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Coupland v. Morton

Citation: 5 ELR 20504
No. No. 145-73-N, 7 ERC 1965/(E.D. Va., 02/27/1975)

The court upholds the validity of Interior Department regulations severly restricting motorized traffic from traversing the beach of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Virginia. The United States gained full title and full interest to the refuge beach by condemnation in 1938, and such condemnation obliterated any state public trust protection for passage, at least for such passage as is inimical to the wildlife protective purposes of the refuge. The restrictions are not unconstitutionally discriminatory in permitting passage to emergency and service vehicles and year-round residents of the Outer Banks of North Carolina who established residence prior to January, 1972 while denying it to new beachfront lot and second homeowners. Nor do they exceed the Secretary's authority under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, or the Recreation Act of 1962. When the Interior Department acts affirmatively to protect the environmental integrity of a refuge it need not promulgate an EIS, and in any event the one prepared in connection with these regulations was acceptable under NEPA. No consideration of alternate access to beach property for those new owners who formerly used the refuge beach as a sand highway is necessary since such use was inimical to the purposes of the wildlife refuge.

Counsel for Appellants
Thomas H. Willcox, Jr.
Willcox, Savage, Lawrence, Dickson & Spindle
1800 Virginia National Bank Building
Norfolk, Va. 23510

Counsel for Appellees
Neil T. Proto
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

Edwart R. Baird Asst. U.S. Attorney
Federal Building
600 Granby Street
Norfolk, Va. 23510