Another misinformed and misleading SELC media release - Shooting The Breeze


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Getting down to the w… | Home | More on the misleadin…

Another misinformed and misleading SELC media release

Wednesday 07 October 2009 at 09:18 am.

The Southern Environmental Law Center fired another volley in its misinformation campaign about beach access in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore with yet another media release on Monday, Oct. 5.

This release closely follows the spin that environmental groups have put on this issue thus far.  

The topic of both was the alleged success of the consent decree that has replaced resource management by the National Park Service at the seashore beaches and the attempt by access advocates to have that consent decree overturned by passing legislation in Congress.

I’ve written about both the e-mail and the August media release in previous blogs and attempted to set the record straight on some of the “facts” in both of the documents.

You can check my blog for Aug. 12 and my blog for Sept. 30 for background and facts if you missed them or want to refresh your memory.

Here are a few more thoughts.

No matter what the SELC says, the economic indicators are down in Dare County and especially on Hatteras Island. Retail sales tax collections were down at the end of July  by 1.99 percent for the year. Dare County occupancy taxes were down year to date by 3.88 percent at the end of August. Dare County food and beverage taxes were down by 3.26 percent at the end of August.

My friend and colleague Sandy Seamans, editor of the Outer Banks Sentinel, wrote in the Sept. 30 edition:

Currently, the SELC website has a release sent out about a month ago by the Visitor Bureau. It was based on a release sent out from the state that stated that tourism spending was up in 2008 and that Dare County saw an increase of 1.5 percent in spending for that year. But what it didn't explain is that it was based on sales tax - oh, yes, and that gas went to more than $4 a gallon during the summer of 2008. So the numbers don't mean that tourism is up, but instead, that in this case, it was simply more expensive to visit here.

Seamans’ editorial on misinformation, by the way, was titled, “Shooting from the hip can injure a toe.”  I recommend reading the entire editorial at  Look under the Letters/Editorials section on the front page

In addition, ferry ridership is down this year when numbers of vehicles for the tourist season months from 2006 through 2009 are charted from statistics generated by the state’s Ferry Division.

The SELC release says that visitation to the national seashore has increased under the consent decree. I went online to the Web site that explains exactly how the Park Service figures out those visitation numbers.

On it are “public use and counting instructions” with some helpful information:

  • An inductive loop traffic counter is located on Highway 12 at the junction of old U.S. 158 at the park entrance. The traffic count is reduced for non-recreation traffic by multiplying the traffic count by the non-recreation adjustment factor in Table 1. The reduced traffic count is multiplied by the recreation persons-per-vehicle (PPV) multiplier in Table 2.
  • The number of registered hunters.
  • The number of aircraft observed at Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island is multiplied by the persons-per-plane multiplier of 2.5.
  • The number of vehicles arriving on Ocracoke Island by ferry is multiplied by the recreation PPV multiplier in Table 2.
  • The number of overnight boats is multiplied by the persons-per-boat (PPB) multiplier of four.

I have no idea how the Park Service reaches its visitation numbers or if they are anywhere close to reality.  I would, however, be interested to know whose job it is to count planes arriving on the islands and boats docking overnight.

Information supplied by Dare County shows that water usage on the island – one indicator of how many people are here -- is down for most months this year.

Are all of these down numbers an indication of the recession or the consent decree?

That we don’t know, but it is irresponsible of SELC to claim that the economic picture in Dare County is ever so wonderful – all because environmental groups went to court to advance their activist agenda.

And just a couple more comments to add to what I have already said in my previous blogs about the success of the “baby” birds and turtles under the consent decree.

Last year, the SELC declared the 2008 bird nesting season a victory for the first summer under the consent decree. You will notice that in the latest SELC media release there is no mention of bird nesting in 2008. In the cases of the piping plover and American oystercatcher, 2009 is compared to 2007.

That is because numbers for those two species are down this year.  Seven piping plovers fledged in 2008 and there were only six this year. Seventeen oystercatchers fledged in 2008, compared to 13 this year.

And, again the release attributes the record number of sea turtles nesting on the seashore last year to the consent decree.

According to Matthew Godfrey, sea turtle biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 2008 was a “fairly good year” for sea turtle nesting on all of the states beaches.  There were 866 nests along the coast last year, compared to 715 in an average year.

It’s not quite as easy as saying the consent decree brought all these turtles to North Carolina.

Godfrey says this year looks to be another good one for turtle nesting all along the coast, but final numbers are not in yet.

