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News & Observer: Keep the driving limits on Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The article originally appeared in the News & Observer

The beach should not be a roadway. That would seem to be an obvious statement to anyone who has ever stretched out on a beach towel. But it’s also essential to wildlife that lay eggs and nest along the sandy stretches in a pattern established thousands of years before the arrival of the internal combustion engine.

For some surf fishers and others who like the freedom to ride by the waves, that statement is a cause for protest. They want to drive on the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to chase fish or just to flex the powers of their four-wheel drive.

Now, that pressure to expand vehicle access to those protected beaches is prompting the National Park Service to reconsider sensible limits on beach traffic that are yielding good results for wildlife.

The service is holding a series of public hearings in North Carolina and Virginia to determine whether it should ease regulations adopted in 2012. The regulations have helped increase the population of sea turtles and sea birds by restricting night driving during the summer sea turtle nesting season and banning motor vehicles from nesting areas. Since the changes, sea turtle nests have increased to record numbers.

The current regulations are already lax. They were developed after extensive comment from all groups affected and favor those who wish to drive along portions of the 64-mile seashore.

In June, the park service reduced protected areas for wildlife. Now it’s considering expanding the number of days and hours when vehicles can enter the beach. That’s a danger not only to wildlife, but to beach-goers.

The park service collected public comment in Raleigh last week. But it’s not too late for Triangle residents to have their say about what happens on North Carolina’s national seashore. The National Park Service will accept comments through Aug. 21 caha-orv-ea.

Speak up for the sea turtles, the seabirds and yourself on a beach towel. Keep the current limits on vehicles. Nature was there first and, under protections of a National Seashore designation, has a right not to be run over.

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