Today, U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), along with Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), 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 (CHNS). The reinstatement of the original Interim Management Strategy, issued by the National Park Service (NPS) on June 13, 2007, would set aside current mandates and requirements which were put in place in the wake of a consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina that prevent off-road vehicle (ORV) and citizen access to a significant portion of this National Seashore.
"Restricting ORV use on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore has a negative impact on local communities and the local economy," Senator Burr said. "We must ensure that our state's residents have access to North Carolina's scenic treasures, and 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."
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 use of CHNS by the public.
In December 2005, the NPS began the negotiation process to create regulations that would allow CHNS to meet its compliance standards, and in June 2007, an Interim Management Strategy was implemented to provide a framework for regulating the CHNS while the NPS developed its long-term plan. This Interim Management Strategy allowed for controlled ORV access to the CHNS. However, on July 17, 2007, an injunction 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 for nests and chicks that are clearly defined and 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 CHNS, further limiting the accessibility of the park to vehicles.