Fiasco at
Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Overzealous Judge or Justified Closures?


January 2012 Update on Cape Hatteras National
Seashore ORV Issue: A Final Solution

Thanks to an email from the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce, here is the final determination on this issue. It seems to be a solution that will work for everyone.

Information Regarding Cape Hatteras National Seashore ORV Final Rule

The final special regulation (rule) for the management of off-road vehicle (ORV) use at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) was published in the Federal Register on January 23, 2012 and becomes effective on Wednesday, February 15, 2012. The rule designates ORV routes and authorizes ORV use at the Seashore in a manner that will protect and preserve the unique natural and cultural resources of this dynamic barrier ecosystem while permitting the use of vehicles on Seashore beaches and provide a variety of safe visitor experiences while minimizing conflicts among various users. Under National Park Service (NPS) general regulations, the operation of motor vehicles off of roads within areas of the National Park System is prohibited unless authorized by special regulation.

To provide more information about the rule and its requirements, the NPS has prepared a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) information sheet and a map showing designated ORV routes as well as pedestrian areas where ORVs are not authorized. The FAQ and map are now available on the Seashore's website located at:

When the rule becomes effective on February 15, 2012, an ORV permit will be required to operate a vehicle on the designated ORV routes at the Seashore. Permits can be obtained beginning on February 15 at any of the three NPS ORV permit offices located at Coquina Beach, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Visitor Center (Buxton), and the Ocracoke Visitor Center. These offices will be open year-round, seven days a week, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with expanded hours on weekends and holidays during the summer season. The cost of an annual permit (valid for the calendar year) is $120. A 7-day ORV permit (valid from the date issued) will cost $50.

In order to provide the public with ample time to obtain a permit, there will be a transition period between February 15 and March 15 before the rule is fully implemented and enforced. During the transition period, the NPS will install new ORV route markers and information signs and begin implementation of the species management measures that were identified in the December 2010 Record of Decision for the Seashore's Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan / Final Environmental Impact Statement. Visitor contacts during the transition will focus on informing the visiting public about the ORV permit and other beach driving requirements under the special regulation.

For more information, see the FAQ posted on-line at:


January 2011 Update on Cape Hatteras National Seashore ORV Issue

On December 28, 2010, the National Park Service (NPS) submitted their final proposal for addressing the preservation of endangered species (birds and turtles) that nest there while also accomodating the Off Road Vehicle (ORV) concern. A question was posed to Outer Banks Revealed on where a person should rent a house if they also wanted the opportunity to drive off road. The question was responded to here. Of particular significance is the article by the Island Free Press, which did a nice job summarizing the solution and an outline on how the proposal would work.

I first heard whispers of trouble at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore a few years back. This was further brought to my attention when a Hatteras resident put this story on Outer Banks Revealed. I didn’t know much about it, except for what I read, and I found it very confounding.

Not having seen the exact impact of Judge Terrence W. Boyle's decree, I imagined it was little more then an extension of what I had seen in the past. You see, the development where our Hatteras Island vacation rental in Salvo is located abuts the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for the 15 miles it runs from Salvo to Avon. In the past, I had seen areas fenced off to protect nesting birds and turtles that had come ashore to lay their eggs. I imagined the latest "settlement" to be little more than an extension of this. I have struggled mightily about whether or not to write anything, as I have tried to keep Outer Banks Revealed apolitical and more family oriented, but the details of this case have haunted me since our most recent trip to the Outer Banks. If you stay in the northern part of the Outer Banks, you are probably totally unaware of the issue. If, however, you stay in Hatteras or Ocracoke, you've been affected.

The extent of this case was brought into focus on our trip to the Salvo house this year (2009). I was doing my normal thing of not much and relaxing on the beach when I noticed something that seemed strange to me. Usually, there are a good number of people beyond the "No Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Area" where we hit the beach. On this day, there were none. I thought it odd, but chalked it up to the fact that it was a very overcast day. The next day when I was making a trip to Avon, I discovered the true culprit. Every one of the access roads that lead onto the beach for ORV driving where closed except for one down by Avon. So now the true impact of the "consent decree" had come clearly into focus. Judge Boyle, the Audubon Society and the "Defenders of Wildlife" had effectively shut down 75% of the 15 miles of beach. Now, they will claim that it is only a short distance that has been closed, and that the majority of the beach remains open. So, let me ask you, if you close off the only access to the beach, even though you do not technically close the other areas which you cannot reach without this access, haven't you really closed the entire beach? Also, if you look at the Google maps that show the current status of ramps, it reveals that as of today, every single access route has been closed to ORV traffic, with limited pedestrian access.

