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Contact: Michael Barber, 252-475-9032
On December 19, 2014, the President of the United States signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. The NDAA required that Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) modify wildlife protection buffers, accelerate the construction of vehicle access points and roads, report back to congress within one year of the date of the NDAA, and undertake a public process to consider changes to the Seashore's Final Rule on off-road vehicle (ORV) management. Specifically, the NDAA required the Seashore to consider three specific changes to the Seashore’s 2012 Final Rule regarding: (1) morning opening of beaches that are closed to ORV use at night, (2) the dates for seasonal ORV routes, and (3) the size and location of Vehicle Free Areas (VFAs). Wildlife protection buffers were modified in June 2015, all vehicle access points were constructed and a report to Congress was finalized before the end of December 2015.
On December 19, 2016, the Seashore published a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), and on December 21, 2016, the Seashore will complete the final task related to the Fiscal Year 2015 NDAA by amending its existing Final Rule for ORV use at the Seashore in the Federal Register.
Summary: The Seashore, on December 21, 2016, will amend its Final Rule for ORV use at the Seashore to: (1) allow for earlier morning openings of certain beaches open to ORV use, (2) extend the dates for ORV seasonal routes by two weeks in the spring and fall, and (3) modify the size and location of a few VFAs. Final Rule changes were made in response to the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2015. The Seashore also amended the Final Rule to allow the Seashore to issue ORV permits that will be valid for different lengths of time than previously existed, revise an ORV route designation to allow pedestrian use of a sound-side area on Ocracoke Island without requirement for an ORV permit, and extend an existing bypass route at Cape Point. For full details on the Final Rule, go to the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/21/2016-30735/special-regulations-areas-of-the-national-park-system-cape-hatteras-national-seashore----off-road (Document #: 2016-3035). To view the FONSI, go to https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=358&projectID=59571&documentID=76714.
Implementation: The implementation of the amended Final Rule will occur in the months following its publication date.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Final Rule for off-road vehicle (ORV) management at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore)?
The Final Rule establishes new Federal regulations that describe ORV routes and other details associated with where, when, and how ORVs may access Seashore beaches.
Why did the Seashore make changes to its special regulation on off-road vehicle use?
On December 19, 2014, the President of the United States signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015. The NDAA stated:
“The Secretary shall undertake a public process to consider, consistent with management requirements at Cape Hatteras 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 off-road vehicle use would not create resource management problems at the National Seashore.
(3) Modifying the size and location of vehicle-free areas.”
What existing special regulations describe where, when, and how off road vehicles can access Seashore beaches?
A special regulation, often referred to as the “final rule” was published in the Federal Register on January 23, 2012. The modified Final Rule, dated December 21, 2016, can be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/12/21/2016-30735/special-regulations-areas-of-the-national-park-system-cape-hatteras-national-seashore----off-road (Document #: 2016-30735).
Where can I receive general information about off road vehicle management and use at the Seashore?
The park currently has a special Off-Road Vehicle webpage with information needed for off-road travel in the Seashore. Click here for more information.
Didn’t the Seashore already evaluate changes through an Environmental Assessment entitled: Consideration of modifications to the final rule for ORV management? If so, why is there a separate Final Rule?
Yes, the Seashore published this Environmental Assessment in February 2016. That document can be found here. The environmental assessment included a preferred alternative that described proposed changes and impacts of those alternatives, to the Seashore’s final rule for ORV management. However, special regulations are required to change existing regulations for ORV use on National Park Service lands. The Final Rule largely describes the technical details that are required to implement the Seashore’s preferred alternative.
Was the public engaged during the process to prepare the Environmental Assessment?
Yes, the Seashore held five public scoping meetings during August of 2015 and provided a 30-day period during which scoping comments could be provided (7/30-8/21/15). A public scoping report, summarizing the comments received, can be found here. Using the ideas and information gained during the scoping period, the Seashore developed a range of alternatives, including a preferred alternative (Alternative 2) and released an Environmental Assessment for public comment in February 2016. At that time, the Seashore provided a 30-day comment period and held another five public meetings in the following locations: Kitty Hawk (2/26/16), Hampton, VA (2/29/16), Buxton (3/1/16), Ocracoke (3/2/16), and Raleigh, NC (3/3/16). Comments on the Environmental Assessment were reviewed and considered in the preparation of the proposed rule.
Was the public engaged during the process to prepare the Final Rule?
Yes, a 30-day comment period began after publishing of an Environmental Assessment on modifications to the Final Rule and a 60-day public comment period began immediately following the publishing of a proposed amendment to the Final Rule on August 22, 2016. Thousands of correspondences were received from individuals and organizations. A public comment/response report will be available for viewing after the Final Rule is published and will be located at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=59571.
Is there a public comment period on the Final Rule?
The rulemaking process does not provide for a public comment period for a Final Rule. For more information on that process, click here.
When will the Final Rule go into effect and when might the public see those changes implemented on the ground?
The Final Rule will be effective no less than 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register, which is December 21, 2016. For more information on that process, click here. Implementation of the Final Rule will occur in the months following the date of Final Rule publication. The Seashore intends to implement most changes, other than those that require construction, prior to the 2017 summer season.