Today, U.S. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., along with Senator Kay Hagan, D-N.C., reintroduced the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act, a bill that 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.
“Restricting ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore negatively impacts local communities and the local economy,” Senator Burr said. “We must not block our citizens’ access to North Carolina’s scenic treasures. I am confident we can come to a compromise that allows people to have access while at the same time addressing any potential environmental concerns.”
“Our coast is a key part of North Carolina’s tourism economy and a favorite destination for families from across the country,” Senator Hagan said. “I will keep working with Senator Burr to ensure that unnecessary federal regulations do not harm Dare County’s economy, which is dependent on beach access.”
If this 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.
In December 2005, the NPS began the negotiation process to create regulations that would allow the seashore to meet its compliance standards, and in June 2007, an Interim Management Strategy was implemented to provide a framework for regulating the beaches while the Park Service developed its long-term plan. This Interim Management Strategy allowed for controlled ORV access to the seashore.
However, in October, 2007, a lawsuit was filed by the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society to prevent ORV use until a final management plan is established and approved by NPS. A settlement negotiation process ensued, and on April 30, 2008, a federal judge approved a consent decree that required all seashore ramps to be closed to ORVs from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m., created buffers that are in some cases more restrictive, and ruled that deliberate violations of the buffers would result in an expanded restricted area.
In February 2012, the NPS implemented final rules, requiring that ORVs must obtain permits to access the seashore’s beaches, further limiting the accessibility of the park to vehicles.
The bill introduced by Hagan and Burr is identical to the one they introduced last year and a House bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., last week.
Last year, the bill passed the House. It got as far as a hearing in the Senate, but never got voted out of the committee.