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Congressman Making Run To Jettison Off-Road Vehicle Rules At Cape Hatteras National Seashore


A congressman from North Carolina is making a bid to have the off-road vehicle regulations at Cape Hatteras National Seashore tossed out. NPT file photo.

It may be “back to the drawing board” for off-road vehicle rules at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Back in February North Carolina Congressman Walter B. Jones, Jr. introduced a bill to void the latest “final rules” regarding pedestrian and ORV use on the seashore. After extensive recent public comments and years of legal wrangling, those final National Park Service rules were announced on January 23 and took effect February 15.

Proponents of Rep. Jones' legislation have named H.R. 4094 the “Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act.” If passed, the legislation would roll back management of ORVs and pedestrians to the regulations that were in place under the Interim Protected Species Management Act issued by the National Park Service in 2007.

The bill also would permit future restrictions under the Endangered Species Act, “based on peer-reviewed science and after public comment.” But it would also constrain managers’ choices, requiring that future closures under the Endangered Species Act may “only restrict, by limitation, closure, buffer, or otherwise, pedestrian and motorized vehicular access ... for the shortest possible time and on the smallest possible portions” of the Seashore.

The Act would also require that Cape Hatteras’ restrictions be “no greater than” those in place “for that species at any other National Seashore,” and that pedestrian and vehicular corridors be designated “of minimal distance on the beach or interdunal area around closures implemented” ... “to allow access to areas not closed.”

Passage of the proposed bill would specifically eliminate and make non applicable the recent “final rule” Off-Road Vehicle Management (77 Fed. Reg. 3123-3144), and the consent decree of April 30, 2008.

In March the bill was referred to the House's Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law.

On Wednesday a petition campaign was launched by the North Carolina Conservation Network in association with the Southern Environmental Law Center. The group’s petition urges North Carolinians to contact their federal legislators to oppose the bill.

The groups’ e-mail stated that, “The good news is, after an extensive review process the NPS has released a plan to limit off-road vehicle (ORV) use at Cape Hatteras. The bad news is U.S. Representative Walter Jones introduced a bill, that would circumvent the NPS’ off-road vehicle management plan and allow for ORV use across the entire park putting nesting sites for sea turtles and rare shorebirds in danger.”

Similar legislative efforts to overturn park management plans have resulted in the past after public comment periods. In 2008, U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, both of North Carolina, offered similar legislation to overturn ORV regulations contained within a consent decree that settled a lawsuit over the seashore's lack of ORV regulations. In defending her legislation, Sen. Dole testified before the committee that her constituents were suffering undue economic hardships as a result of the consent decree.

Under that consent decree, the seashore's staff greatly restricted off-road vehicle travel and limited pedestrian travel to protect nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. Opponents of the decree, though, claimed it was over-reaching what reasonably was needed and that the economy that depends on Cape Hatteras was tanking.

Another attempt, also unsuccessful, was made in 2009 to reject the temporary ORV regulations contained in the consent decree.

In its February 2012 final rules announcement, the National Park Service said the rules designate, “ORV routes and authorizes ORV use within the Seashore in a manner that will protect natural and cultural resources, provide a variety of safe visitor experiences, and minimize conflict among users.” The announcement stated that “in general,” ORV use was prohibited off road unless specifically permitted and that an ORV permit would be required.


Ron put it the way it is, families were ensured by legislation back in the 1930s that the CHNS was a national treasure to be enjoyed and ACCESSED by ALL! Now we have to just about refight the revolutionary war to get our rights of free access to OUR national seashore back. I was taught to surf fish by my dad there, and I want to teach my grandkids to fish there too. I want passed to my posterity too, not just to the wealthy or the well connected. It seems thats the way it it headed if people don't act.

Dear Mr. Cleveland,

I have been away from this board for a while because of the frustration, I guess. Figured I would do better writing to the legislators. Who knows ? I don't know why I logged on today, but I did. I have learned to accept some things without question (if you know what I mean) and was one of them.

Who knows, may be missin Kurt a little bit. Still consider him a friend though he can be tough sometimes.

I did read some of the article about the young intern first, to which I have no comment. I then went to this article. Don't know why, just did and I did so a little differently. I went straight to the end of the comments. The last paragraph of the last comment. Your comment. I will not get into the nuts and bolts of it. I will just say thanks. You nailed it. And yes, there are a few of us out there that know what's going on.

If you have not seen it, you may be interested in a recent guest column by Mr. Bob Davis in the Island Free Press concerning wildlife protection at Cape Hatteras.