I have no doubt that people will accuse me of having a slanted view on this issue, since I own a rental property in Salvo. Let me be clear. The beach area that my renters would use is unaffected by Judge Boyle and his decree, as it is in the town of Salvo and does not come under the jurisdiction of the Park Service. The only thing that would affect my renters would be if they wanted to drive on the beach for any number of reasons, including bringing elderly members of the family down to the ocean. Also, as my wife will attest, I am not a political person. I do not waste my time watching the "talking heads" on Fox, CNN, or MSNBC, as I see no purpose to their brain-washing ways. I do, however, take offense to bullies. And to me, this is a clear example of that. Let me explain.

First of all, the origin of this case was as a result of a DUI charge in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Judge Terrence Boyle presided over the case and threw out the charge because the Park Service did not comply with a Nixon era decree that rules and regulations be set up around ORV driving at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. As a result, Judge Boyle reasoned, that since there was no rules established, the person could not be convicted of DUI. (You'd think that the state of North Carolina, which DOES have DUI rules would certainly think otherwise.) The Audubon Society and the "Defenders of Wildlife" then sued the Park Service because they determined that since there were no rules that HAD to mean that the birds and turtles were not adequately protected. So began the long and twisted thought process of how a DUI charged led to the shutting down of long stretches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the name of bird safety. This is not the first time that this threesome has teamed up to rule in favor of wildlife over people. In the case National Audubon Society v. US Navy, Judge Boyle decision was later determined to have been "overly broad" as determined by the Appeals Court. Could this also be the case here?

In the spirit of full disclosure, Judge Terence W. Boyle has been twice nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, by both George HW and George W Bush. In each case, the nomination never made it to the Senate floor. He holds the dubious distinction of serving as the longest standing nominee to an appointment to the Court of Appeals not to be acted upon, a victim of Republicans and Democrats fighting. Further, his opponents have taken great joy in painting a tawdry picture of his judicial record, making it appear he votes his wallet versus the common good, a clear ethics violation.

The issue I have with Judge Boyle has nothing to do with the above. It has to do with his one-sided leaning in favor of the facts of this case. He is quoted as saying in the Outer Banks Sentinel in the midst of negotiations between the two sides in court, that he was about to come down on the side of the Defenders of Wildlife and the Audubon Society unless the two sides reach a compromise. At that point, how can a compromise be reached? He has already made it clear that, just as in the Navy case, he is going to rule in favor of the Audubon Society. Why should they negotiate further? This was tantamount to holding a gun to the heads of the defense. In addition, the way the consent decree is written, if any damage befalls any of the warning signs, the buffer zone would immediately and automatically be widened. THERE IS AN ASSUMPTION OF GUILT BEFORE PROOF OF GUILT. This is UNCONSTITUTIONAL! The folks on the side of the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife have just as much to gain by vandalizing the signs as the other side does as this means a widening of the buffer zone, meaning more beach is shut down.

Judge Boyle has a history of siding with environmentalist. In one article I read reviewing his credentials, it says:

In a key area of law, Boyle has consistently ruled for the environment over commercial and governmental interests. With respect to Boyle's environmental record, Derb Carter, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Durham said, "Judge Boyle is willing to apply the law as he sees it. And he showed a lot more courage than many political leaders in the state in making this ruling." Carter said in an earlier article "As a lawyer, what I want in a judge is someone who is smart, thorough, understands the law and gives you a fair hearing ... Those are all qualities that I have found in Judge Boyle."

Note that Derb Carter is the lawyer who headed the Defenders of Wildlife case and this article is dated April 2005, long before the Cape Hatteras National Seashore fiasco began. "As he sees it" does not imply an impartial application of the law, but rather a very subjective one.

Now let’s look at the two sides of the fight. The Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife versus the Park Service, Dare and Hyde Counties and the people of Dare and Hyde County. This is a mismatch. We all know the Audubon Society as a noble group, but in this case they, and the Defenders of Wildlife, are nothing more than a bunch of sharp lawyers set to get what they want. They are a major lobby group in Washington, who know the law and can bend it to their desires. On the other side is a hodge-podge grass roots effort of very different groups, such as the ATV group, the Charter Fishing Group, local vacation realty companies, united four wheel drive association, the Park Service Group, and a list of others all with very different agendas and struggling to find enough money to defend against a very big war chest, further enhanced by Toyota’s contribution of $10 million to the Audubon Society. Clearly, that $10 million will not be all used here, but you get the sense that you have the New York Yankees taking on the local little league team. Not a fair fight.

