Re: Pre-NEPA Beach Management Request for Comments for Padre Island
National Seashore (Scoping Request)
The comments discussed below are intended to assist the National Park Service (NPS) in addressing its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) pre-NEPA scoping request on various beach management matters set forth in its Scoping Request.
Commencing in 2009 the NPS undertook significant changes to its management of PINS which resulted in a significant public outcry and ultimately the formation of Citizens for Access and Conservation (CAC) to interact with the NPS on behalf of the users of PINS. As a result of these past and subsequent actions by the NPS, considerable public distrust exists over concern that the NPS desires to use its turtle program and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to close public access to the beach at PINS (Beach) and to ultimately convert a portion of PINS from its use as a park and recreation area [as mandated by the State of Texas in its deed (the Deed – and discussed in more detail below) to the United States of America] for a few months during turtle nesting season solely into a turtle preserve.
It is well established and known that the Texas Open Beaches Act (TOBA) guarantees that the public has the free and unrestricted right to access Texas beaches, including [according to letter dated July 25, 2011 from the Texas General Land Office (TGLO) to Superintendent Joe Escoto (the TGLO letter)] a Texas beach located within a national park. (See also Section 61.0211 of the Texas Natural Resources Code providing that the TOBA is applicable to the Beach.)
It should also be noted that the Congressional Act of September 28, 1962 (PL 87-712, 76 Stat. 650) providing for the establishment of PINS states that the acquisition is “in order to save and preserve, for purposes of public recreation, benefit, and inspiration, a portion of the diminishing seashore of the United States that remains undeveloped”. No mention is made in the congressional language of creating a wildlife preserve or limiting public beach access contrary to Texas law.
The NPS should administer PINS first as a park and recreation area, and second as a wildlife preserve.
The NPS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) need to recognize that Texans are different from citizens of other states. The Texas slogan “Don’t Mess With Texas” says it all. Any attempt to limit beach access at PINS for any period of time (except in the case of an emergency), no matter how logical the reason from the NPS and FWS position, will be met with universal and unabated resistance by Texans. No legislator, whether in the Texas legislature or Congress, in Kleberg County, Nueces County or any other adjoining County, nor any other public official or business leader in the Coastal Bend area, nor the Texas Governor, Texas Attorney General nor Commissioner of the TGLO, nor any other governmental official who desires to be re-elected, will approve any such closure, but instead will vigorously oppose it.
Texans believe that if you let the NPS close any portion of the Beach for any period (e.g., from April to July 15th), that later the NPS will attempt to extend the closure to include a larger portion of the Beach or for a longer period of time (such as, until all of the eggs in situ incubation on the Beach would have hatched), or will try to implement a different closure for a different species.
The NPS and the FWS need to reach a solution for management of its turtle program and the Beach which does not involve limiting beach access or entry to any portion of the Beach for any period of time. The remainder of these comments will attempt to find solutions which do not involve any beach closure.

These comments are offered in hopes of enlightening the NPS so that by its actions it does not once again generate organized adverse publicity and legal advocacy in opposition to its policies with the resulting unnecessary expenditure of funds and effort by all.

Prior Beach Management Plans for PINS

The NPS has stated that it needs to perform the Scoping Request because no beach management plan currently exists for PINS. An examination of the NPS listing of “Management Plans” found at for PINS lists two studies: (1) Beach Vehicle Environmental Assessment – June 2011 (Environmental Assessment) (To download a pdf of the Environmental Assessment go to –, and (2) Beach Vehicle Environmental Assessment FONSI – March 2012 (FONSI) (To download a pdf of the FONSI go to -

The Environmental Assessment and FONSI completed in 2012 constitute a comprehensive and extensive analysis of beach management issues for PINS, and establish a beach management plan for PINS, particularly with respect to its turtle recovery program and vehicles on the Beach. No material changes have occurred on PINS which justify a change to its current beach management plan with respect to its turtle program and vehicles on the beach. Internal politics and strife within the NPS do not constitute justification for a new beach management plan or NEPA study. Having a new NEPA study within approximately ten years when no material changes have occurred at PINS to justify such study is an abuse of NEPA. The current Scoping Request with respect to the PINS turtle program and vehicles on the Beach is not needed and should not be included.

