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Contact: Outer Banks Group, (252) 473-2111
Superintendent Mike Murray stated today that the National Park Service (NPS) is currently evaluating and considering how to respond to the recent Court Order that was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Terrance W. Boyle on Tuesday, July 17, 2007. The order indicates that NPS is not in compliance with legal requirements to authorize and manage off-road vehicle (ORV) use at the Seashore. For the time being the Seashore continues to operate under an Interim Strategy and beaches remain open to off-road vehicles (ORVs) for the immediate future, with the exception of beaches that are closed due to resource protection areas, annual seasonal village closures and safety closures.
As background, ORV use on Outer Banks beaches predates the 1937 authorization of the Seashore. Prior to paving NC Highway 12 in 1954, island residents and visitors routinely used the beaches and interdunal areas as a transportation route. The completion of the BonnerBridge across Oregon Inlet in 1963 made access to Hatteras Island much easier which resulted in increased vehicle use of beaches for recreational purposes and use has continued to increase. ORV are currently used to access the beaches for many forms of recreational activities including swimming, sunbathing, surf fishing, bird watching, surfing, shell hunting and scenic driving.
Executive Order 11644 (1972), amended by Executive Order 11989 (1977), required certain federal agencies permitting ORV use on agency lands to publish regulations designating specific trails and areas for this use. Title 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 4.10 requires units of the National Park System allowing ORV use to designate use areas and routes by special regulation. Despite previous efforts since the late 1970s, the National Park Service (NPS) has yet to develop an ORV management plan or regulation that would provide the necessary management and regulatory framework to manage ORV use at the Seashore.
To address these issues, Seashore staff has been working on a three-pronged approach. First, in January 2006, NPS issued an Interim Protected Species Management Strategy (Interim Strategy) to guide protected species management practices within the park for approximately 3 years until a long-term ORV management plan and regulation can be developed. A final decision document and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the Interim Strategy was approved on July 13, 2007 by Regional Director Patricia Hooks. Second, on December 11, 2006, NPS announced in the Federal Register the intent to develop an ORV management plan and environmental impact statement, and has since completed the initial public scoping in March 2007 for that planning process. Finally, on June 28, 2007 NPS published in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to assist the NPS with development of the required ORV regulation. The public comment period for this Notice of Intent ends on July 30, 2007.
In addition to the procedures and restrictions identified within the Interim Strategy, other federal regulations apply to ORV and beach use. These include, but are not limited to, prohibitions on unsafe operation of a motor vehicle, reckless driving, carrying open containers of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; requirements to comply with posted speed limits, use seatbelts, stay within posted ORV corridors, and stay out of posted closures; and prohibitions on disorderly conduct, pets off leash, illegal camping, illegal beach fires, and littering.
More information about these planning processes can be obtained at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Off-Road Vehicle Negotiated Rulemaking and Management Plan project website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/caha. If you wish to receive electronic information regarding the Off-Road Vehicle issue, please contact the park at or call 252-473-2111 ext. 148 or send an email to e-mail us and request to be added to the mailing list.