That's all'

Ron (obxguys)

An Open Letter to the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Southern Environmental Law Center

If I didn’t know better I would believe you.I love our national parks and favor conservation.Politically I am an independent who leans left on the environment.If I didn’t know better I would probably believe every word written by Ms. Sanders in Audubon Magazine and in a press release on the Audubon Society of NC website and in an editorial piece on the Defenders of Wildlife website.But, I do know better and I find your use of propaganda on this issue to be offensive and morally repugnant.I found each of these pieces lacking in objectivity and to have purposefully omitted important facts and in several cases used language that seemed designed to distort the truth or at best showed a clear lack of understanding for the situation.I know better because I know the Outer Banks of North Carolina quite well.

In none of these articles do you address the ORV permit fee.The beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore on Bodie Island, Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island have been free to all whether on foot or in a 4 wheel drive vehicle since their creation.The implementation of an arbitrary and substantial fee is completely ignored by you.Who does the fee benefit?What programs are being funded with this revenue? Is there the potential for a conflict of interest?I can tell you who it hurts; those who can least afford another bill in their life.If your argument is that the fee structure will reduce ORV use on the beach then my response is, "yes, low income families will no longer be able to drive on the beach, while the rich ones will".If the goal of the fee is not to limit traffic then why is there a fee?

I also find that all of these articles refer to ORV enthusiasts as if they were some motorcycle gang tearing up the beach in dune buggies.The vast majority of people who drive on the OBX beaches are families and fishermen who drive down the beach at 10-15mph and are just looking for bit of solitude and sand to call their own for the day.In a similar vein I found comments on your website and others referring to the "National Parking Lot" to be outright fabrication and a means of manipulating public opinion.In the 30 years that I've been visiting Hatteras Island I've never seen anything resembling a parking lot and the only really high density area that I've seen is the Cape Point in mid-summer or during a fishing tournament.By shrinking the area open to ORVs you are actually creating a scenario by which more people will be crammed into a smaller space.You've completely ignored the fact that for decades huge areas of the OBX beaches have been closed to ORVs in the summer: most of Bodie Island, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge and in front of all the villages on Hatteras Island.The tenor of your articles makes it seem like that before this new set of rules it was chaos.That is not true.The only thing these new rules have really accomplished is to shrink the area of beach that can be driven on, particularly around Cape Hatteras Point, thereby increasing the likelihood that the so-called parking lot will actually appear someday as the space is squeezed tighter and tighter by more and more restrictions; and to charge a fee for something that was one of the last great free things that you could do east of the Mississippi.

I found your comments about the safety of children to be utterly ridiculous.You make it sound like vehicles are just driving into areas dominated by pedestrian beach goers.The children who were playing on the beach in areas where ORVs were allowed, most likely got there in their parents SUV.I always felt that my own son was completely safe playing on those beaches provided I actually acted like his parent and supervised him.The new pedestrian only area south of Cape Hatters Point is also a joke.People are not going to be lugging their kids through a mile of sand dunes for a day at the beach.I've hiked to the Cape Hatteras Point and it's not easy.I've also driven on the section of beach now reserved for pedestrians and the ORV traffic was sparse.The pedestrian traffic was non-existent.Now the vehicles that used to park there will most likely end up at the Cape Point.I have to wonder if this part of your larger strategy to shut the Cape Hatteras Point down to all human traffic.I know those new pedestrian only areas will be deserted, which I’m guessing is your ultimate goal.While I’m writing this, the fact is that the entire Cape Hatteras Point is closed to all traffic including pedestrians and from Haul Over to Frisco is essentially closed to ORV traffic for a total distance of over 10 miles.Is it really necessary to shut down that much of the beach for nesting?

I began this by stating that I was a left of center independent who is pro-conservation.I have to tell you that you’ve alienated me and now I understand all of the vitriol that I’ve seen expressed toward environmental groups and “liberals”.You’ve shown almost no understanding of the long term fallout from activities such as these.You may say that you’ve made efforts to work with the locals who’ve built their lives on sliver sand but your articles reflect that you haven’t.You’ve managed to alienate the people who should be your biggest supporters, the citizens who love what you love.Rather than training and educating the locals to carry your flag, you’ve created enemies.You didn’t pick a fight with big oil or a logging or mining company.You picked a fight with families.We all want to preserve the Outer Banks of NC and all the other special beautiful places in our country but you’re not going to be able to sustain that by going to court.How long do you think your rules will last if we have a republican senate and president?You chose to sue rather than educate.You’ve made it more difficult for people like me and our political leaders to embrace conservation.For now on I will read your propaganda with my eyes open and hope that someday when these rules are repealed via legislation that your methods will change.

