Fox Distorts The Facts To Attack Cape Hatteras Environmental Regulations

››› ››› MIKE BURNS

On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade falsely suggested that if environmentalists have their way, North Carolina's Cape Hatteras "could be just left to the birds, or maybe some turtles." In fact, environmental groups do not seek to have all Cape Hatteras beaches closed, and regulations in place to protect endangered species allow significant access to Cape Hatteras beaches for both pedestrians and off-road vehicles.

Fox & Friends Falsely Suggests All Cape Hatteras Beaches May Be Closed

Kilmeade: "One Of The Foremost Vacation Spots In The World ... Could Be Just Left To The Birds, Or Maybe Some Turtles." From the December 20 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: Business owners in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina -- Steve, that is the subject. They depend on the beach to attract tourists to make a living and they are losing their livelihoods, all because of this bird. The bird is endangered, evidently, and the government has closed down the parts of beach-- And since then, 50 businesses have closed, 400 homes have been foreclosed. Is this fair? Joining us right now is a local business owner affected directly, John Couch. John, what business do you have and how have you been affected?

JOHN COUCH: My business is called the Red Drum. We have an auto parts store, a repair center, a tackle shop, and a food mart. These closures have absolutely stifled my business during the summertime, and typically I lose about $30,000 because of these buffer zones that are so restrictive. And it pretty well closes off the beach and makes it hard for our visitors that come here to find out what is open on a daily basis.

KILMEADE: It's all because of this bird, which seems nice. It's called the piping plover. About 20 of them, and evidently they're endangered. But are they at the point now where they're more important than all the small business people who have thrived there for decades?

COUCH: Well, protecting the environment and protecting these birds are important.


COUCH: We can all grab our hands and wrap around this. But these birds there, they have such mammoth protections. If this can be the bird nest, a thousand meters in all directions -- which is a mile and a quarter across -- closes down the beach. And there's only about 6 to 12 pairs of these birds. But as the birds -- these nesting areas -- they just choke off access. And then for the beach during the heart of the summertime when we make our money -- we're sitting there not being able to make a living in the summertime.

KILMEADE: John, it's absolutely beautiful there. It's one of the foremost vacation spots in the country and now it could be just left to the birds or maybe some turtles that want to nest. Here's the statement from the Audubon Society, from the Environmental Law Center. They say this: "The consent decree does not directly close any beaches to or use by or may require that beaches be closed or use i threatened piping plovers or other targeted shorebirds are attempting to nest in the are. All bird species appear to be benefitting from the lack of disturbances, increasing in numbers and fledgling more chicks." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/20/10]

In Fact, The Regulation Only Applies To Certain Areas Of The Cape Hatteras National Seashore For Certain Periods Of Time. From National Park Service's Frequently Asked Questions document regarding beach access at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore:

3. I was planning a vacation to the Outer Banks this (spring, summer, fall), but I've heard that all your beaches are closed ("everything is closed"). Is that true?

That is absolutely NOT true! You have received bad information. While temporary resource closures to protect nesting shorebirds and sea turtles are expected to occur between mid-March and mid- to late-August, including at some popular sites, there will be many, many miles of beach open to both pedestrian and ORV access on any given day of any given week during those months. For example, on July 8, 2009, there were approximately 22 miles of beach open to ORVs and pedestrians, another 26 miles open to only pedestrians (that was a total of 48 miles of open beach!), while 19 miles of beach were closed or impractical to access due to resource protection closures in place at the time. By late August, most of the resource closures had been lifted. [National Park Service Frequently Asked Questions: Beach Access, accessed 12/22/10]

Environmental Coalition Seeks To Protect Threatened Species, But Does Not Intend To Ban All Vehicles. Preserve Hatteras, the coalition seeking restrictions on off-road vehicles at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, says:

Do conservation groups want to ban vehicles from the Seashore?

No. Our goal continues to be and always has been to work out a solution based on law and science that protects threatened wildlife in balance with the responsible use and enjoyment of the park by all visitors. Everyone deserves a safe space on the national seashore - birds and turtles, as well as anglers, bird watchers, surfers, swimmers and those who just enjoy the serenity of one of the East Coast's most dramatic areas. [, accessed 12/22/10]

With Temporary Regulations In Place, Visitors To Cape Hatteras Actually Increased. In a November 16 press release, Defenders of Wildlife stated:

2010 was a record-breaking year at Cape Hatteras for wildlife and visitor occupancy under similar, temporary rules for off-road vehicle use within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Those rules were implemented in April 2008, and include wildlife protections similar to the ones proposed today by the National Park Service.


At the same time, Dare County's visitor occupancy through August 2010 exceeded prior years for the same period. In addition, according to press reports, the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau reported that Hatteras Island visitors spent a record-setting $27.8 million on lodging during the month of July, which was an 18.5 percent increase over July 2009 and exceeded all preceding years.

