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On the beach

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All the Atlantic beach buggy associations, the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and thousands of East Coast surf anglers who do not belong to a specialty fishing club are happy with the decision by three U.S. lawmakers from North Carolina to become involved in the brouhaha surrounding the closing of off-road vehicle access to a piece of the Cape Hatteras (N.C.) National Seashore.

With the introduction of legislation (S. 3113 and H.R. 6233) that calls for the restoration of access to an area that animal rights groups Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society said was critical to the survival of certain shorebirds, a bit of sanity might return.

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr and Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (all Republicans), would reinstate the Interim Management Strategy governing off-road vehicle use at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.

If the bills pass, the National Park Service will operate the beach lands in question under an interim plan issued in June 2007 and would set aside various mandates and requirements established by a decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The ASA said the decree currently prevents off-road vehicle and citizen access to a significant portion of the seashore.

The lawsuit by Defenders and Audubon charged that the management strategy used by the National Park Service did not provide adequate protection for shorebirds, so without any real public input the access to a large stretch of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was closed.

ASA vice president Gordon Robertson said the court placed an "undue and possibly disastrous economic burden on the local community," adding, "the [Senate and House] bill would restore much needed reasonable public access while still providing necessary and adequate protections for the shorebirds."

The words "Interim Management Plan" regard a 1972 executive order that called for all federal management agencies to develop off-road vehicle use plans. Cape Hatteras came up with one, but an overall federal ORV plan was never finalized.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association's Mike Metzgar says if you would like to know more about his group's views, go to www.ncbba.org, and if you want to make a public comment on a link provided for that purpose, go to www.regulations.gov and enter E8-10887 in the search window.

The Maryland Legislative Sportsmen's Foundation last week presented Gov. Martin O'Malley with its Sportsmen's Best Friend of the Year Award at its annual banquet and auction. The foundation also presented Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative partner Mike Baker of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project its annual Hero of the Chesapeake Bay Award.

"It's a great honor to be recognized by Maryland's original conservationists," Gov. O'Malley said. "From our earliest days, Marylanders have taught their children how to fish and hunt and how to appreciate the breathtaking outdoor surroundings for which our state is so blessed."

Timothy Davidson of Stovall, N.C., set a Virginia record for freshwater drum with a 15-pound, 2-ounce specimen. He caught the drum on a green Zoom worm intended for largemouth bass while he was fishing in the Grassy Creek arm of Kerr Reservoir (also known as Buggs Island Lake). It was the first Virginia freshwater drum that met the minimum requirement of eight pounds. This species recently was added to the state's record fish list. The species is native only to the Clinch and Powell rivers. It is not known how the drum species became established in Kerr.

Sharp-eyed readers saw the map in the Sunday editions of The Washington Times concerning the spread of the northern snakehead. In the map box there was a line that said, "Maryland's Little Hunting Creek." It's on the Virginia side of the Potomac, not Maryland.

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