April 23, 2013
Senate subcommittee hears testimony
on bill to overturn ORV plan
By IRENE NOLAN
Senate Subcommittee on National Parks accepted testimony today on 13
pending pieces of legislation, including Senate Bill 486 to overturn
the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s off-road vehicle management plan
that became effective in February 2012.
And in a repeat of his
questioning at a hearing last June, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., heavily
criticized the ORV plan and the National Park Service for not listening
to members of the community on Hatteras and Ocracoke when it was
formulating the plan.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard
Burr, R-N.C., along with Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., on March 7 is called
the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act. It would
reinstate the Interim Management Strategy governing off-road vehicle
use on Cape Hatteras National Seashore and set aside current mandates
and requirements that prevent off-road vehicle and citizen access to a
significant portion of the seashore.
If the 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 long-term off-road vehicle management plan for the
An identical bill was introduced last year in the
Senate by Burr and Hagan. It had a hearing before the full Energy
and Natural Resources Committee, but the legislation died there.
The committee never “marked up” the bill and sent it to the full
Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, for a vote.
hearing before the subcommittee of the Senate’s Energy and Natural
Resources Committee was sparsely attended by members. At times,
the only subcommittee members present were the chairman, Mark Udall,
D-Colo, and Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. The ranking member, Sen.
Rob Portman, R-Ohio, came in at the end of the meeting. Also Sen.
John Barrasso, R-Wyo., briefly appeared to ask questions.
said all but one of the bills under consideration had been introduced
in the last Congress when the committee heard from witnesses for and
against them. That testimony he said would be referenced by the
subcommittee as members consider the bills again.
witnesses, both for the administration, appeared today. Udall
said they were there to update the hearing record and answer questions
The two were Peggy O’Dell, deputy director for
operations for the National Park Service, and Ingrid Kolk, director of
the Office of Management in the Department of Energy.
Hagan nor Burr appeared at the hearing. However, Manchin, who has
signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill, again championed the cause of
the folks who would like to see the ORV plan and final rule overturned.
is not a member of the subcommittee, but he is a member of the larger
Energy and Natural Resources Committee and made the effort to be
present to question the National Park Service witness about the ORV
Manchin repeated much of what he said at last June’s
committee hearing when he came out swinging against the plan and was
highly critical of the Park Service.
He said he supports a
balance between access and preserving resources but said that he did
not think the plan reaches that balance. And he called the Park Service
an “adversary” of the local community instead of an “ally.”
who reiterated that the Park Service strongly opposes the bill, told
Manchin that the plan has resulted in success for nesting shorebirds
and turtles and has not hurt the local economy. Both are points the NPS
has made during testimony on the bills over the past few years, and
local officials dispute both claims.
“Have you talked to the local community?” Manchin asked. “They completely differ from what you’re saying.”
responded that the plan was “informed by locals” and that NPS has a
“great management team” in place to work with the communities.
noted that while only 21 miles of beach are permanently closed to ORVs,
many premium fishing areas are closed during parts of the year.
don’t think you are talking to the same people we are,” Manchin said,
asking O’Dell if there are other places where the Park Service have
treated the community “the way it has treated Hatteras and Ocracoke.”
“There should be balance and fairness,” he said.
then asked O’Dell if she had seen a report on actual beach access
prepared by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance. The
report details what was actually open to ORVs and pedestrians last July
31, during the height of the nesting season.
She said she had not, and Manchin asked that it be entered into the record.
is familiar with the situation at the seashore because he has been a
frequent visitor to Ocracoke Island and was a good friend of another
West Virginia politician, the late Buffy Warner, who moved to Ocracoke
to start Howard’s Pub & Raw Bar with his wife, Ann, in the early
Heinrich also asked a question about access and fishing, and O’Dell replied that “people can fish anywhere.”
made the point that he considers the fact that this bill is bipartisan
and has been introduced by the area’s elected officials in the House
and Senate to be “significant.”
Udall said the hearing record
will be open for two more weeks for comments and additional questions
on today’s testimony. Then, he said, “the committee has some work to do.”
County officials and leaders of CHAPA who attended today’s hearing
intend to have plenty of follow-up comments, according to spokesman
David Scarborough of CHAPA.
Today’s hearing was attended by
Scarborough, along with John Couch and Jim Keene of CHAPA, Warren
Judge, chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, and county
manager and attorney, Bobby Outten.
You can see a videotape of the hearing in the Senate committee’s archives. The link is http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2013/4/national-parks-subcommittee-hearing-to-consider.
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