This has had dire impact on local life. The Island Free Press has written numerous articles on the topic talking about the adverse impact on the economy. When we were down this year, there were numerous store fronts that now stand vacant in Avon. Is this attributed to the current state of the national economy or what is happening with the beach closings is hard for me to say, but I am certain that it can not be helping. Perhaps Tommy has done the best job of summing up the issue from the local perspective. Often colorful and opinionated, leaving no doubt which side he comes down on, Tommy does, however, back his thoughts up with facts. It is well worth the read.

If you have a love for the area, do get involved and write your congressmen and Senators. and ask them to support HR 718. A petition has also been raised to address the issue.  The organization that is leading the "David" side of this David and Goliath fight is Preserve Beach Access group. Read what they have to say and you decide. The Park Service is also required to issue periodically the results of the beach closures in terms of nesting birds, and so forth. Originally targeting the Piping Plover population, an endangered species, it now includes many other types of "non-endangered" shorebirds, like the oyster catcher. As one friend said to me, "The biggest population of oyster catchers lives on the roof of the Food Lion (a supermarket) in Avon", to which I replied, "Well you can’t drive on the Food Lion roof either." Do the results justify the destruction of a way of life?

In her confirmation hearings, Judge Sonia Sotomayor summed up the responsibility of a judge as follows:

No, sir. That's -- I don't -- I wouldn't approach the issue of judging in the way the president does. He has to explain what he meant by judging. I can only explain what I think judges should do, which is judges can't rely on what's in their heart. They don't determine the law. Congress makes the laws. The job of a judge is to apply the law.

Has Judge Boyle applied this same standard? Has he not created a whole new set of laws as it applies to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and ORV driving? Should not the Court of Appeals, as it did in the Navy case, step in and again reverse Judge Boyle’s "application" of the law as overly broad?

The most ironic thing about this entire controversy is that it now pits a simple people who have sought to protect the environment and the wildlife that inhabit the National Seashore as the villains in the case. This case is not about birds and turtles. It is about a judge who over stepped judicial prudence and the pack of lawyers who cemented it into reality. I guess that is why a lawyer never needs to fear being attacked by sharks … professional courtesy.

What's Your Views on the Beach Closings?

Now that I've given you some background, what is your view of the current situation at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore? What can be done to reach a true win-win compromise? Will you get involved? How?

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What Other Visitors Have Said

Click below to see the views from other visitors to this page...

If a bird lives on the beach and no one can get there to see it, is it a resource? 
So many "conservation" minded people on all of these forums refer to "preserving the resources for our children" that make the Banks an attractive …

CH beach closures 
I first heard about something like this in 1985 when we were approached by a young man who worked for the Dept of the Interior. The main subject …

Judge needs to live down here 
This whole issue is hard for me because I do believe in conservation. I also believe that there have been some dishonest goings on from the groups …

Get a grip 
I'm a surf fisherman, too but I am also a wildlife lover. I have absolutely no problem with the Judge's consent decree. I have no problem finding …

Sorry gotta go with the judge... 
Usually I am not a "tree hugger" per say, but in this instance I have to support the judges decision... The reason I do is I was born and raised in …

Mr. Natural 
Well, you are not only blatantly political in this rant but also severely misinformed and inaccurate. The rampage of statements like yours saying …

my heart is breaking  Not rated yet
hello - you have a beautiful and execellent way of expressing yourself on this issue. thank for for it very much. i have been following your site …

I believe that the judge's ruling will add one more species to the endangered list-tourists that enjoy the great fishing and beach access that ORV …

Good Job Judge Not rated yet
I am a born and raised local; and while some may say they are against the protection of the birds to "keep our beaches open," I am entirely for it. …

NC saying our "Species of Concern" were never to be treated as NPS is trying to do in Alt F. ....and as has been mandated by the consent decree for that matter. Not rated yet
VERY VERY GOOD ARGUMENT!!!! see this article link here By Catherine Kozak The Virginian-Pilot …

ksw4obx Not rated yet
05/04/10 To Whom It May Concern: Since attending a public meeting on April 28, 2010 …

Vacation is Driving the Beach Not rated yet
Ridiculous. We got out just before Hurricane Bill and couldn't believe how many places were out of business in Hatteras and the surrounding areas …

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