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Driving Birds Crazy

January 17, 2008
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An ongoing bird-related issue in North Carolina that doesn’t involve swans flying into jet aircraft (you have to make that distinction, we have several issues here) is the fight that seems to be constantly going on between off-road vehicle drivers and birds on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The National Park Service is currently in the process of a long overdue reassessment of its ORV policy. The first of what will be several public hearings on the subject was held earlier this week in Nag’s Head.

Not surprisingly, the ORV lobby was there in force, protesting the stricter rules that the NPS plans to enact to limit beach driving especially during the months that shorebirds are nesting. The mascot of the anti-ORV crowd has always been the Piping Plover, but other birds suffer as well. Common and Gull-billed Terns in particular don’t even nest on North Carolina’s beaches anymore. The issue is, of course, not with those responsible beach drivers who would be willing to put up with some restrictions in order to continue access to the beach and Cape Point in particular, but with those who recklessly disobey stated restrictions, intentionally drive over colonies of seabirds, and cry the loudest when the NPS has to make drastic cuts in access.

You can probably tell which side I fall on this issue. I think there probably should be some access to the beach, but it’s not to much to ask for those ORV drivers to obey the stated rules and if they choose not to, they need to be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law. It seems that after years of neglect, the NPS has finally realized that this needs to be done. If the Outer Banks needs to be open to all, that includes birdwatchers, surfers and shell-collecters in addition to fishermen. One group or individuals within that group does not have the right to lessen the enjoyment of the banks of any other, and certainly doesn’t have the right to degrade the very habitat that the beach was originally put under protection for. Temporary closures of beaches for nesting seabirds is really not too much to ask.

I love the Outer Banks. While I have never really been a beach person, I still can’t get enough of them. It still seems to me that they are exactly what a beach should be. In the winter it’s possible to cross a dune onto a pristine beach and be the only person in sight for miles on either side. The Outer Banks are such an important part of North Carolina’s natural heritage, it would truly be a shame for them to turn into something like Virginia Beach or Florida with development up to the shoreline and the constant reminder of human encroachment. Yet with unlimited beach driving, that’s the sort of thing we may gradually see. It’s right that the NPS is finally drawing their line in the sand. Better late than never.

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One Comment
  1. SNIDERMAN permalink
    January 17, 2008 9:47 am

    Geezo, first we’re kicked off for
    turtles… now birds. Sooner or later, maybe they’ll kick us off for the houses, too.

    Oh wait, I’m for that.

    (snicker)

    Let the beaches and coast be the beaches and coast… we’ll pay less in taxes in the end (see Katrina, Grace, Andrew, Isabel, Fran, Floyd, etc).

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