Discussion of Beach and Turtle Management Issues

Based upon examination of the Review of the Sea Turtle Science and Recovery Program Padre Island National Seashore, amended 5/7/2021 (2021 Review) (See ), and review of other material, we are aware that management of the Beach creates problems which are unique to the NPS. Except on PINS, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Turtle(s)) nests on coastal national parks are left in situ incubation (or placed in corrals) on the beach, and driving on the beach is prohibited to protect Turtles and their eggs.
Because the Turtles were so endangered in the late 1970s, the 1978 interagency Kemp’s action plan included a goal for establishment of a secondary Turtle nesting colony at PINS. Since the 1980’s the PINS Science and Recovery Turtle Recovery Program (STSR Program) has been actively contributing to global recovery of the species. Although the creation of a secondary nesting colony at PINS was a key component of the 1978 interagency action plan, it has not been mentioned to be important in subsequent plans, including the most recent 2011 Kemp’s Bi-National Recovery Plan. In addition, the FWS performs studies every five years on the Turtles (since they are endangered) determining measures needed to protect the species. The next five-year study (5-Year Study) should be released soon and offer guidance to the NPS on the future actions the NPS needs to implement on PINS to protect the Turtles. Hopefully, the 2020 Kemp’s Bi-National Recovery Plan (2020 Plan), and 5-Year Study, when released, will address the issue of the importance of PINS to the recovery effort. Until the 2020 Plan and 5-Year Study are issued, the NPS should make no major changes to the management of the STSR Program at PINS.

The NPS has already starting implementing the “Near-term” recommendations discussed on pages 15-17 of the 2021 Review (and may have started implementing some of the “Mid-term” recommendations), some of which may have required a NEPA study, without waiting for the results of the 2020 Plan or 5-Year Study.

The STSR Program’s operating budget has increased substantially over the years. The 2021 Review states that a budget shortfall is anticipated within the next few years. The NPS has used this potential budget shortfall to justify some of its actions cutting the STSR Program. If the rumors circulating within the NPS and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department are true that the NPS used its influence within the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to convince its leaders to not distribute any grants (even if won in a grant competition) to any Turtle recovery program in Texas because of the existence of the TOBA, then it is somewhat disingenuous for the NPS to assert that the STSR Program needs to be downsized due to lack of funding.

Much pressure is applied within the NPS on management personnel at PINS because other Turtle recovery programs managed by the NPS outside of Texas (such as, in Florida) leave a Turtle’s eggs in situ at the beach and can close their beaches to public access. Such non-Texas beaches are visited by much fewer Turtles than the Texas beaches so any contribution they make to the species or error made in its management is inconsequential to survival of the species. In addition, as discussed below, the Beach has several unique problems that non-Texas beaches do not have. Also, the NPS cannot close access to the Beach because the TOBA is applicable to national parks and because the reversionary language in the Deed might result in the NPS loosing PINS if it closes the Beach.

Significant problems exist on the Beach, which are uncommon on non-Texas beaches, which are discussed in considerable detail in the research paper entitled “Threats to Kemp’s ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii Garman, 1810) nests incubation in situ on the Texas coast” (the in situ Research Paper) ( In the interest of brevity, we will only discuss a few of the major points supported by the objective and independent data presented in the in situ Research Paper, and make recommendations based upon such data.

Because of the confluence of currents effecting Texas beaches, they experience significantly higher loads of marine debris (estimated to be ten times higher) than on beaches of other states. As a result, marine debris and sargassum accumulates on Texas beaches which can interfere with nesting Turtles and trap or impede hatchlings. This can result in a high percentage of hatchlings perishing because of predators and heat and/or desiccation. Plant root penetration and growth can decrease moisture for developing eggs and trap hatchlings

