a surprise move, the lame-duck U.S. Congress -- hurrying to wind up its
business and get out of Washington -- appears to be on the brink
of passing legislation that would make some significant changes to the
Cape Hatteras National Seashore's Off-Road Vehicle Plan.
December 4, 2014
U.S. House, Senate poised to pass bill that
would change seashore's ORV plan
By IRENE NOLAN
Tuesday night, lawmakers attached a package of more than 90 public
lands and energy bills to the $585 billion 2015 National Defense
Included in this public lands package is
legislation that would instruct the Secretary of Interior to review and
adjust wildlife protection buffers and make other modifications to the
final ORV plan, such as the earlier opening of beaches that are closed at
night during the summer, extending seasonal ORV routes in the fall and
spring, and modifying the size and location of vehicle-free areas.
legislation doesn't go as far as advocates for more reasonable public
access to the seashore would like nor is it what North Carolina's
Congressional delegation originally proposed.
earlier into this Congress and the one before it with the
bipartisan support of Republican U.S. Rep Walter Jones and the state's
two senators, Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Kay Hagan, would
have overturned the final rule and ordered the Park Service to return
to its publically vetted 2007 Interim Protected Species Management Plan.
The House passed the bill twice as part of a larger public lands package, most recently last February.
Senate bill was amended and then favorably reported out of the Senate
Energy and Natural Resources Committee in June 2013, also along with
other public lands bills. But the legislation never made it to the
Senate floor for a vote.
However, the public lands package, as
reported out by a conference committee of both chambers this week, will
apparently actually make it to the floor of both houses for a vote in
the coming days. And, according to some media reports yesterday, the
legislation has a good chance of passing both the House and the Senate
and being signed by the President.
First, the legislation to
which it has been attached authorizes funds for the U.S. military and
is considered a "must-pass" bill.
Secondly, by all reports, the
public lands package has been in the works for weeks and has been
negotiated by leaders from both parties on the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources and the House Natural Resources committee. E&E
Daily, a Washington publishing service that tracks energy and
environmental legislation in Congress, reported yesterday that it is
also backed by the leaders of the Armed Services panels in both
E&E said the public lands package "represents a major compromise between conservation and developments interests."
legislation, according to E&E, would designate nearly 250,000 acres
of new public lands in Western states and preserve hundreds of
thousands of additional acres from drilling and mining in states such
as Colorado and Montana.
On the other hand, it would allow the
Bureau of Land Management to expedite oil and gas and grazing permits,
promote a copper mine in Arizona, and convey federal timberlands to an
Alaskan Native-owned corporation in the Tongass National Forest, all of
which E&E said are major Republican priorities.
At least one
large environmental group is actively supporting the package.
E&E reported that the director of wilderness campaigns at the
Wilderness Society said the bill is a "blockbuster" that would "protect
some spectacular landscapes across the western United States."
House is expected to pass the bill this afternoon, according to Joshua
Bowlen, legislative aide to Jones. The House Rules Committee, he said,
is expected to severely limit debate and amendments.
some Republican senators continue to oppose the inclusion of the
public lands package in the defense bill yesterday, according to a
report by the Associated Press.
"A bill that defines the needs
of our nation's defense is hardly the proper place to trample on
private property rights," AP said that Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn wrote
in a letter to Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
reported that Coburn's letter said that he would "utilize all
procedural options at his disposal as a United States senator" to block
the inclusion of the public lands package.
Republican Sen. Ted
Cruz of Texas also criticized the legislation, complaining about the
inclusion of new wilderness areas, the addition of 15 new national park
units or expansions, and three new wild and scenic river designations.
Senate is expected to take up the defense appropriations bill next
week, and AP also reported that Coburn's Oklahoma colleague, Sen. James
Inhofe, said he expected that senators would work out their differences
and pass the bill.
Bowlen said that Jones wrote to House Natural
Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings on Nov. 13 to urge him to
include the language of the bill he had sponsored in the House or the
one that was introduced in the Senate in the package of public lands
bills that was being negotiated for inclusion in the defense
Burr is said to have been working to get the package included on the Senate side.
However, a final deal was not worked out until late Tuesday night.
Here is the exact language for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore that is part of the public lands package:
SEC. 3057. CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREA.
(a) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
FINAL RULE.—The term ‘‘Final Rule’’means the final rule entitled
‘‘Special Regulations, Areas of the National Park System, Cape Hatteras
National Seashore—Off-Road Vehicle Management’’(77 Fed. Reg. 3123
(January 23, 2012)).
(2) NATIONAL SEASHORE.—The term ‘‘National Seashore’’ means the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.
(3) SECRETARY.—The term ‘‘Secretary’’ means the Secretary of the Interior.
(4) STATE.—The term ‘‘State’’ means the State of North Carolina.
(b) REVIEW AND ADJUSTMENT OF WILDLIFE PROTECTION BUFFERS.—
IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this
Act, the Secretary shall review and modify wildlife buffers in the
National Seashore in accordance with this subsection and any other
(2) BUFFER MODIFICATIONS.—In modifying wildlife
buffers under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall, using adaptive
(A) ensure that the buffers are of the
shortest duration and cover the smallest area necessary to protect a
species, as determined in accordance with peer-reviewed scientific
(B) designate pedestrian and vehicle corridors around
areas of the National Seashore closed because of wildlife buffers, to
allow access to areas that are open.
(3) COORDINATION WITH
STATE.—The Secretary, after coordinating with the State, shall
determine appropriate buffer protections for species that are not
listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et
seq.), but that are identified for protection under State law.
MODIFICATIONS TO FINAL RULE.—The Secretary shall undertake a public
process to consider, consistent with management requirements at the
National Seashore, the following changes to the Final Rule:
Opening beaches at the National Seashore that are closed to night
driving restrictions, by opening beach segments each morning on a
rolling basis as daily management reviews are completed.
Extending seasonal off-road vehicle routes for additional periods in
the Fall and Spring if offroad vehicle use would not create resource
management problems at the National Seashore.
(3) Modifying the size and location of vehicle free areas.
CONSTRUCTION OF NEW VEHICLE ACCESS POINTS.—The Secretary shall
construct new vehicle access points and roads at the National Seashore—
(1) as expeditiously as practicable; and
(2) in accordance with applicable management plans for the National Seashore.
REPORT.—The Secretary shall report to Congress within 1 year after the
date of enactment of this Act on measures taken to implement this
Click here to read the entire 1,648 pages of the National Defense Authorization Act.
House passes Jones bill to overturn ORV plan
Senate committee passes substitute version of bill to overturn ORV plan