Since the environmental groups keep reminding us that their demand for greater than ever restrictions on ORV access to the beach is based in science, you would think they might be more judicious in declaring victory on the basis of 18 months of the consent decree.

Most scientists will agree that 18 months of statistics do not make the case – especially when the statistics are used so selectively.

And, finally, there is that sticky question of how much beach was closed to ORVs this summer.

According to the SELC release, “only 13.7 miles of the seashore’s 67.5 miles of beach were temporarily off limits to ORVs for wildlife protection.”

Technically, that is correct. Only 13.7 miles were listed in mid-June as resource closures.

However, when you tally up the permanent closures, seasonal closures, pedestrian-only areas, and areas that were technically open but you couldn’t get there in an ORV, the closures for ORVs are more extensive.

Virginia Luizer of Frisco who tracks the closures for the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club Web site and other access groups says that the most miles closed to ORVs came in mid-June.  Based on the Park Service’s weekly access reports, she devised a chart on closures for the club site.

This is what Ginny says about her figures based on the NPS June 18 access report:

“….the most (miles) closed to ORVs for resource purposes is 21.35 for the week ending 6/18/09.  This amounts to 54 percent of the miles normally available to ORVs….To look at it another way 18.2 miles were available for ORV use or 27 percent of the entire seashore.”

I just want to quote Sandy Seamans again because I think she nailed it with this statement in her editorial:

Another post, this time by attorney Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center, was even more unsettling. Carter seems to have adopted the strategy of spreading misinformation in hopes that perception will become reality.

Finally, if you want to keep tabs on SELC and their spin on beach access, you can check out – or sign up for -- their “fan” page on Facebook and let them know what you think.

I don’t intend keep writing about SELC ’s uninformed and misleading campaign to save the “baby” birds and turtles.

From here on, I want to keep my reporting – and your attention – focused on the NEPA process for final ORV rulemaking.

I’ve written a blog on that also.   Check it out and be prepared.

nineteen comments


Good job. The one item missing on the NPS counts is that when the counter is not operational, the NPS substitutes a daily estimate based upon 1993 (yes, 1993) or earlier data. That is, in the extreme, assuming the counter never functions, the visitor count would be roughly equal to 1993.

Bottom line, whether or not the count reflects current visitation or 1993 levels, depends entirely upon how agressive the NPS is in collecting actual counts. Something we will never know.

Ginny (Email ) - 07-10-’09 13:00

I will take the water usage and put it in excel to show trends. In the meantime, one more aritcle

“Fishing and the weather have been good on the Outer Banks. And unlike in the summer of ’08, gas prices have held steady and there have been no major storms or wildfires to scare tourists away.”

Still, the recession and beach closings from nesting birds and turtles continue to play economic havoc on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.

“Business on the islands dropped about 15 percent compared with last year, said Allen Burrus, owner of Burrus Red & White Supermarket in Hatteras Village.”

“Money spent on accommodations on Hatteras and Ocracoke fell nearly 10 percent in July and more than 6 percent in June compared with the same months last year.”

This compared to 5.4 percent decline in July Occupancy revenue for the entire Outer Banks. That is, twice as much as the average for all of Dare County. The Islands have usually held their own or even increased during past recessions.

Ginny (Email ) - 07-10-’09 13:21
Mike Berry

Excellent work Irene, it’s refreshing to read the work of a seasoned journalist who understands his or her professional duty to dig for the facts the way you and Sandy have. The SELC and DOW law staffs are best advised to go get some training in statistical analysis before their next press release. Their claims of natural resource improvements due the consent decree are so bad, they don’t even qualify as junk science, just a lame superficial justification for a special interest management strategy which has produced nothing but denial of public access to the national seashore and economic hardship to villages of the Outer Banks.

There is a right way to formulate and implement sound environmental management policy, and it sure isn’t along the lines of the consent decree. That has clearly been demonstrated these past two years.

Thanks for your blog.

Mike Berry (Email ) - 07-10-’09 17:27
Joe Ward

Give ‘em hell.

Joe Ward (Email ) - 07-10-’09 17:49
Salvo Jimmy

And SELC loves to tout the 13.7 miles, never mentioning that the 13.7 happens to include the best/most popular recreational spots within the Seashore ( ie Bodie Island and Hatteras Inlet Spits, Cape Point, South Beach between Ramps 45/49 and South Point on Ocracoke).

It’s like saying only one gyser of the many in Yellowstone is closed but not mentioning it just happens to be Old Faithful that is closed.

