February 26, 2013
Jones reintroduces bill to overturn
both Park Service final rule on ORVs
By IRENE NOLAN
U.S. Rep. Walter
Jones, R-N.C., today reintroduced a bill in the 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.
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.
The bill is tentatively scheduled
for a hearing before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public
Lands and Environmental Regulation on Thursday, March 14.
819 is identical to H.R. 4094, which Congressman Jones introduced in
the last Congress. That bill passed the House of Representatives, but
the Senate version failed to make it out of committee.
bill is about jobs and the taxpayers’ right to access the recreational
areas they own,” said Jones. “It’s about restoring balance and
common sense to Park Service management. I would like to thank
the Natural Resources Committee for scheduling a hearing and for doing
what is right for the people of Eastern North Carolina.”
H.R. 819 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.
Restrictions for endangered species must
not be greater than restrictions in effect for that species at any
other national seashore.
And, 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 closed.
The 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
H.R. 819 is supported by the Cape Hatteras Access
Preservation Alliance (CHAPA), a grassroots organization committed to
balancing recreational access with resource management.
filed a lawsuit last February in federal court in Washington, D.C.,
challenging the final plan and regulation, mostly on the basis that the
process was flawed. That lawsuit has been transferred to the Eastern
District of North Carolina and was assigned to Federal Court Judge
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.
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
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 turtles.
Dare and Hyde counties and CHAPA were allowed by the court to enter the case as defendant-intervenors.
was also the judge in that case, and he 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.
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.
negotiated rulemaking committee ended its work in the winter of 2009
without reaching a consensus on the details of the final plan.
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 2012 and became effective on Feb. 15, 2012.
consent decree was set to expire when the final rule became effective
on Feb. 15, and attorneys for CHAPA and the intervenors think it
has, Boyle has continued to have status conferences on the decree --
three in the past 12 months.
The park continues to operate under the ORV plan and final rule as the CHAPA case proceeds.
This is Jones’ fourth attempt to overturn the consent decree through legislation.
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read H.R. 819, 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
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 year on the Beach Access and
Park Issues Page.
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