National Park Service officials recently adopted a new off-road vehicle (ORV) management plan for Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area (CHNSRA), an area that is renowned for its exceptional surf fishing and attracts anglers from across the country. ORV access is essential for surf fishing from beaches, as well as most other recreational activities, yet the new management plan severely restricts access to the most popular areas of the seashore far beyond what is needed for fish and wildlife resource management.
In implementing the ORV management plan, the Park Service ignored the numerous comments of the sportfishing community and local residents, whose lives and livelihoods are taking a direct hit from lack of access. The plan not only threatens sportfishing in the park, but the seashore’s local economy, which is largely dependent upon tourism and recreation.
On February 28, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-NC) introduced legislation (H.R. 4094) to reinstate the Park Service’s Interim Protected Species Management Strategy governing ORV and pedestrian access, which was subject to a public process and withstood environmental review. The bill will overturn the newly adopted ORV management plan, and a similarly onerous 2008 Consent Decree that has guided park management for the last three years.
Both the new ORV plan and the Consent Decree severely restrict access to the most popular areas of the seashore far beyond what is needed for sustainable resource management. H.R. 4094 will restore reasonable ORV and pedestrian access to CHNSRA while also appropriately conserving resident wildlife.
As its name implies, the seashore should be managed as a recreation area, with due consideration to the conservation of native fish and wildlife. The Park Service’s new ORV management plan will severely cut access to the seashore and the recreational opportunities that it provides, far outweighing what is needed for resource protection.