Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., today introduced a bill in House of
Representatives that seeks to overturn both the National Park Service’s
final rule for off-road vehicles on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore
and a court-approved consent decree that settled a lawsuit filed
against the Park Service by environmental groups.
Preserving Access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational
Area Act would return management of seashore resources to the Interim
Protected Species Management Strategy and Environmental Assessment,
issued by the Park Service on June 13, 2007.
In a media release, Jones said the bill would “restore reasonable
pedestrian and motorized access” to the seashore.
The interim strategy, the release notes, was backed up by a 113-page
Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which
found that the plan would not jeopardize the species of concern, namely
piping plovers and sea turtles.
federal government needs to remember that Cape Hatteras was established
to be a recreational area for the American people,” Congressman Jones
said in a statement issued by his office. “But taxpayers
recreate without access to the beach. The goal of management
ought to be a balanced approach between visitor access and species
protection. The Final Rule falls short of that
interim strategy comes much closer to hitting the
4094 specifies that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior
cannot impose additional restrictions on pedestrian or motorized access
to the seashore other than those specified in the interim strategy or
specifically authorized by the legislation.
additional restrictions, the bill says, must be based on peer-reviewed
science and be open to public comment.
restrictions are allowed only to protect species listed as endangered
under the Endangered Species Act and they must restrict recreational
activities for the least possible time on the smallest possible
portions of the beach.
for endangered species must not be greater than restrictions in effect
for that species at any other national seashore.
finally, to the maximum extent possible, the secretary must designate
pedestrian and vehicle corridors of minimal distance around any
additional restricted areas to allow access to areas that are not
legislation specifies that the interim plan will remain in effect until
the secretary issues a new final rule that meets the requirements on
restrictions set forth in the bill.
4094 was greeted warmly by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation
Alliance (CHAPA), a grassroots organizations committed to balancing
recreational access with resource management.
appreciate the efforts of Congressman Jones and the leadership he has
shown for preserving access to this American treasure, so it can
continue to be used by the people for its intended recreational
purpose,” said CHAPA president John Couch in a media release.
release says access to the seashore has been “severely limited” by the
Park Service’s final ORV plan and rule, which became effective on Feb.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area,” CHAPA says, “has
been a popular destination for American families seeking affordable,
family-oriented beach vacations. Under the final rule, access
some of the most popular areas is no longer available. This
restricted access for many, including the disabled and elderly, and
caused financial harm to the communities surrounding the seashore.”
legislation was filed on the heels of a lawsuit that CHAPA filed
earlier this month in federal court in Washington, D.C., challenging
the final plan and regulation, mostly on the basis that the process was
The 2007 Interim Protected Species Management Plan and Environmental
Assessment was a publicly vetted plan for managing the seashore until
an ORV plan and final rule were written.
At the time, the Park Service envisioned that the details of that plan
would be worked out by seashore stakeholders in a negotiated rulemaking
However, before that committee officially began its work and just
months after the publication of the interim plan, a lawsuit was filed
against the Park Service by Defenders of Wildlife and National Audubon
Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Canter.
The lawsuit claimed that the Park Service was allowing ORV use on the
seashore without a plan and rule, which are required by law, and that
the interim plan did not adequately protect nesting shorebirds and
Dare and Hyde counties and CHAPA were allowed by the court to enter the
case as defendant-intervenors.
Federal District Court Judge Terrence Boyle made it clear that he
considered that without a plan, ORVs were operating illegally on the
seashore and that he was prepared to stop vehicle use on the beaches.
After that, in April, 2008, all parties to the lawsuit signed off on a
consent decree that modified the interim plan to include much larger
closures and protections for birds and turtles than had been used by
the Park Service in the past.
The seashore was to operate under the terms of the consent decree until
there was a final plan and regulation.
The negotiated rulemaking committee ended its work in the winter of
2009 without reaching a consensus on the details of the final plan.
The Park Service then began the work of developing an Environmental
Impact Statement and final ORV plan and special regulation with several
public comment periods along the way.
That final regulation was published in January and became effect Feb.
Because of the CHAPA lawsuit seeking to overturn the final rule, the
consent decree, set to expire on Feb. 15, was kept in place by Boyle at
a status hearing in his court last week.
The park continues to operate under the ORV plan and final rule as the
CHAPA case proceeds in Washington.
This is Jones’ third attempt to overturn the consent decree through
In June, 2008, he introduced a bill in the House to return the
seashore’s management to the interim plan. A bill was
concurrently introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and
then Sen. Elizabeth Dole, also a Republican.
That bill had hearing in a Senate committee and a House subcommittee
and died when the Senate committee refused to send the bill to the
floor for a vote.
Jones introduced his bill again in January, 2009. It was
referred to committee, where no action was ever taken.
The current bill, H.R. 4094, is much more detailed than the first two
and has been sent to the House Natural Resources Committee.
Today, Jim Keene, a director of the North Carolina Beach Buggy
Association, emphasized the importance of people getting involved
throughout the United States.
He explained, “The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is
controlled by Congress. That is why it is vital that people
everyone contact their elected leaders in Washington now and ask them
to support House Bill 4094.”
Coincidentally, a grassroots effort has gotten underway on the popular
website, Change.org., to get Congress to overturn the final rule.
That petition to members of Congress has been signed by more than
12,000 people in just a little more than a week.
Click here to read H.R. 4094,
introduced today by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones
The Interim Protected Species Management Strategy is available on the
park planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=358&projectID=13331&documentID=19796
The Change.org petition can be found at http://www.change.org/petitions/the-us-senate-remove-the-orv-rule-and-provide-free-and-open-access
Other articles on the effort by the Park Service to formulate an ORV
plan and final rule can be found on the Island Free Press
website. Go to the bottom of the Front Page, click on the
Archives bar. From there, you can look for past stories by
on the Beach Access and Park Issues Page.