NPS weekly resource report for April9,2012

                65.8 miles of beach access

           +  15.0 miles Pea IslandNational Wildlife Refuge

                80.8 total shoreline miles within Cape
Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area

                22.7 miles open for ORV access = 28%
(far different than NPS, Audubon, DOW or SELC

                Oregon Inlet Spit-closed, Cape
Point-closed, Hatteras Inlet-closed, Ocracoke Island South


[size= 12pt]WHY?[/size]

[size= 12pt]            1 Piping
Plover nest (Cape Point)[/size]

[size= 12pt]            3 American
Oyster Catcher nests (Hatteras Island – somewhere)[/size]

[size= 12pt]            0 Colonial
Waterbird nests[/size]

[size= 12pt]            0 Turtle

[size= 12pt] [/size]

[size= 16pt]Thousands of Easter week
visitors being told that NPS does not want you here in your National Seashore
Recreation Area[/size].

Regardless of whether or not you want to define the place as a "National Seashore" or "Recreation Area", it's still under NPS control. As someone who has visited quite a few of both, there may not actually be a difference in management given the inherent qualities of the area.

At Golden Gate NRA, there are specific issues that NPS is dealing with because of the Endangered Species Act, as well as other laws. Regardless of what you want to call it, they're not going to be able to override the ESA. Of course I have heard that some CAHA ORV enthusiasts have been trying to get a modification of the ESA.

There's another date and point not to overlook, from the seashore's enabling legislation:

August 17, 1937 -- Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area . . .

After more than 70 years, the seashore still hasn't gotten around to designating wilderness. 

It’s the "Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area” America! It was never deemed to provide an area as large as an air craft carrier for one nesting bird called the National Bird Nesting Area People!

FACT: Visitors do not come to places that deny access. Without access one cannot recreate!

Go to which shows ….

The Dare County campaign to preserve access to America’s beaches refers to the first national seashore as the “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.”. The full name of the “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area” is historically accurate and serves to remind us today of the unique recreational heritage of the first national seashore. The founding pioneers called it by this name at the official dedication ceremony.

Preserving this name will help future generations understand the history, tradition and recreational purpose of the “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.”. A study of history reveals the importance of including the words “Recreational Area” today.

-June 29, 1940, Congress amends the enabling legislation and the words “Recreational Area” are added to further emphasize the recreational nature of the seashore as a destination for beachgoers and fishermen.

-On May 10, 1954, the National Park Service gave administrative permission for the staff to use the shorter name “Cape Hatteras National Seashore” in all but the most formal memoranda and legal documents in place of the more cumbersome “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.” This administrative short cut created a nickname, but never changed the official name.

-At the official dedication ceremony on April 24, 1958, representatives of

both the Department of Interior and the National Park Service repeatedly

referred to it as the “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.”

-Although the full name with the words “Recreational Area” subsequently fell from use by the Department of Interior and the National Park Service,

it was never officially changed by Congress.


-June 23, 1936 Passage of the Park, Parkway and Recreational Area Study Act

-August 17, 1937 Act of Congress establishes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to provide recreational access to the general public

-June 29, 1940 Congress amends the authorizing legislation to permit hunting. At the same time the term “Recreational Area” was added to the park’s name o address NPS sensitivity to the issue of hunting and to further

emphasize the “recreational” nature of the seashore as a destination for beachgoers and fishermen.

-May 10, 1954 NPS determines administratively that the name “Cape Hatteras National Seashore” may be substituted in all but the most formal

memoranda and legal documents for the cumbersome “Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area”

April 24, 1958 Remarks made at the official dedication ceremony:

* Asst. Secretary of the Interior, Robert Ernst…”It is a privilege to represent the Department of the Interior at this dedication of the country’s first national seashore recreational area.

* Conrad Wirth, Director of the National Park Service made 3 references

1. “The Service recommended that the Cape Hatteras National Seashore be preserved as a National Park Recreational Area.”

2. ....”Secretary of the Interior formally established the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area.”

2. “We take great pride in being intrusted with the administration of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area

Trip to Crabtree went extremely well. Took the back off road to the upper parking area and hiked to the falls and then proceeded down to see the falls from the lower viewing areas. There were several camping areas along the route in along the streams we will try in the future.

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