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House Subcommittee Considers Bill to Relax ORV Rules for Cape Hatteras National Seashore

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ORV users at a Cape Hatteras beach. Photo by A. Pitt.

The House was in recess for a month, but that ended September 8. Now there’ll be a flurry of hearings, including many of great interest to national park users and managers.

Among the items on today’s agenda is a House subcommittee hearing on a bill proposing to reinstate older, more lenient rules for ORV beach driving at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The current rules, imposed to protect shorebird and sea turtle nesting sites, seasonally and intermittently restrict beach driving access to popular fishing areas. Environmentalists defend the currently strict controls on beach driving, arguing that protecting wildlife resources should trump recreationists’ demands for convenient ORV access to the beach. Beach driving fishermen have strongly protested the strict rules. They argue that the federal government has greatly exaggerated the threat posed to wildlife by ORV driving on the beach, and that the current rules make it unreasonably difficult to get to traditionally popular fishing areas. Area businesses detest the restrictions too, citing reduced spending by ORV users.

Today the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will consider a bill, H.R. 6233 (Jones), that would reinstate the Interim Management Strategy governing off-road vehicle use at Cape Hatteras. The Interim Management Strategy, is an older, more lenient set of rules that was in force until this past April when environmentalists won an out-of-court settlement (the 2008 Consent Decree) compelling the National Park Service to adopt stricter regulations for beach ORV use at Cape Hatteras. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Walter Jones (R-N.C.), essentially wants Congress to negate the out-of-court settlement.

The environmental NGOs that won the out-of-court settlement -- Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society -- believe that the stricter rules that the settlement brought about are appropriate and should remain in effect. At today’s hearing, a lawyer representing the NGOs will testify that the current strict rules for protecting the nesting habitat of piping plovers and sea turtles have played a key role in the recently improved nesting success of these species.

While we await the outcome of this debate, the National Park Service continues to work on its ORV Management Plan for Cape Hatteras. The project uses the negotiated rulemaking approach, a consensual planning strategy that relies on a federal advisory committee of local community and national interest groups.

When finally implemented, will this negotiated set of rules bring an end to decades of conflict over ORV use and protected species management at Cape Hatteras National Seashore? Nobody really believes that, but at least it will remove some of the uncertainties.

Comments

Dapster, sorry got behind and missed your question on species held up to ridicule. Cannot be a surprise to anyone. Several examples, such as Snail Darter, liverwort, etc.


Geezer, I think everyone has had enough "good models" falsehoods, lies and fake science from you people from the darkside. Quote "The consent decree was a valuable first step toward reasonable long-term limitations on ORVs." We have more than eleven thousand people on a petition that would beg to differ with such lies. Futhermore if it was really about reasonable limitations for ORVs why won't the NPS allow the reg/neg meatings to be recorded. Whats to hide? let me tell you, "good models" ,falsehoods, lies and fake science.


Cape Hatteras wildlife and visitors will benefit from a reduction in ORV traffic on the beaches. When I went there, it was a disappointment to see how the motor vehicles dominated the beaches. Something had to be done because beach traffic kept increasing, and bird nesting populations were rapidly going downhill. Assateague Island National Seashore could be a good model for regulation at Hatteras -- half the beach mileage is open to ORVs, half closed. Only 145 vehicles are allowed in the Maryland part at any time, 48 in the Virginia part. Drivers must display an annual permit issued by NPS. The consent decree was a valuable first step toward reasonable long-term limitations on ORVs.


Powerful words by Mr. Clayton:

Essentially, the ESA is used by NGOs to effect legislation through the courts that is properly enacted only through Congress. That's wrong, it's a problem, and it is recognized in Congress that steps should be taken to stop it.

I have now seen this "lever" in action with my own eyes. It is most certainly a misappliaction of the original intent of the ESA. Its usage needs to be halted.

It would be in the interests of environmentalists & the environment to modify how the ESA works (it allows NGOs to function as a virtual Fourth Branch of the Government) earlier and more-incrementally, rather than wait for the eventual loss of the political conditions that protect it today.

DOW/AS/SELC are certainly acting as a fourth branch with respect to the CHNSRA. If left as-is, it will certainly be challenged. I also agree that the ESA will suffer far worse if changes are forced upon it rather than being brought about internally.

I would ask that we all hold in mind that it is unlikely we will manage to 'save the environment' by the passage of laws alone. Without a consensus among the voting citizens that certain goals are important to us, it is unlikely that environmentalism-by-edict will stick. Credibility is important, and the ESA is not doing well with too many Americans.

