State-listed "species of concern," - such as the American oystercatcher - do not require the extensive buffers and beach closures mandated for federally listed species such as the piping plover, said Gordon Myers, the executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
Myers said that's beyond the intent of the state law; the state designation is supposed to be more of a call to action for a species.
The Wildlife Resource Commission, he said, will voice its objections to the use of state "species of concern" lists to trigger ORV management strategies under the federal Endangered Species Act.
"That is of concern to us because it's apples and oranges," he said. "To treat it as synonymous with threatened and endangered is not congruent."
The piping plover is the only seashore bird species protected under the act.
In a letter about the 810- page draft plan sent to park Superintendent Mike Murray on Tuesday, state Sen. Pro Tempore Marc Basnight of Manteo and state Rep. Timothy Spear of Creswell also questioned the 1,000-meter buffers required in all directions around an unfledged piping plover chick.
"We have yet to read any scientific reasoning behind this management strategy," the legislators wrote, adding that a more reasonable buffer would be 200 meters.
The National Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife are involved in a court-sanctioned consent decree that will regulate beach driving until the final management plan goes into effect next year.
In a March statement, the groups supported an alternative that would close more beach to ORVs, while improving access for pedestrians.
"The Park Service's preferred alternative allows driving on 52 of the 68 miles of the seashore, and that doesn't strike us as a balanced response," said Jason Rylander, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife.
The groups have not submitted their comments, he said on Friday.
Rylander said the Park Service has many competing mandates that require protection of the species, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
"It's not just an endangered species issue," he said.
Of all the proposals in the document, the size of the buffers has been a top complaint from beach-driving proponents. The resource closures can be so large that, in some cases, they may block access to open beach for not only ORVs but also for beachcombers, surfers, horseback riders, anglers and swimmers.
Basnight and Spear support Dare County's request to establish corridors around closures so public access to open beaches can be maintained, and to decrease buffers for non threatened species from 300 meters to 30 meters.
Resources commission director Myers said the Park Service has always looked at numerous factors in determining its resource protection needs, including state lists. But until the draft plan stated - on page 419 - that the agency was managing state-listed species similarly to federally listed species, its policy had never been in black and white, he said.