PINS has a very long undeveloped beach with a substantial number of predators of turtles, their eggs and hatchlings [such as, ghost crabs, coyotes, hogs, skunks, raccoons, badgers, gray foxes, snakes, fire ants and birds (collectively, predators)]. A study of 155 marked nest sites on the Beach from 2005-2007 is set forth in detail in the in situ Research Paper and is summarized on Table 4 of the Research Paper. Of the 155 nests, 96.8 % were damaged or impacted by ghost crabs, 56.8% by coyotes, 40% by tidal inundations, 30.3% by human tampering, 12.3 % by plant roots, 10.3% by vehicle drive-overs and 3.9% by racoons. The study suggests that the actual emergence success of in situ incubation in the study were likely greatly inflated as additional undocumented mortality from predators and human interaction likely occurred before the nests were found or that the evidence of tracks of predators was washed away by rain or tides. The study also noted that increased food resources available from discarded food scraps increase high densities of ghost crabs and coyotes in that area. It is unlikely that the prevention of humans from visiting such area for a few months a year would substantially diminish the presence of such predators during such period of human absence in such areas.

Another major problem is that high tides flood portions of the Beach all the way to the dune line multiple times a year, which could wash away or uncover in situ incubating eggs thereby exposing them to predators or risk of desiccation from the sun. A study by Sweet et al., 2019 (referenced in the in situ Research Paper) states that coastal flooding is an increasing threat at PINS. Warming environmental conditions caused by climate change are expected to result in more heat related deaths of hatchlings and possibly 100% female hatchlings by 2070 (see Fuentes et al., 2011 referenced in the in situ Research Paper).

Although marking nests may mitigate against vehicles driving over the nests, the in situ Research Paper suggests that it invites human tampering.

Since 2004, a portion of the egg clutches at Rancho Nuevo in Mexico have been left to incubate in situ and usually tightly clustered to increase the likelihood of predator swamping upon hatchling emergence. The beach at Rancho Nuevo is less than 19 miles long and the main predators of hatchlings are birds and coyotes. Without the high tides, debris and numerous predators that the Beach has, and the greater likelihood of predator swamping upon emergence because Rancho Nuevo has a small beach and more tight clusters of a substantial number of eggs (which is not possible at the Beach because of its length and fewer nests), the in situ incubation of eggs at Rancho Nuevo has a substantially greater likelihood of success than does the in situ incubation of eggs on the Beach.

The following observations and recommendations are offered after examination of the data and discussions in the in situ Research Paper:

• As a result of the debris on the Beach, the large number of predators on the Beach, an increasing number of high tides on the Beach, the warming of the environment because of climate change and the length of the Beach resulting in a lesser likelihood of predator swamping compared to the beaches in Mexico, the in situ incubation of Turtle eggs on the Beach will result in a much higher mortality than will result from eggs incubated at the Facility or in corrals.

• Because of the greater prospect of human tampering of nests marked by stakes or otherwise (or of being walked over if unmarked) in high use areas (such as, Malaquite Beach and MM 0-5, or further down the Beach if then highly utilized), leaving nests in situ incubation in those areas will result in a high likelihood of substantial nest damage.

• Because of food droppings in high use areas resulting in more predators, leaving nests in situ incubation in those areas will result in a high likelihood of substantial nest damage. (This will likely occur, even if beach visitors are not then present in such areas.)

• To maximize hatchling survival in high use areas, the eggs should be moved to the Facility or a corral.

• Eggs in nests on the remainder of the Beach may be left in situ incubation, subject to being moved if deposited in a dangerous location.

• The substantial number of turtle volunteers who assist the NPS can be utilized to mark eggs in situ incubation on the remainder of the Beach past the high use areas which have a significant drive-over risk, and to notify the NPS of any eggs which should be moved.

• Since, as the in situ Research Paper clearly indicates, any eggs left on the Beach are at a very high mortality risk from the factors above discussed, the likelihood of a vehicle drive-over is a lesser risk than the predator and environmental risks to the eggs and should be deemed acceptable if it occurs.

• If sampling studies indicate an unacceptable mortality to in situ incubated nests, then more nests need to be marked or eggs gathered and placed in the Facility or a corral.

• If as a result of global warming the species are in danger because of the lack of male hatchlings, then the NPS needs to be prepared to increase use of the incubation equipment at the Facility, which can create primarily males, if desired, and use of corrals which can create more males if needed by using a cover over the enclosure and watering the eggs.

