Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic
Well, that lawsuit has arrived in court.
Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society have joined forces to bring the lawsuit, arguing that the seashore is not adequately protecting the nests of sea turtles and shorebirds. The lawsuit contends the National Park Service has run afoul of the National Park Organic Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the enabling legislation for the seashore, and the Park Service's own Management Policies by implementing an interim ORV management plan and failing to produce a long-term management plan.
The National Park Service’s Interim Plan and the ORV use it allows are substantially harming – and will continue to harm – important populations of endangered and threatened sea turtle species, threatened, special concern, or significantly rare bird species, and a threatened plant species, as well as other natural resources, serenity, and other recreational uses of the Seashore generally, reads one of the claims.
"No one wants to deny the rights of fishermen and families to enjoy beaches along the National Seashore, but our beaches are turning into highways," said Derb Carter, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center that brought the lawsuit. "In the meantime, the Park Service has stood idly by, shirking its responsibility" to institute rules.
What's disturbing about this turn of events is that Interior officials were well aware this past summer that they were treading on dangerous legal ground by continuing to allow ORVs to cruise along the seashore even though Cape Hatteras did not have a management plan in place. Even Mike Murray, the seashore's superintendent, realized the ORV use was illegal.
"It's a clear statement that there's no authority to allow off-road vehicle driving on the beach," Mr. Murray said after a federal judge noted, in a case of reckless driving on the seashore, that the seashore didn't have regulations in place to govern ORV travel. "Under federal regulations and executive orders, the Park Service needs to develop an ORV management plan and regulations."
It would seem that the Park Service and Interior Department prefer to spend tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, on legal costs while jeopardizing nesting sea birds and turtles rather than offending a special interest group.