May 16, 2013
UPDATE: Bill to overturn ORV plan brings
“spirited” discussion to the Senate
By IRENE NOLAN
A bill that
would overturn the National Park Service’s off-road vehicle management
plan at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore was the subject of
“spirited” conversations among U.S. senators today.
But most of
the discussion was before a scheduled meeting of the Senate’s Energy
and Natural Resources Committee at which the bill was to be considered
for a markup.
When the meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m., finally
got started at about 10:50, chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced that
S 486 and two others bills were being removed from the list of 30 that
the committee was scheduled to consider.
“Almost overnight the bill has become a bit more controversial,” Wyden said.
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 the seashore and set aside
current mandates, such as the consent decree, and requirements that
prevent off-road vehicle and citizen access to a significant portion of
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 seashore.
discussion apparently heated up last night when Wyden said he received
a letter from the Park Service director restating that the Department
of Interior “strongly opposes” the legislation.
And the discussion continued until the committee convened 50 minutes later than planned.
“This issue has engendered strong feelings on both sides,” Wyden noted.
reading the Park Service director’s letter to him, the chairman noted
that ORV users and local merchants feel the plan is too restrictive.
he said the bill would be removed from today’s markup session in which
members decide which bills will go to the full Senate for a vote, Wyden
promised that a vote on the bill would come in the committee’s markup
meeting in June.
Meanwhile, he said committee members would attempt to craft some kind of compromise.
are going to begin immediately to put forward a bi-partisan and good
faith effort to find a solution to this matter at Cape Hatteras,” he
He also commented that the committee has a long history of working out resource conflicts.
committee member Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, reiterated that the
committee was going to pursue an agreement on a solution from both
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., told the chairman that she was
proud to be part of a committee whose leaders were so dedicated to
compromising and reaching agreement.
“This may not be the biggest issue,” Landrieu said, “but it’s a very important issue to the state.”
And she noted it raises issues of the use of public lands and how the natural world and human beings can co-exist.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who has become a leading and very articulate
advocate for those who feel the ORV plan is too restrictive, stepped up
“I support this bill in its entirety,” he said, “and I will continue to support this bill.”
He said, as he has said before, that the Park Service is “overreaching” with the plan.
“This not just a North Carolina issue,” he said. “This is about a lot of the East Coast.”
He repeated that S 486 was very important to his constituents, many of whom vacation on Hatteras or Ocracoke.
Manchin did not mention was that he himself is a regular visitor to
Ocracoke Island and was on the island earlier this month for the
Ocracoke Invitational Surf Fishing Tournment as a guest of Ann Warner,
owner of Howard’s Pub.
The senator’s connection to the island dates
back to his friendship with Ann’s late husband, Buffy, who was a
colleague of Manchin’s in the West Virginia state Senate.
in the hearing Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., chairman of the Senate
Subcommittee on National Parks, weighed in with his opposition to the
He referred to the consent decree that settled a lawsuit
against the Park Service by environmental groups and called it an
“agreement between user groups and the National Park Service.”
responded that there are agreements reached in good faith and those in
which someone “holds a gun to your head and says you better sign this.”
companion bill to S486 was favorably voted out of the U.S. House of
Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee yesterday. It is
headed to the House floor for a vote.
Last year, the House
passed an identical bill. However, last year’s bill in the Senate
never made it to the floor. It died when the committee took no
There is no date on the Senate committee’s calendar yet for the June markup session.
The committee has 12 members who are Democrats and 10 who are Republican.
Members and their contact information can be found at the Senate committee’s website, http://www.energy.senate.gov/.
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