| September 26, 2008
Negotiated rulemaking meetings will be moved from Hatteras
By IRENE NOLAN
future meetings of the negotiated rulemaking committee that is trying
to formulate a long-range ORV plan for the Cape Hatteras National
Seashore will be at the pavilion at the Wright Brothers National
Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.
None of the future meetings will be on Hatteras Island. Previous
meetings have alternated between Hatteras locations and locations on
the northern beaches – mostly in hotels.
Seashore superintendent Mike Murray said yesterday that the location
change “will enable the NPS to accommodate more of the general
public at the meetings.” It will also, he said, allow the Park
Service to “assume control of meeting security through NPS law
enforcement and manage any perceived or actual threats to committee
Some of the 29 members of the negotiating committee and their
alternates have complained about threats and harassment. Murray
said some of the complaints were made to him in writing and some were
verbal. The number of complaints, he said, over several months
was more than five but fewer than 10.
Murray said he made the decision to move the meetings off Hatteras on
the “unequivocal advice from the process experts” –
including solicitors for the Department of the Interior, other DOI
advisers, and the Institute for Conflict Resolution.
“I need to do what I can to protect the committee members,” Murray said in a phone interview.
“The relocation,” he added, “is more directly tied to
the poor treatment some committee members have received in the
“In general terms, the meetings have been civil,” Murray said.
He said that most of the complaints about harassment and intimidation
of committee members have occurred in situations outside of the
meetings – in the community.
He said he has no control over those incidents but that he felt a
responsibility to conduct the meetings in a “facility where the
Park Service can provide the security to make sure meetings are
conducted in a safe atmosphere.”
Meetings at the Park Service’s pavilion, he said, would put the
meetings in a neutral location and may help the committee focus more on
reaching consensus and less on “outside behavior” that
affects interpersonal communications among committee members.
And, he said, it may help members feel more comfortable in voicing
The 29-member committee, with its 29 alternates, is made up of all of
the various stakeholders in the issue of ORV access to the Cape
Hatteras National Seashore. This includes environmental groups,
who would like to limit access to protect natural resources, and
pro-access groups, who advocate for continued free and open access for
ORVs on the beaches.
At a recent committee meeting in Avon, the argument boiled down to two
opposing viewpoints. The environmental groups take the approach
that the beaches are closed to vehicles unless they can be opened and
still protect wildlife and other resources. On the other side are
pro-access groups that believe all the seashore’s beaches should
be open, unless there is a compelling reason to close them.
The committee started its formal meetings in January and must finish
its work by January of next year. Along the way, the two sides of
the issue have become increasingly polarized, and very little progress
has been made negotiating resources protection, ORV routes on the
beach, and such issues as ORV closures in front of the island’s
Murray concedes that moving the meetings from Hatteras may further
exacerbate antagonism against environmental groups, the Park Service,
and the negotiated rulemaking process.
He stressed, though, that the Park Service’s goal was to give the
committee the “best chance possible” to reach consensus –
at least on some of the issues.
“We are running out of time,” Murray said. “I still
think it’s possible to make a deal, but people need to be willing
A large issue at a two-day negotiated rulemaking committee meeting in
Avon earlier this month was public access and transparency of the
process of this federally appointed group.
Warren Judge, a committee member and chairman of the Dare County Board
of Commissioners, offered that the county would pay to videotape the
meetings, which last all day, and make them available on cable
television’s government access channel and perhaps on the Dare
Murray, as the committee’s designated federal official, polled
the group on their views. Only six said they objected to the
taping of the meetings.
Murray said in today’s interview that he had not yet made a final
decision on allowing the meetings to be videotaped. He said a
decision would be made before the next committee meeting in November.
Judge is unhappy with the Park Service dragging of its feet on the issue of public access to its proceedings.
“How unfair to deny our rights, the peoples’ rights, their
right to access to see how 29 men and women are negotiating their
access to an American treasure, to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Recreational Area, land taken from people but with the promise that we
would always be able to hunt, fish and access the beach as we were
In addition to moving the meetings to Kill Devil Hills, Murray announced that the Oct. 22-23 meeting will be cancelled.
“This will allow NPS the time to complete its work on ORV
management alternatives,” Murray said in a media release,
“so it can share that information with the committee and the
public, and shift all remaining full committee meeting time until
after those alternatives are made available. In addition, the
cancellation will give the committee members time to continue work in
subcommittees, an informal opportunity to reflect on the
committee’s efforts and progress to date, and a chance to renew
their focus on the primary purpose of the committee, which is to assist
NPS with negotiating a consensus alternative for long-term ORV
management and regulation.”
Murray also said the Park Service will complete the executive summary
of public comments received on the ORV management Alternatives Options
Workbook and post it on the NPS Planning, Environment and Public
Comment (PEPC) website by November 1, 2008. The full compilation
of workbook comments are available on-line in a PDF format at:
He noted that the Park Service is also working to finalize and release
to the committee and the public the NPS draft ORV management
alternatives to be later included in the Draft Environmental Impact
Statement (DEIS) that is being developed under the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
In addition, Murray’s release to the committee, the public, and the media noted:
At the November meeting, NPS will ask committee members to reaffirm
their commitment to the groundrules. NPS believes the committee
needs to keep focused on the substantive issues at hand, more now than
ever. These groundrules include the following responsibilities:
• Members commit to the principles of decency,
civility, and tolerance. Parties must be willing to envision and
shape a future for all users and people interested in the seashore,
including descendants of families living on the Outer Banks when the
seashore was established, current property owners and visitors, and
those that care about the accessibility, ecology, and/or preservation
of the national seashore and national parks.
• Parties also must be willing to accept there
are different views (locally, regionally, and nationally) and the
different stakeholders each have a legitimate interest and right to be
part of determining the solutions. Committee representatives must
exercise leadership within their respective constituencies to foster a
climate of joint problem solving on the Committee and publicly, to keep
their constituencies informed, and to ensure their constituents support
rather than undermine the process.
• Members and alternates understand that a
decision to take legal, political, or media action may seriously
• Committee members will not attribute
statements to others involved in this negotiated rulemaking, seek to
present or represent the views or position of other members or
alternates, nor attempt to speak on behalf of the committee as a whole
in or to the media.
• Personal attacks, name calling, and other such
negative behaviors will be addressed immediately, either privately or
publicly, by committee members and facilitators.
• If a member does not abide by various
provisions of the groundrules, then NPS, after consultation with the
facilitators, will record this “breach” of these
groundrules in writing, post it on the project Web site, include it in
the administrative record, and distribute it to all Committee members
and alternates for their use as they see fit, including use in any
formal submittals to a court.
“NPS is committed to completing the negotiated rulemaking process
and commends the committee for its hard work on these very difficult
issues,” Murray said. “As the Designated Federal
Officer (DFO), I want to ensure that the remaining meetings are managed
to give the committee its best chance of success. I intend, and
encourage all committee members, to make the most of the remaining
opportunity to negotiate an ORV management alternative and regulation
that everyone can accept.”
The next negotiated rulemaking committee meeting will be Friday and
Saturday, Nov. 14 and 15, in the pavilion of the Wright Brothers
National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. The public can
attend. The meetings usually begin at 8:30 a.m. and end around 5
p.m. Members of the public can comment around noon each day and
at 5 p.m. on the first day of the meeting.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
More information on the negotiated rulemaking process and the
negotiated rulemaking meeting in early September in Avon is available
on the Beach Access Issues Page.