Statement from Conservation Groups on CHAPA Lawsuit Against Rules for Responsible Beach Driving in Cape Hatteras National Seashore

February 10, 2012—The following is a statement from Audubon North Carolina, Defenders of Wildlife and the Southern Environmental Law Center:

“We’re disappointed that some beach driving enthusiasts quickly filed suit against beach driving rules that would protect pedestrians and nesting and young sea turtles and birds within Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

By suing to prevent the National Park Service from implementing the rule, CHAPA is not honoring the Consent Decree it previously agreed to before the court. In addition, the timing of this lawsuit does not give adequate time to assess the effectiveness of the recently released National Park Service rules, which allow ORV use on the majority of the seashore and increase access for all users. 

We’re confident that the court will uphold the final rule. We’re committed to defending these protections for both pedestrians and wildlife that allow responsible beach driving and correlate with growing tourism for Dare County and Cape Hatteras.”

Background:

  • The long-awaited rules are the final step in a process agreed to by all parties—including CHAPA—concerned about beach driving in the national seashore. During an interim management period prior to the Park Service’s January rulemaking, rare bird and sea turtle populations showed signs of recovery, park visitation held steady or increased annually, and tourism remained strong in Dare County, NC, where much of the seashore is located, despite a recession.
  • Tourism flourished in Dare County during the period when interim protections were in place.  Rental occupancy receipts in Dare County increased by millions over the previous decade as recorded by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Park visitation and gross occupancy in Dare County during peak breeding and nesting season under interim management held steady or increased compared to the three preceding years. According to a state report on tourism for 2009-2010, Dare County experienced an 8.8 percent growth in tourism—making it among the top growth counties in the state during a recession.  The county’s strong tourism industry employed 11,260 people with $172 million in payroll and generated $44.55 million in tax receipts for the state and $39.78 million in local tax receipts.
  • As a unit of the National Park System, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been required under federal law since 1972 to establish guidelines that minimize harm from the use of off-road vehicles to the natural resources of the seashore in accordance with the best available science for present and future generations. After decades of non-compliance, the new rules bring the NPS into compliance with that requirement.

Note to editors:

Contacts:

Caitlin Leutwiler, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-3226Kathleen Sullivan, SELC, 919-967-1450

Ida Phillips, Audubon North Carolina, 919-929-3899