I think a growing majority of Americans are beginning to tire of having the will of "Large Special Interest Groups" shoved down their throats. Here's a list of at least 11,000 American Citizens who don't think the situation in CHNSRA is credible:

http://www.gopetition.com/online/18790.html

Also, the "RA" designation does indeed exist, and is quite important to this issue. Once again, proof submitted in this document, which was part of the enabling legislation:

TITLE 16--CONSERVATION

CHAPTER 1--NATIONAL PARKS, MILITARY PARKS, MONUMENTS, AND SEASHORES

SUBCHAPTER LXIII--NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREAS

Sec. 459. Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area;
conditional establishment; acquisition of lands

When title to all the lands, except those within the limits of
established villages, within boundaries to be designated by the
Secretary of the Interior within the area of approximately one hundred
square miles on the islands of Chicamacomico, Ocracoke, Bodie, Roanoke,
and Collington, and the waters and the lands beneath the waters adjacent
thereto shall have been vested in the United States, said area shall be,
and is, established, dedicated, and set apart as a national seashore
recreational area for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and shall
be known as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area:
Provided, That the United States shall not purchase by appropriation of
public moneys any lands within the aforesaid area, but such lands shall
be secured by the United States only by public or private donation.


Anonymous (Sept 13) references:

"The General Authorities Act of 1974 says all NPS units regardless of designation will be managed the same... "

Actually, however, there are wide, dramatic & diverse variations in how the resources of many NPS units are handled.

Perhaps the GAA '74 intends a narrower ('technical') application of its language than 'general usage' would suggest. Certainly, there are indeed 'radical' differences in how the various NPS units are regulated. They are obviously not all handled "the same".

One of our recent Presidents had an industrial pallet load of Regulations hauled out for public display, to dramatize the pickle we've gotten ourselves into, 'dog-piling' ever more rules into an increasingly incomprehensible heap.

There is nothing to exempt our Parks from the 'disease' of run-away rule-making. Bottom line: We have laws to serve the needs of the Country & Citizens, and when they become such a mess that folks of ordinary mental means don't know or can't agree what they do or don't mean, they may no longer be capable of filling their intended role, and are not of benefit to either the Country or the Citizens.

Or, they may be used to fill roles for which they were not intended.


It doesn't matter if you call it Cape Hatteras NSRA (a NPS designation that doesn't exist) or NS. The General Authorities Act of 1974 says all NPS units regardless of designation will be managed the same, responsible to the same management policies, and will still have to obey all federal law including the NPS Organic Act, ESA, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, NEPA, etc. So, you can call it a recreation area, call it a purple planet, whatever, as long as it in the NPS system, the NPS will still have to manage for these resources just the same; they can't ignore it because the public chooses to call the Park by a different name.


Quote: Leoabnto

To the extent possible the law was intended to interject the Fish and Wildlife Service into this "unintended" ambiguity with explicit science and actions and strategies to FORCE a change in destructive activities.

Right, and the ESA was followed and Fish and Wildlife Service issued a no jepardy opinion on the management plan SELC challenged and changed.

Oh, I forgot SELC trumps all federal agencies.


Lepanto et al,

It is not unusual to see the implementation of a 'good idea' (e.g., Endangered Species Act) demonstrate the need for adjustment(s) down the road. It is also not unusual to see the emergence of a "Perverse incentive" as an unintended consequence of a law.

Right now, environmentalists are still celebrating the Listing of the polar bear ... which is not endangered, but hypothetically could be, some day, maybe. While dedicated environmentalists are pleased, many of a more independent turn of mind chuckle & shake their heads at the clever subterfuge. This undermines the overall credibility of the environmentalist message, and the stature of the ESA.

The Endangered Species Act (more specifically the unintended use of it, i.e., attacking the oil industry of Alaska by listing polar bears when they aren't endangered) has been a perennial bone of contention in Congress for many years.

Essentially, the ESA is used by NGOs to effect legislation through the courts that is properly enacted only through Congress. That's wrong, it's a problem, and it is recognized in Congress that steps should be taken to stop it.

It would be in the interests of environmentalists & the environment to modify how the ESA works (it allows NGOs to function as a virtual Fourth Branch of the Government) earlier and more-incrementally, rather than wait for the eventual loss of the political conditions that protect it today.

Lepanto, I would ask that we all hold in mind that it is unlikely we will manage to 'save the environment' by the passage of laws alone. Without a consensus among the voting citizens that certain goals are important to us, it is unlikely that environmentalism-by-edict will stick. Credibility is important, and the ESA is not doing well with too many Americans.

The inability of a powerful, charismatic figure like Barack Obama to gain a clear ballot majority over a compromised figure like John McCain, and the ease with which McCain has placed Obama on the defensive by picking an environmentalism-doubter like Sarah Palin for a running-mate, really tells us where the Endangered Species Act stands with much of America.

There are a lot more Sarah Palins where that one came from, and the enthusiasm for her is only the leading hint of a potential political tsunami. Environmentalism is indeed at risk.


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