And you also note SELC only talks about ORV closures, failing to mention that the wildlife closures closed to ORVs are also closed to pedestrians as well.

Proverbs 14:15

Salvo Jimmy - 07-10-’09 18:41
Jeanie Wright

Same old, same old. Garbage in, garbage out. I’ve seen the reactions of people who believe whatever the “official” agencies are feeding them. How do we get across to “them” that what they are doing is seriously hurting the true people of Hatteras? This is our paradise, and “they” don’t want us to enjoy it!!!

Jeanie Wright (Email ) - 07-10-’09 19:20
<span class='registered'>Denny in Dayton</span>

these releases are beginning to be like the mosquitoes this year. Not worth a damn thing, annoying as hell, out to suck our blood and when you do kill one there is another!

Thanks again Irene for saying what needs to be said!

It’s amazing that if anyone takes the time to look at the information even they supply it refutes their contentions. They seem to be very confident in the stated fact that people will only read a headline and a few sentences. Thankfully there are plenty of us who are skeptics, read it all and then look up facts on our own!

Denny in Dayton (Email ) - 07-10-’09 19:36
Jim Boyd

The reason that "They seem to be very confident in the stated fact that people will only read a headline and a few sentences", is that they are sending this stuff out to folks that will send them lots of money whenever they say an animal is being harmed. Nobody has ever given their faithful donors a reason to question the truthfulness of what they are telling them. We will have an opportunity to provide such a reason in the near future … think ACORN

Jim Boyd (Email ) - 07-10-’09 21:44
Renee Tomberlin

Excellent blog as usual Irene. Here is what upsets me the most about these inaccurate and intentionally misleading press releases-they eventually become newpaper articles and even more people get to read the lies. Here is an editorial from the Fayetville newpaper from yesterday:

Regurgitated and inaccurate “facts” from Derb’s press releases.

Renee Tomberlin (Email ) - 08-10-’09 07:42
Hawk Hawkins

You know they’re scared when they start gushing about the “baby” this and the “baby” that.We’re supposed to think “puppies,kittens,chicks and harp seals…OH,MY!!!

Hawk Hawkins (Email ) - 08-10-’09 09:28

There may be little that anyone can say to change your mind about driving on the beach, but please attempt to stop seeing the majority “activists” and “environmentalists” as negative entities. I have read numerous pro-beach driving articles and comment posts and more often than not they include some sort of sarcastic slam on “activists” and “environmental groups.” Educate yourself on what an activist is (hint: they are passionately working BOTH sides of the issue at hand). I am greatful for the work that individuals AND groups have done to keep beautiful places free from destruction. And we’ve all enjoyed a park or two that was saved by one of those (here is the ignorant way to word it:)“darn tree-hugging environmentalists.” Stop using those words as if they are vulgar.

see (Email ) - 08-10-’09 13:43
Salvo Jimmy

OK see,

Here’s you chance. Prove me wrong. Give us one clear example of “working BOTH sides” specifically related to CHNSRA. I have watched this issue carefully at CHNSRA since the late 1970s and have seen little to no GIVE, only TAKE.

Salvo Jimmy (Email ) - 08-10-’09 16:17
Mike Berry

All too frequently, those who do not adhere to the beliefs of environmentalism are put on guilt trips, berated, disenfranchised, and presented as being stupid, irresponsible or uncaring. Your comment demonstrates that once again. A good example of environmental activist disdain for the common person is a journal article titled “Beach Bums” published by the Audubon Society In the words of the Audubon Society, those who drive ORVs on the shores of the national recreational seashore are "bums." Do you not think that to be “vulgar”? You might want to direct your comment with regard to vulgarity to the board of directors of that society.

For your information, environment is not just for the pleasure of elitists. In our free society, all citizen have the right to take a hard look at and question the facts behind environmental policies and programs before they are implemented. That was not allowed with current consent decree. Too bad you don’t understand the public outrage.

Mike Berry (Email ) - 08-10-’09 17:01
John Alley

It needs to be adaptable.

There is a balance to be struck between access and preservation.
I take exception to the term “Beach Bum, even though I am apparently one, according to the article.

Yes, I need a vehicle to access public lands, cause I can’t walk to them.

Do I want the NPS to pave a road for me in Yellowstone, so I can reach some remote geyser feature?


Do I want to be able to use my vehicle to access an arc of sand that is constantly in motion, here today and gone tomorrow?