• The Scoping Request mentions that the Facility may not survive a direct hit from a hurricane. The fact that the Facility might not survive a hurricane is a very distressing fact. Since as discussed above the Facility will be needed to incubate eggs, the NPS should consider moving all of the equipment in the facility to higher ground and into a more protected and secure building.

It is legal chicanery to argue that hatchling losses resulting from human caused mortality factors (such as, human beach debris or high tides, global warming, ocean current changes and damage to food sources resulting from climate change caused by humans) are materially different from vehicle caused mortality, especially since the latter is an insignificant factor when all causes of hatchling deaths are considered.

The incidental taking of eggs by vehicles on the Beach should not be a problem in view of the remarks of Dawn Whitehead of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) at a meeting held on September 16, 2009 attended by representatives of the NPS, FSW, CAC and others stating “that it would be possible to lose all of the Turtles on PINS and the species would still not be in jeopardy” [PEPC Comment ID# 219645 (pp 33-34) of the FONSI]

Although the 2021 Report treats the existence of beach visitors driving on the Beach as a negative, the NPS should not lose sight of the many benefits that having volunteer turtle patrollers, beach comers, fisherpersons, surfers, bird watchers and other observers on the beach offer. Turtle patrollers offer considerable assistance to the STSR Program. Beach visitors assist in cleaning up the Beach. Not only are turtle and other wildlife problems routinely reported by beach visitors, illegal activities (such as, drugs and illegal immigrants) and other problems are often reported. Beach visitors often find turtle nests or injured or dead turtles and other dead wildlife and report them to the NPS or other appropriate organization. Recently on February 20, 2023, a beach visitor found two turtles dead on the Beach, one of whom was apparently killed by a coyote. Such deaths were reported to the NPS along with their location and pictures. Bird watchers routinely do wildlife counts and advise the NPS or others of wildlife issues on the Beach. Shark fishermen assist government agencies and others with DNA sampling, tagging, measurement and other data on sharks that they catch and release, which efforts benefit worldwide shark study and management. Beach visitors routinely assist other visitors needing assistance and occasionally are requested by a Ranger for assistance. Beach visitors also provide other useful information to wildlife management and rehabilitation organizations. For example, the beach visitor who found the dead turtles also found five dead pelicans on the Beach the same day, which was reported. Since Park Rangers often do not drive past the MM 5, it is often up to beach visitors to provide information and assistance on beach problems occurring down the Beach.

Having less beach visitors (or alienating such visitors so they cease visiting the Beach) is not a positive move for the NPS, and negatively impacts the Coastal Bend economy.

Economic Benefit of PINS to the Coastal Bend Community

It is important that PINS have an amicable and mutually beneficial working relationship with cities and communities in the Coastal Bend and its business leaders. The NPS should consult with such leaders before making management decisions with respect to PINS which might economically impact such cities, communities and businesses (such as, curtailing the number of viewing events of hatchling releases or any attempt to close the Beach).

On April 24, 2017, the Corpus Christi Business News stated that the 643,013 visitors to Padre Island National Seashore last year spent $27 million in the cities and communities in the Coastal Bend. According to a National Park Service report, that spending supported 406 local jobs and boosted the economy by $31 million. It contained the following quote from then Superintendent Mark Spier, “Padre Island National Seashore welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world. National Park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning more than $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it’s a big factor in our local economy as well.”

The NPS has substantially reduced the of number public hatchling release viewing events at the Beach. For many years pre-Covid, the NPS held between 20 and 27 hatchling release viewing events annually. No events were held in 2020, and the release events in 2021 were substantially reduced from before. Only 7 release events were held in 2022. The Scoping Request states that the NPS intends to “Hold fewer public hatchling releases and/or limit crowd size; focus releases on public education”. The public hatchling release events are a significant attraction for Texas families and a major reason that they visit PINS and the Coastal Bend. The NPS should reconsider, and instead hold more public release viewing events (such as, between 20 to 27 a year), instead of reducing the events further below 7 a year. It is in the interest of the NPS to instill at a young age a desire in children to protect endangered species. No better method of doing so exists than letting a child actually see an endangered species crawl to the ocean.