"Numbers since 2008 demonstrate that under science-based wildlife management, nesting birds and turtles can rebound, tourism can thrive, and wildlife and people can share the beach at Cape Hatteras," said Walker Golder, acting executive director of Audubon North Carolina. "The park service's plan currently falls short of providing adequate science-based, year-round protections for the seashore's natural resources." [, 11/16/10]

NPS's Proposed Plan "Allows [Off-Road Vehicle] Use On The Majority Of The Seashore" And "Proposes New Parking Facilities, ORV Ramps, And Water Shuttles To Increase Visitor Access." From a November 16 press release issued by the Defenders of Wildlife:

"The park service's final rules must provide adequate vehicle-free space and protections for both pedestrians and wildlife, while still allowing responsible beach driving in some areas," said Julie Youngman, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. "We look forward to working with the park service to build on the success of this record-breaking year."

The park service's preferred plan in today's statement allows ORV use on the majority of the seashore. Twenty-eight of the seashore's 67 miles are set aside as year-round ORV routes, with only 26 miles designated as year-round vehicle-free areas for pedestrians, families, and wildlife. The remaining 13 miles of seashore are seasonally open to ORVs. The plan also proposes new parking facilities, ORV ramps, and water shuttles to increase visitor access.

"As demonstrated by record numbers of visitors and wildlife this year, it is entirely possible for Cape Hatteras to be responsibly shared and enjoyed," said Jason Rylander, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. "We hope the park service's final plan will strike an appropriate balance that meets the needs of the Seashore's many users." [, 11/16/10]

Fox Blames "Environmentalists' Crusade" For Hatteras Regulations, But Bush Administration Agreed To Them

Fox & Friends: "Environmentalists' Crusade Closing Beaches & Hurting Livelihood." During the same segment, on-screen text read: "Environmentalists' Crusade Closing Beaches & Hurting Livelihood."


[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/20/10]

Nixon Signed Executive Order In 1972 Requiring Federal Land Managers To Develop Plans and Regulations To Manage ORV Use On Public Lands. From a Defenders of Wildlife brief seeking a preliminary injunction:

As a result of the growth in ORV [Off-Road Vehicle] recreation on federally protected lands, President Nixon signed Executive Order 11644 on February 8, 1972; in that Order he noted that the "popularity [of ORV driving on public lands] continues to increase rapidly. The widespread use of such vehicles on the public lands - often for legitimate purposes but also in frequent conflict with wise land and resource management practices, environmental values, and other types of recreational activity - has demonstrated the need for a unified Federal policy toward the use of such vehicles on the public lands." [, accessed 12/22/10]

Bush Administration's Park Service Agreed To Consent Decree Managing Off-Road Vehicles On Cape Hatteras Beaches. According to the National Park Service:

In October 2007, Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center (plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against the NPS alleging inadequacies in management of protected species at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and failure of the park to comply with the requirements of the ORV executive order and NPS regulations regarding ORV use.

The species identified for protection included: the piping plover (federally-listed threatened), several species of colonial waterbirds (state-listed threatened and Species of Special Concern), the American oystercatcher (state-listed Species of Special Concern), and several species of sea turtles (federally-listed threatened and endangered).

In April 2008, a U.S. District Court Judge signed a consent decree to settle the lawsuit. The consent decree was agreed to by the plaintiffs and the NPS; and by Dare and Hyde Counties and a coalition of local ORV and fishing groups (Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance) which participated in the lawsuit as intervenors. The consent decree, which is enforceable by the court, provides for specific species protection measures and requires the NPS to complete the ORV plan and required special regulation by Dec. 31, 2010 and April 11, 2011 respectively. [, accessed 12/22/10]

Reagan-Appointed Judge Approved Consent Decree Regarding Off-Road Vehicle Regulation At Cape Hatteras. According to a May 1, 2008, press release issued by the National Park Service:

Superintendent Mike Murray announced today that, under the Consent Decree signed on April 30, 2008 by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle, a new seasonal restriction on nighttime beach driving will go into effect immediately on the beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Beginning May 1, 2008, all Seashore beaches are closed to off-road vehicles (ORVs) between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. [, 5/1/08]

  • Boyle Was Appointed By President Reagan In 1984 With Jesse Helms' Support. As reported by a May 1, 2006, article: "President Ronald Reagan appointed Boyle to be a federal district judge in 1984, with a push from former Sen. Jesse Helms, who once employed him briefly. President George H.W. Bush nominated Boyle to the appellate bench in 1991, but Boyle never made it to a Senate vote. He remains a favorite of conservatives, and currently holds a unanimous well-qualified rating from the American Bar Association. But Democrats and liberal advocacy groups have vigorously criticized him for his numerous rulings on disability, gender and racial discrimination cases." [, 5/1/06]
Posted In
Environment & Science, Conservation
Fox News Channel
Brian Kilmeade
FOX & Friends
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