It’s a highly fluid environment, to say that one plan or the other; works in any given year is shear folly.

Given the fact that our government wants to deal with a “Long Term” plan on a dry hunk of sand that is constantly shifting worries me.

The “Final Plan” needs to be no plan at all.

Will Mike Murray be the one to strike this balance?

I can only hope that he may be the one.

John Alley - 08-10-’09 23:12
Salvo Jimmy

Some revealing results of the consent decree

Salvo Jimmy (Email ) - 10-10-’09 08:03
Frank and Fran

Why is it that we, the conservationalists and care takers of this wonder seashore that want to continue to to protect both the environment, beauty and our access are willing to sign Frank and Fran, Mike Berry, Hawk Hawkins, Renee, Salvo Jimmy, Jim and Ginny, John Alley…., while the others that sit with the extremists who claim to be only trying to help the birds, turtles and future of the seashore give us false emails and fake names for their posts.
While we as grass roots groups find it hard to be heard by the national media and recognized by our elected representatives in DC, these special interest groups take their deep pockets as shout twisted truths and lies to the highest mountains resulting in false editorials like the one written in the Fayetteville, NC newspaper this week.
Thank you, Irene, for your continued truth in writing your articles.

Frank and Fran (Email ) - 10-10-’09 08:23
Jim Boyd

Salvo Jimmy,
I don’t know who (someone at Dare County or PreserveAccess) put these facts together, but they deserve the Nobel Prize for Truth!

Anyone who reads this report and even briefly looks at the charts (including our elected representatives I hope) will quickly see the following two common sense facts:
1) Birds can fly! This means that the birds nest wherever they wish from year to year. Neither the Audubon, the judge, the federal government nor any other force of man or nature can force the birds to nest within the boundaries of the CHNSRA every year.
2) The main factors controlling bird populations in CHNSRA, or anywhere else for that matter, are weather and predation. ORV use is NOT a factor!

Even if the county can’t get newspapers across the state and country to read this fine piece of work, maybe they can at least get our elected representatives to pay attention to it before they vote on the bills currently in committee to overturn the consent decree.

Good work folks!

Jim Boyd (Email ) - 10-10-’09 09:09
John Alley

RegNeg was a real learning lesson

To bad that the lesson learned was that our government just wanted the problem to go away. They went through the motions, held interminable meetings and gave the public time to speak to the problem.

The problem remains the same.

The NPS was delinquent for three decades. They went through the motions early on, but it died on the vine. Thrown away as useless. This makes me wonder what was so bad about the 1978 plan that it had to be buried, tossed into some circular file in our great bureaucracy. Conspiracy theories are born from just such activities.

The environmental groups did exactly what I would have done. They found a friendly Judge and presented the fact that the NPS was not compliant. Then they threw in an opinion that the wildlife in the recreational seashore was in immediate danger.

This opinion was meekly challenged by the DOI, DOJ and NPS. Ok you got us, how hard are you going to be on us?

One highly redacted document in the negotiations between the plaintiffs and defendants, before the defendant interveners were involved in the negotiations, refused the offer on the grounds that it would virtually shut down the seashore.

And thus was born the consent decree.

It would have existed with or without the interveners and I am tired of the people who second-guess the decision. The choice was to walk away or live to fight another day.

To my mind the fight is about a 37-year gap in the management of what was our 1st National Recreational Seashore.

Will our government say sorry about that, or step up and acknowledge the people and economy that have prospered during their lapse in management?

I wish it were up to Mike Murray, he has proved to be an honest man and a competent manager. Under his watch we have seen conditions improve. The “man behind the curtain” has a face and actually interacts with the public.

Never have we seen such openness from the NPS. Those of us who remember the Beli Years can only be hopeful.

This brings us back to whether Supt. Murray is actually making the decisions.

If it’s him, I feel hopeful, if it’s my government, who knows?

John Alley - 10-10-’09 23:21
Alan Pitt

Excellent as always, Irene! Spot on.

The selective and cherry-picked data spewed forth by the SELC Cartel never ceases to amaze. How anyone can make any use or sense of the NPS visitor data is beyond me. I’ve never seen since a conolvuted and questionable way do compile visitation numbers, especially for important data such as this!

The only thing the Consent Decree has benefitted is the bank accounts of a few lawyers and the coffers of certain environmental groups.

Let’s all be thankful for brave souls like Irene Nolan and Sandy Semans for continuing to shine a very bright light on environmental extremist activities!

Alan Pitt - 13-10-’09 15:21

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