A study by George R. Parsons and Ami Kang, entitled “Valuing Beach Closures on the Padre Island Seashore” concluded based upon a study performed in 2001 that the cost of closing PINS for a weekday in July was $53,000 (assuming 1,802 visitors) and $86,000 for a weekend day (assuming 5,755 visitors). The daily loss in 2023 would, of course, be considerably greater. (, pp17). Obviously, the city, community and business leaders in the Coastal Bend affected by any such proposed closure would vigoursly oppose any such action.

Comments to Pilot Studies

The proposed Pilot Studies are too statistically insignificant, controlled and biased to deliver objective or reliable data and should not be conducted. The in situ Research Paper has already fully presented objective and independent data on the in situ incubation of Turtle eggs on the Beach. It would be easy to implement and manipulate these proposed Pilot Studies to deliver the desired result.

We are strongly opposed to Pilot Study 3. The compatibility of vehicles on the Beach with the STSR Program has been thoroughly and favorably addressed in the FONSI. Not only will the data secured by such Study be totally unreliable and unscientific, it will be viewed by the public and others as a scheme to develop manufactured and sham data to ultimately limit driving on the Beach. Because of the distrust which already exists, as discussed above and below, implementation of such Study (or a study on beach driving permits) will be viewed by the public and others as a signal that the NPS is intent on finding some pretense to justify closing off beach access to the public during Turtle nesting season, and that they should commence defensive actions.

Comments to Sand Management

We appreciate that as a result of the reoccurring storms, high tides and strong winds in the area that beach erosion and shifting sands is a continuing problem.

To facilitate use of PINS as a park and recreation area, the entrance to the Beach should be better maintained, especially around holidays. The NPS previously maintain the first 5-miles of the Beach so that it was accessible by 2-wheel drive vehicles. It should do so again. If the first 5-miles becomes too crowded, then maintenance of an additional portion of the Beach should be performed. The City of Corpus Christi maintains its beaches so that they are 2-wheel drive accessible most of the time and especially around holidays. The NPS should also do so for the first 5-miles (or more miles, if needed). If a road behind the dunes is constructed, its entrance to the Beach should be similarly maintained. In addition, the entrance to Yarboro Pass should be maintained and kept open.

Comments to Beach Driving Permits or Limits on Capacity

We are opposed to beach driving permits or the utilization of any other method to limit beach access or beach utilization. PINS has 61 miles of Beach so ample beach exists for everyone.

The 2021 Review on page 26 discussed essentially closing the Beach between April 1-July 15. The NPS proposed to so by using the technique of requiring vehicle driving permits for each vehicle with the fees charged for such permits to be commensurate with the cost of the NPS operating the Turtle mitigation program. Since the STSR Program has nearly a $2M annual operating budget, such fee could be enormous. It is indisputable that the imposing of a permit and/or charging a fee to access the Beach between April and July 15th is clearly designed to limit beach access during such period. Any such permits or charges would be in violation the TOBA and the Deed.

Any limitation on beach access (other than based upon an emergency) should be considered a violation of the TOBA and the Deed.

Comments to Creation of New Road to Bypass the First Five Miles

A paved road behind the dunes to bypass the first 5-miles of the Beach is a good idea if the construction and maintenance costs are not too high. If such road is constructed, the end should contain a turn-around so that vehicles can easily turn around if the entrance to the Beach appears to be too dangerous to access. The TGLO letter suggested that a road behind the dunes be considered.

While doing an NEPA study on the road, we suggest that the NPS also consider the addition of a walking/biking trail beside such road together with an adjacent parking area and vehicle-free walking paths from such parking area through the wetlands to bird and wildlife viewing areas.

Comments to Creation of Additional Vehicle-Free Areas

In addition to the above discussed parking area, vehicle-free walking paths and viewing areas, the NPS should consider constructing a parking area off of the Yarboro Pass Road with vehicle-free trails to wetland and wildlife viewing areas.

The Beach does not need additional vehicle-free areas. The walk-area at Malaquite Beach is not fully utilized and needs additional improvements to increase its utilization. Additional parking areas and dune walkovers that are handicap accessible need to be constructed towards the ends of Malaquite Beach to enhance the full utilization of the walk-area.

