the end of the road for the Drakes Bay Oyster Co.
KEEPING LAND AWAY FROM PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE
The Caller-Times in Corpus Christi, Texas, reported last month that Neuces County is one step closer to "planting its flag in the sand" of 3,600 acres located between the Padre Island National Seashore and the county line.
The commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with acquiring the 3,600 acres that the Nature Conservancy also wants.
The Nature Conservancy would donate the land to the national seashore, and officials at the seashore issued a statement that they do not intend to prohibit public access.
However, local officials and members of the non-profit Ed Rachal Foundation don't trust the federal government, and the foundation has committed to providing the funds to acquire the land.
Environmentalists don't trust that the county would be good stewards of the land -- at least not as good as they would be.
The county has said it would accept the "no development" restrictions now on the land.
Local governments are now trying to figure out how they can afford to maintain and police the beaches if they do buy the land.
LEASH-LAW VIOLATION IN CALIFORNIA
This report comes to us from "Opposing Views," a Los Angles-based independent media site that publishes original journalism on politics, social issues, religion, sports, and entertainment.
"John Gladwin and his cattle dog Molly are not allowed to enter the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Los Angeles, or he will go to jail.
Gladwin, 69, is not allowed to leave Southern California unless his probation officer allows it.
The federal government has cracked down on the retiree because he violated a leash law two times per the regulations of the National Park Service.
"I've never had someone, while a trial was pending, go and commit the same offense. He's incorrigible," Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon McCaslin told the LA Weekly. "He thinks the park is his backyard."
Actually, the park is Gladwin's backyard. His home is only a few hundred feet from the Santa Monica Mountains."
You can read more in the link at the end of this blog.
And, by the way, think twice before you unleash your dog on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
On piping plover decline at Cape Cod National Seashore:
On kiteboarding ban at Cape Cod National Seashore:
On NPS new proposed rules at Ozark National Scenic Riverways:
On closure of Drakes Bay Oyster Co. in Point Reyes National Seashore:
On Texas county's efforts to keep land from Padre Island National Seashore:
On man who violated leash law in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreational Area: