There’s good news regarding the restrictive and unnecessary limitations placed on Cape Hatteras access by the National Park Service a few years ago. The Senate has included the “Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act” in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015.
I hate it that we have a federal government that puts public lands measures in a defense bill, but, hey, that’s the bureaucratic world that we live in.
Here’s what the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation says:
After almost three years of the National Park Service restricting off-road vehicles (ORVs) across extensive areas on the National Seashore, residents and visitors alike, especially sportfishing enthusiasts, should welcome the passage of this legislation and continue to engage in the process to ensure that a balanced science-based strategy with proper access is promoted moving forward.
One of the premier surf fishing locations in the country, Cape Hatteras attracts two million visitors each year who rely on ORV access to the park for surf fishing opportunities from the beaches as well as for general recreational activities. Unfortunately undue closures implemented in 2012 for ORVs to culturally significant and recreationally important areas have negatively impacted the local economy which depends upon recreation and tourism.
The Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act would begin the process of restoring access to these important areas by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to “review and modify wildlife buffers in the National Seashore.” The Act mandates modifications using peer-reviewed data to ensure that only the smallest areas and shortest duration for wildlife buffers are implemented and that closed areas utilize corridors to allow access to surrounding open areas. Specifically, the Secretary, through a public process, is required to consider lifting unreasonable night driving restrictions, extending seasonal ORV routes, modifying the size and location of vehicle-free areas, and constructing new vehicle access sites.
While the passage of the Act is certainly a major step in the right direction, the language leaves significant discretion to the Secretary of the Interior. Moving forward, the recreational angling community should remain diligent in monitoring and engaging in the process to ensure recreational pursuits and access are properly balanced with resource management.