Comments on Hurricane and Storm Recovery Related Closures

During the most recent hurricane beach closure, the NPS response and reopening of the Beach was much too slow. Hurricanes and violent storms have occurred frequently over the years. In the past the Beach was not closed for weeks to search for possible newly unearthed artifacts, as occurred recently. This beach closing to search for artifacts was totally unwarranted. Has the NPS conducted a cost analysis to determine if the cost of searching for artifacts and loss in revenue from the beach closure was offset by the value of the artifacts found? The value of such artifacts certainly did not exceed the economic loss that the Coastal Bend area suffered as a result of such closure.

In the future, the Beach should be opened to access as soon as possible. Buildings should be opened on an individual basis so long as such building is safe for occupancy.

Concluding Comments

In 2012, the NPS completed the Environmental Assessment and FONSI (discussed above) and established a beach management plan for PINS, particularly with respect to its turtle recovery program and vehicles on the Beach. No material changes have occurred on PINS in the last ten years which necessitate a change to its current beach management plan with respect to its turtle program and vehicles on the Beach. Internal politics and strife within the NPS are not justification for a another NEPA study. Having another study now is an abuse of NEPA. The current Scoping Request with respect to the PINS turtle program and vehicles on the Beach is not needed and should not be included.

A widespread belief exists that the NPS desires to use the STSR Program [or utilize some other method (such as, a permit and/or fee for beach access from April through July 15th)] to justify partially or totally closing public access to the Beach during Turtle nesting season. As discussed above, the Beach is unique from any other beach managed by the NPS. The TOBA [and the reversionary rights that the State of Texas has retained through the reverter clause found in Senate Bill 6 (Acts 1963, 58th Leg., ch.38, eff. April 4, 1963) authorizing the transfer resulting in the creation of PINS and incorporated into the Deed] prevents the NPS from closing beach access (except in the case of emergencies). The NPS has been warned by the TGLO that any closure of the Beach to vehicular access or any prevention of the public’s use and enjoyment of the Beach will be in violation of the TOBA and may subject the property to the reversion.

The personnel within the NPS responsible for dictating policy on PINS are generally non-Texans and may not appreciate our culture and are disturbed by the existence of the TOBA, which hinders their actions. Texans are different, as discussed above (as is its political culture), and will not willingly accept the closing of a Texas beach, especially by a federal agency. The visitors to the Beach regularly assist the NPS with its management of PINS (including, its STSR Program, its beach clean-up, the reporting of wildlife problems and in other areas) and should not be alienated. The NPS and the FWS need to reach a solution for management of the STSR Program which does not involve limiting beach access to any portion of the Beach.

The in situ Research Study sets forth ample data negating any necessity for the proposed Pilot Studies. The above discussions set forth a reasonable course of action for the NPS to follow in its management of the STSR Program.

The NPS should endeavor to be a better community partner. Instead of having 7 turtle hatchling viewing events (as occurred in 2022) or less (as is proposed in the Scoping Request), the NPS should have 20 to 27 viewing events annually, as it did pre-Covid. Visitors to PINS (and particularly visitors wanting to view the turtle hatchling release events) spend many millions of dollars in the Coastal Bend. Limiting the number of viewing events or closing the Beach negatively impacts the Coastal Bend and its businesses economically.

It is not believed that issuance of a NEPA study orchestrated and requested by the NPS permitting closure of the Beach will prevent the State of Texas from filing a suit under the TOBA or from exercising its right of reversion, if the NPS closes the Beach based upon the NEPA study. The State of Texas can take the property back, subject to the NEPA study, and then legally challenge its validity and underlying data.

It is a shame that the NPS by its previous and recent actions has generated so much public distrust. We recognize that some of this distrust has arisen because of misunderstandings or misinformation, but, unfortunately, some is justified. Hopefully, this Scoping Request will be handled in a manner which partially alleviates this distrust. Proposing closing of any portion of the Beach for any reason, no matter how short (except in the case of an emergency), will not help alleviate this distrust. The findings issued in connection with the Scoping Request should acknowledge that the Beach is subject to the TOBA, and that the NPS will not close the Beach in connection with its management of the STSR Program. The NPS doesn’t want the next State slogan to be “Don’t Mess With Texans’ Beach Access Rights”!

Yours very truly

Nick Meyer
Nick Meyer



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