March 14, 2013
House subcommittee hears testimony on Jones bill
By IRENE NOLAN
The U.S. House
of Representatives Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental
Regulation today heard testimony on a bill introduced last month by
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., 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.
H.R. 819, The
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.
The legislation was the same as the bill Jones introduced last year and the two years before that.
witnesses were the same as they were last year with just one
exception. Testifying in favor of the bill were Jones and Warren
Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners.
Testifying against was Herbert Frost, associate director of natural
resource stewardship and science for the Department of Interior, and
Derb Carter, lead attorney for the Southern Environmental Law
Center. The only member of the panel missing this year was John
Couch, president of the Outer Banks Preservation Association,
apparently because the subcommittee limited witnesses this year since
three bills were before it.
And the arguments they made for and against the bill were basically the same ones they have made before.
bill is about jobs and taxpayers’ right to access the recreational
areas they own,” Jones said in his testimony. H. R. 819 will restore
balance and common sense Park Service management in Cape Hatteras
National Recreational Area.”
Jones said the legislation would
give taxpayers more reasonable access to the lands they own and would
boost the local economy, which he said had suffered with the more
extensive beach closures under the consent decree and ORV plan.
Frost made the same points in his testimony as he did last year.
Department supports allowing appropriate public use and access at the
seashore to the greatest extent possible,” he said, “while also
ensuring protection for the seashore’s wildlife and providing a variety
of visitor use experiences, minimizing conflicts among various users,
and promoting the safety of all visitors.
“We strongly believe
that the final ORV Management Plan /Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) and special regulation are accomplishing these objectives far
better than the defunct Interim Strategy. Contrary to some reports,
there is not now and never has been a ban on ORVs at the seashore. The
great majority of the beach is open to ORVs, visitation is rising, and
tourist revenues are at record levels. At the same time, beach-nesting
birds and sea turtles are finally showing much-needed improvements.”
arguments against the bill were the same ones he made in last year’s
testimony and in other statements and media releases on the success of
the consent decree and ORV plan.
His message is that since the
consent decree became effective on April 30, 2008, visitation to the
park has increased, Dare County’s economy is flourishing, and nesting
birds and turtles are more successful than ever. And he
emphasized the extensive public involvement in formulating the final
Judge emphasized the extensive public involvement in
the Interim Plan and that it went through a required review under the
National Environmental Policy Act and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service supported the plan with a Biological Opinion.
stressed that occupancy taxes have been up in Dare County in recent
years, but that those numbers do not accurately reflect the economic
hits taken by the Hatteras Island businesses closest to the beach
And he noted that while nesting may have been more
successful for birds and turtles since 2008, the former seashore
superintendent Mike Murray is on record as saying, “It’s too early to
tell” whether that is because of the more extensive closures.
The opponents of the Jones’ bill got some friendly questions from Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Rush Holt, D-N.J.
However, subcommittee chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah, came down on the Park Service, much as he did at last year’s hearing.
He said H.R. 819 is “another bill that shouldn’t be here” and that the issues should have been resolved at a local level.
The problem, he said, comes down to a simple issue of “overreach by the federal government.”
Park Service came under more withering fire during questioning of the
witnesses on the other two bills that were part of the hearing.
588, would provide for donor contribution acknowledgments at the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center. Current Park Service regulation
prohibits the acknowledgments. H.R. 716, directs the Interior
secretary to convey the Pearson Aviation Museum Complex back to the
city of Vancouver, Wash.
During questioning for these bills, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said the Park Service was “badly managed” and “arrogant.”
“I don’t understand where the arrogance comes from,” said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska.
Bishop called the Park Service “authoritarian, arrogant, and autocratic."
Bishop added that there was no reason the Pearson Aviation Museum Complex bill should before Congress.
no reason this bill, as the next bill (Jones’ bill) should be here,
other than a failure by the National Park Service.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Click here to read testimony by Herbert Frost of the Department of Interior.
Click here to read the testimony of Dare County Commission Chairman Warren Judge.
Click here to read the testimony of Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center.
For more information on the bills or the subcommittee, go to http://naturalresources.house.gov/subcommittees/subcommittee/?SubcommitteeID=5064.
Burr and Hagan reintroduce bill to overturn ORV plan in Senate
Jones reintroduces bill to overturn both Park Service final rule on ORVs
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