Wednesday, March 24, 2010

HB 4867 - The Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act

On March 17, U.S. Representative Walter B. Jones (NC-3) introduced H.R. 4867, the Corolla Wild Horse Protection Act. The bill would require the U. S. Department of the Interior, the State of North Carolina, the County of Currituck and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund to craft a new herd management plan that would allow for a herd of no less than 100 horses. The current management plan calls for a maximum herd size of 60. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has maintained that if the wild herd were managed at that level, the herd would be highly likely to have a genetic collapse and die out.
A preliminary report completed in the spring of 2008 by Dr. E. Gus Cothran, a leading equine geneticist and expert on feral herds, found high levels of inbreeding and low levels of genetic diversity at a herd size of 90. Dr. Cothran is currently completing more in depth DNA study, including a mitochondrial analysis. What he is finding is disturbing. “The Corolla herd has really low diversity. It is really going to be important that new genes are introduced. There is only one maternal lineage left. The Shackleford herd has 4 different types.”
Congressman Jones sponsored similar legislation that was enacted into law in 1998 to protect the wild horses roaming 3,000 acres of Cape Lookout National Seashore, Shackleford Banks, in Carteret County. That herd is managed at no less than 110 with a target number of 120 to 130. “These beautiful horses are an essential piece of eastern North Carolina’s heritage,” said Congressman Jones. “This bill will help protect the viability of the Corolla herd so people can enjoy them for years to come.”
An aerial count in October of 2009 revealed a herd size of only 88. The recent discovery of a dead stallion brings that official number to 87. According to CWHF Herd Manager, Wesley Stallings, “in addition to the damage done by excessive inbreeding, a small herd size leaves the horses extremely vulnerable to being completely wiped out by disease or hurricane.”
The wild horses of Northeast North Carolina have found a champion in Congressman Jones and wild horses all over the world have benefitted from the work of Dr. Cothran. We hope and pray that the United States Congress will put this bill through in a timely fashion. The lives of the Corolla wild horses literally depend upon it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Horses or Hotel?

On February 9th, the Currituck County Planning Board denied a request by Swan Beach Corolla LLC (owned by developer Gerald Friedman) to rezone 37.36 acres in Swan Beach (the 4 wheel drive area where the wild horses live) from residential to general business. Currently there is no commercial development or businesses permitted in what is known as the RO2 district.

On May 3rd, Mr. Friedman and/or his representatives will present their case to the Board of Commissioners at a public hearing. This is not the first time Mr. Friedman has made this request. In 2004, he requested that 18.88 acres be rezoned to general business. When he was denied the last time, Mr. Friedman stated “The horses have 12,000 acres (actually they have 7,257) and I only have 25.”

What Friedman is proposing for his 37.36 acres is an inn and accessory uses to include a wellness center, indoor and outdoor pools, fishing pier, stores, a helipad, a chapel, fire and rescue station, and most disturbing of all – a corral for the wild horses. The proposal for the inn “limits” the density to 302 units! The proposed name of the inn is Swan Beach Preserve. By definition, preserve means to protect; conserve; safeguard; defend; save; care for. The antonym? Destroy.

Mr. Friedman contends that when he bought the property in 1969, a portion of the tracts were zoned for business. In 1975, the Currituck County commissioners rezoned the entire off road area for residential use only, and now 35 years after that, Mr. Friedman feels that it isn’t fair that he can’t develop his land for business.

The off road area is one of the last underdeveloped areas on the east coast. That doesn’t mean houses aren’t being built, they are. But the north beach is not built to saturation and there is still plenty of land and forage for the wild horses and other wildlife. It is the areas of undeveloped, rugged, unspoiled beauty, frequented by our historic wild horses, that separate this beach from all others. It is up to all of us – residents, visitors, and government to fiercely protect what is left. We must work together to see that every house built is constructed in a manner and size that is respectful of the available resources, eco-system, wildlife, and residents.

A hotel does not belong in the RO2 district. Not now. Not ever. Mr. Friedman has developed a significant amount of Corolla south of the horse fence and still owns a considerable amount of undeveloped property in Corolla. He has made quite a nice living from building hundreds of houses on the northern Outer Banks. When is it ever enough?