Sens. Richard Burr, R.-N.C., and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., today introduced in
the Senate the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act, a
bill that would overturn the National Park Service’s final off-road
vehicle plan and reinstate the Interim Management Strategy governing
vehicle use on Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The reinstatement of the original Interim Management Strategy, issued
by the National Park Service on June 13, 2007, would set aside current
mandates and requirements that were put in place in the wake of a
consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina that prevent ORV and citizen access to a
significant portion of this Seashore.
The Senate bill is identical to a bill introduced in the House on Feb. 28 by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R.-N.C.
That bill, H.R. 4094, is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow morning
before the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public
“Restricting ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a
negative impact on local communities and the local economy,” Burr
said. “We must ensure that our state’s residents have access to
North Carolina’s scenic treasures, and I am confident we can come to a
compromise that allows people to have access while at the same time
addressing any potential environmental concerns.”
"While I fully support efforts to protect all of North Carolina’s
coastlines, I believe the final ORV rule issued by the Park
Service in January 2012 did not strike the necessary balance
between protecting the environment and the needs of the local
community,” said Hagan. “As Dare County continues to recover from the
damages caused by Hurricane Irene, it is critical that residents and
visitors have access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore."
If this bill is enacted, the National Park Service’s Interim Management
Strategy will go into effect immediately and end upon the National Park
Service establishing a new long-term off-road vehicle management plan
that meets the requirements set forth in the legislation.
The legislation 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.
Any 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
In December 2005, the NPS began the negotiation process to create
regulations that would allow the seashore to meet its compliance
standards, and in June 2007, an Interim Management Strategy was
implemented to provide a framework for regulating the seashore while
the NPS developed its long-term plan. This Interim Management
Strategy allowed for controlled ORV access to the beaches.
However, on July 17, 2007, an injunction was filed by the Defenders of
Wildlife and the National Audubon Society to prevent ORV use until a
final management plan was established and approved by NPS. A settlement
negotiation process ensued, and on April 30, 2008, a federal judge
approved a consent decree that required all seashore ramps to be closed
to ORVs from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., created buffers for nests and chicks
that are clearly defined and in some cases more restrictive, and ruled
that deliberate violations of the buffers would result in an expanded
In February 2012, the NPS implemented final rules, requiring that ORVs
must obtain permits to access the seashore, further limiting the
accessibility of the park to vehicles.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read the Senate bill, The Preserving Public Access to the Cape Hatteras Beaches Act.
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