UPDATE: Jones’ bill to set aside ORV plan passes in U.S. House
By IRENE NOLAN
H.R. 4094, which sets aside the Park Service’s off-road vehicle plan
and final rule at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore passed in the
U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon by a vote of 232-188.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., was one of 14
bills that passed as H.R. 2578 – the Conservation and Economic Growth
The bill passed largely along party lines, with Republicans favoring
passage and Democrats opposing. However, 19 Republicans voted
against the bill, while 16 Democrats voted for it.
“This grouping of bills will advance important local projects and
policies that will have a direct impact on job creation and economic
growth in communities throughout the country. The majority of
these bills have received bipartisan support and encourage tourism,
recreation, and responsible use of our public lands and resources,”
said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings in
announcing today’s session.
Today’s floor action on the legislation began at noon with almost an
hour and a half of consideration of procedural rules, including rules
for the debate and amendments.
The debate on the bills was limited to 90 minutes, with the number of
amendments limited and debate on amendments limited to 10 minutes.
Although the afternoon dragged on until the final vote at about 5:40
p.m., Jones’ legislative director, Joshua Bowlen, said this was the
“quick version” of passing legislation.
“It’s a great step forward,” Bowlen said, “though there are still hurdles to overcome.”
Those hurdles will apparently come in the Senate, controlled by
Democrats, who were outspoken in their opposition to many of the bills
in the Conservation and Economic Growth Act, especially one dealing
with control of the U.S. borders.
H.R. 2578 now moves forward to the Senate, where several Democratic
Congressmen declared today on the House floor it has “zero” chance of
However, a companion bill to H.R. 4094 will have a hearing, along with
10 other National Park Service bills, in the Senate Committee on Energy
and Natural Resources next Wednesday, June 27, at 3 p.m.
The bill, S 2372, was introduced on April 26 by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr,
R-N.C., and is co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C. The title of
the bill is the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act,
and it is identical to the House bill.
It is good, Bowlen said, that the bill has bi-partisan support in the
Senate and the support of North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue.
“If you would have asked me some time ago, I would have said all those were long shots,” Bowlen said today.
Even if the Senate rejects H.R. 2578, there are other avenues to get
the legislation overturning the final ORV rule passed in the Senate and
signed into law.
“There are still any number of ways to skin the cat,” Bowlen said.
H.R. 4094 got much less air time on the House floor today than many of the other bills that sparked a more partisan debate.
“This bill would protect resources and open up more access to the seashore,” Jones said today when he spoke on the floor.
He said it would reopen 26 miles of beach now permanently closed to
ORVs and would “reverse job loss and economic decline that Hatteras
Island has experienced.”
“It’s time to return access to taxpayers,” he said. “This is a balanced piece of legislation.”
Jones’ bill would return management of the seashore to the publicly
vetted 2007 Interim Protected Species Management plan, which Jones
noted was backed by a biological opinion from the U.S. Fish and
Under the legislation, the seashore would operate under the interim
plan until the Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Director
of the National Park Service devise a new final regulation that
provides more reasonable access.