GEORGE E. B. HOLDING
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday - MAY 17, 2007
VEHICULAR TRESPASSING ON REFUGE
PROPERTY IMPACTS WILDLIFE
ELIZABETH CITY - United States Attorney George E. B. Holding announced that WILLIAM SANDERLIN, 41, was sentenced in federal court in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, Monday, May 14, 2007, for trespassing with a motor vehicle on the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. On November 25, 2006, it was discovered SANDERLIN had parked a motor vehicle next to and behind one of the signs that indicates the refuge property is closed to vehicular traffic. The Refuge is located in Currituck County, North Carolina, adjacent to that area known as the “North Beach Strand” and its objective is to protect and improve the last remaining habitat of the piping plover, loggerhead, sea turtle, and seabeach amaranth. “While this defendant’s single act was not egregious, the combined effect of similar trespasses has significant negative impact on the refuge,” stated United States Attorney George Holding. “This sentencing confirms our interest in upholding the objectives of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuse.”
At his trial on January 8, 2007, SANDERLIN argued many use the eastern edge of the refuge when the tide or other circumstances causes the beach to be narrow, so as to not block access to others using the beach as a north-south throughway. Upon finding SANDERLIN guilty of the charged trespassing, United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle ordered a study of the impact of motorized vehicular travel across the refuge to be considered in SANDERLIN’s sentencing.
That report, made public by Judge Boyle, indicates an average of 7000 vehicles a day use the North Beach Strand to access points between the end of Highway 12 in Corolla and the Virginia border. According to Refuge Officer Robert Vanderpool, tide conditions make the Strand itself impassable as many as four hours per day. During this time, traffic diverts to the west across the refuge boundary. The impact study indicates such traffic negatively impacts wildlife directly (specifically, the piping plover, loggerhead sea turtles, ghost crabs, terns, gulls, and various plant species) as well as damaging their habitat and food chains. Additionally, the destruction of vegetation through motor vehicle traffic also leads to significant erosion, as the strength and amount of vegetation which holds the dunes in place is degraded.
For his role in trespassing on the Refuge by parking a vehicle inside the boundary, SANDERLIN was fined $200 and ordered to stay off the refuge.
Investigation of the case was conducted by United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Assistant United States Attorney Barbara Kocher prosecuted the case.
News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.