On Thursday, December 4, the House of Representatives passed and sent to the Senate H.R. 3979, The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. Included in this bill, and therefore also passing, is section EC 3057 Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. This section is the same legislation known as Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act (S. 486) which was introduced by Senator Richard Burr (NC) and approved unanimously by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in 2013. It is also the same bill that Senator Burr sponsored as an amendment to the unsuccessful Bipartisan Sportsmen’s act which failed to pass the Senate in July 2014.
The Defense Spending Bill was crafted over the past several weeks by a joint Senate / House committee to establish Defense funding levels for the next year. Senator Burr and Congressman Walter Jones pushed for S. 486 to be included as part of a package of land bills attached to the Defense Authorization Act. The complete bill was introduced in the House late Tuesday night (December 2) and sailed through with a vote of 300 – 119 on Thursday.
The bill will be debated on the Senate floor this week with a vote expected either late in the week or early the following week. Odds of Senate passage appear high given the importance of the Defense Spending legislation and the margin of the bi-partisan House vote. However, we urge everyone to contact their Senators to ask their support. If you live in North Carolina, it is equally important that you call or email to thank Senator Burr and Senator Hagan for their continued effort to bring this legislation to passage. Please call or email as quickly as possible since the legislation will likely be considered during the week.
Letters through U.S. mail will likely not be received before the vote occurs.
Senator Burr’s press release follows:
December 4, 2014 - 3:31 PM
Burr Applauds House Passage of Beach Access Legislation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) applauds the House passage of H.R. 4435, a bill that includes legislation he authored known as the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act (S. 486). After successful bipartisan negotiations last year, an amended version of Senator Burr’s bill was approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. With Senator Burr’s urging, the amended version of S. 486 was included as part of larger legislation that the House of Representatives passed today. The Hatteras legislation will help tourists and sportsmen gain access to North Carolina’s renowned Outer Banks beaches. The legislation will set rules and parameters for the National Park Service (NPS) to abide by when they consider limiting citizen access to beaches, including off-road vehicle (ORV) access.
Senator Burr has long been an advocate of opening up North Carolina’s beaches to the public, while maintaining the wildlife and scenic beauty and began work on this legislation in 2008. Senator Burr’s hard work has led to ORV access finally being passed by the House and soon by the Senate.
“Interference from outside interest groups and Federal restrictions on beach access have crippled local businesses along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for years – it has impaired the local community and its economy,” Senator Burr said. “This House vote is a win for North Carolinians and tourists from around the country who wish to visit North Carolina’s scenic treasures. This has been a long journey that required compromise on both sides of the aisle in order to see it through. I feel confident that my Senate colleagues will swiftly pass this legislation and unlock the beauty of North Carolina’s shores.”
New parameters would direct the NPS to minimize buffers on protected areas and keep them in place for the shortest possible duration necessary, designate pedestrian and vehicle corridors around areas that are closed, coordinate with the State of North Carolina when establishing certain buffers, and allow for a public process when considering limiting access in special situations. The agreement also directs the NPS to construct vehicle access points and roads as expeditiously as possible and report its progress to Congress within one year of the act becoming law.
Groups including the American Sportfishing Association and Congressional Sportsmen Foundation are supporters.
Text of the Bill:
EC. 3057. CAPE HATTERAS NATIONAL SEASHORE RECREATIONAL AREA.
(a) DEFINITIONS.—In this section:
(1) FINAL RULE.—The term ‘‘Final Rule’’means the final rule entitled ‘‘Special Regulations, Areas of the National Park System, Cape Hatteras National Seashore—Off-Road Vehicle Management’’(77 Fed. Reg. 3123 (January 23, 2012)).
(2) NATIONAL SEASHORE.—The term ‘‘National Seashore’’ means the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area.
(3) SECRETARY.—The term ‘‘Secretary’’ means the Secretary of the Interior.
(4) STATE.—The term ‘‘State’’ means the State of North Carolina.
(b) REVIEW AND ADJUSTMENT OF WILDLIFE PROTECTION BUFFERS.—
(1) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall review and modify wildlife buffers in the National Seashore in accordance with this subsection and any other applicable law.
(2) BUFFER MODIFICATIONS.—In modifying wildlife buffers under paragraph (1), the Secretary shall, using adaptive management practices—
(A) ensure that the buffers are of the shortest duration and cover the smallest area necessary to protect a species, as determined in accordance with peer-reviewed scientific data; and
(B) designate pedestrian and vehicle corridors around areas of the National Seashore closed because of wildlife buffers, to allow access to areas that are open.
(3) COORDINATION WITH STATE.—The Secretary, after coordinating with the State, shall determine appropriate buffer protections for species that are not listed under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), but that are identified for protection under State law.
(c) MODIFICATIONS TO FINAL RULE.—The Secretary shall undertake a public process to consider, consistent with management requirements at the National Seashore, the following changes to the Final Rule:
(1) Opening beaches at the National Seashore that are closed to night driving restrictions, by opening beach segments each morning on a rolling basis as daily management reviews are completed.
(2) Extending seasonal off-road vehicle routes for additional periods in the Fall and Spring if offroad vehicle use would not create resource management problems at the National Seashore.
(3) Modifying the size and location of vehicle free areas.
(d) CONSTRUCTION OF NEW VEHICLE ACCESS POINTS.—The Secretary shall construct new vehicle access points and roads at the National Seashore—
(1) as expeditiously as practicable; and
(2) in accordance with applicable management plans for the National Seashore.
(e) REPORT.—The Secretary shall report to Congress within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act on measures taken to implement this section.
Click here to read the entire 1,648 pages of the National Defense Authorization Act.