Audubon North Carolina

“The Orton Foundation has been a staunch supporter of Audubon North Carolina’s work to balance the needs of peoplewith the needs of wildlife on the coast. As a result of this support, the numbers of bird species and sea turtles have reached record highs from previously record lows.” – Karen Fernandez, Director of Development and Communication, Audubon North Carolina

Despite existing laws and policies, decades of largely unregulated off-road vehicle driving on beaches of Cape Hatteras National Seashore — a globally significant Important Bird Area — pushed birds, sea turtles, and other natural resources to the brink. Populations of nesting shorebirds, terns and skimmers on the Seashore’s beaches plummeted 84% from 1997 to 2007; Black Skimmers and Gull-billed Terns disappeared entirely and other nesting birds were at all-time lows. Federally threatened sea turtles were suffering the same fate and were also experiencing alarming declines.

Least Tern chick with mother. Photo by Walker Golder
Least Tern chick with mother. Photo by Walker Golder

Audubon had long been an advocate for a science-based management plan and a responsible off-road vehicle regulation at the Seashore. In 2007, Audubon and partner organizations challenged the National Park Service’s Interim Protected Species Management Plan. They were successful in overturning by Consent Decree the IPSMP and instating science-based protection measures for birds, sea turtles, and other natural resources while allowing reasonable, responsible, and balanced off-road vehicle use at the seashore. The Consent Decree replaced the IPSMP and served as the guiding document for the seashore until a formal regulation for off-road vehicle use could be established.

In February 2012, the National Park Service adopted a new regulation for off-road vehicle use at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The regulation established specific routes and areas for off-road vehicle use and it defined where and how natural resources would be protected. The new regulation provides the best protection for birds, sea turtles and people visiting Cape Hatteras in more than a decade. The implementation of science-based protection measures that resulted from the Consent Decree and the new regulation has resulted in immediate improvements for birds and sea turtles. Sea turtles nested in record numbers every year since 2008, and increased 300% from 2007 to 2013. Terns and skimmers nesting at the Seashore increased 400%; Piping Plovers, increased from 6 to 15 nests and had record productivity, as did American Oystercatchers.

Louis Bacon and The Orton Foundation are proud supporters Audubon North Carolina. Please read more about Audubon North Carolina here.