Jones files bill to void new Hatteras access rules

By on February 28, 2012

(National Park Service)

Legislation filed Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C., would overturn new rules for controlling access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The legislation would also erase a 2008 U.S. District Court consent decree that settled a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and mandated measures to restrict access, particularly for off-road vehicles.

Jones’ legislation calls for re-instituting the National Park Service’s Interim Management Strategy, which is considered less stringent than the consent decree and the new rules.

A statement from Jones’ office said the interim strategy was backed up by a 113-page opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The opinion, according to the statement, found that the interim plan would not put piping plovers and sea turtles at risk.

“The federal government needs to remember that Cape Hatteras was established to be a recreational area for the American people,” Jones said in the statement. “But taxpayers can’t recreate without access to the beach. The goal of management ought to be a balanced approach between visitor access and species protection.”

The Cape Hatteras Preservation Association, which has filed suit to block the park service plan, praised the legislation.

In a statement, Allen Burrus, vice chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, called the legislation “a practical solution to provide recreational access while at the same time assuring that shore birds and sea turtles are properly protected.’

Burrus represents Hatteras Island.

Management of access was first mandated by a presidential decree in the 1970s. No specific plan was put in place until recent years, when a long and unsuccessful process of trying to bring all parties to consensus defaulted to the park service.

The new rules require a permit costing $120 for a year and $50 for a week. They also limit access to some popular fishing, surfing and beach-combing areas along the seashore. They went into effect last week.

The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Jones introduced a similar bill in 2009 that was not enacted.

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