RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH ARTICLE

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RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH ARTICLE

Post  HYDRAFISH2 on May 13th 2008, 8:17 am

THIS IS THE RICHMOND TIMES DISPATCH ARTICLE FROM SATURDAY'S METRO SECTION. COMMENTS ARE BEING ACCEPTED. INTERESTING READ.
By BILL GEROUX
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Some fishermen and business owners on Hatteras Island cried betrayal this week after the National Park Service cut off access to three popular surf-fishing spots to protect nesting shorebirds.

"This is going to be economic disaster for the island," said Carol Dillon, who has run the Outer Banks Motel in Buxton, N.C., since the 1950s. She accused the Park Service of breaking a half-century-old promise never to bar fishermen from the barrier spit at Cape Point.

Chris Canfield of the Audubon Society of North Carolina called the closures a necessary step to protect endangered piping plovers and other shorebirds in one of their few refuges on the heavily developed Outer Banks. He said studies suggest the economic damage will be limited.

The closure on Thursday of Cape Point and similar barrier spits at Bodie Island and south Ocracoke came a week after a federal judge in Raleigh, N.C., signed a consent decree to settle a lawsuit brought by the Audubon Society and Defenders of Wildlife. Optimists had suggested the decree would bring peace in a long-running struggle between four-wheel-drive fishermen and champions of the birds. But the settlement eliminated any flexibility the Park Service had in trying to balance the interests of the two sides, said Cyndy Holda, a spokeswoman for Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

In each of the three closures this week, she said, the birds -- plovers, oystercatchers and least terns -- occupied only small areas near the entrances to the barrier spits. But the settlement requires specific, wide buffer zones for the birds, and those zones essentially blocked all access to the spits. Holda said all three spits were likely to stay closed through early August, and that more closures could follow, depending on what the birds do.

Angry fishermen villified the Park Service at Outer Banks gathering places and on Web sites.

The conflict between fishermen and bird supporters has ebbed and flowed on the lower Outer Banks for years. Biologists say fishermen rumbling along the beach in four-wheel-drive vehicles disrupt the federally protected birds' efforts to nest and lay eggs. The fishermen say barring them from traditional prime fishing spots is an overreaction threatening a pillar of the local economy.

Motel owner Dillon, who is 79, said she recalls Park Service officials assuring her family in the 1950s, when the National Seashore was established, that the government would never shut off fishermen from Cape Point.

Now, she said, seven customers already have canceled reservations at her motel because they cannot reach the Point. "We're all going to go bankrupt," she said of businesses in Buxton. "We can't survive just on people who like to go swimming and shelling."

Canfield, of the Audubon Society, said he regretted that some local businesses would suffer because of the closures. But he said government studies indicate four-wheel-drive fishermen represent a small percentage of Hatteras tourism and that less beach-driving would make the area more attractive to other visitors.

Canfield said the Park Service could have avoided this moment had it settled on a plan to protect the birds years ago, rather than ad-libbing its policies to try to please all sides.

Park service officials are working on such a plan now and expect to finish it by 2010. Whether that plan will change the new status quo is an open question, Holda said.

JUST FOR INFO. ALREADY EMAILED THE GUY TO TELL HIM TO DO RESEARCH AND HAVE ALL FACTS TO BEAR ON THE ISSUE. Cool
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