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Contact: Patrick Kenney, 252-728-2250, ext. 3014
Harkers Island, NC – The National Park Service (NPS) has released the Final Off-Road Vehicle Plan/ Environmental Impact Statement (plan) for Cape Lookout National Seashore (Seashore). The Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register on December 9, 2016.
The NPS was subject to a lawsuit filed in 2005, alleging violation of the Executive Orders and NPS policy on off-road vehicle (ORV) use. The NPS entered into a settlement agreement requiring the preparation and implementation of an ORV Plan, Environmental Impact Statement, and Special Regulation. Key issues that the plan and regulation address are: 1) compliance with federal laws, regulations, and policies, 2) protection of natural resources and processes of a highly dynamic barrier island system, 3) protection of threatened and endangered species including birds and sea turtles, and 4) creating pedestrian only areas to avoid conflicts between ORV users and non-ORV users.
In 2014, the NPS released the Seashore’s draft plan for public comment. A series of public meetings were held in North Carolina to inform the public about the proposed plan and to allow the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions to adjust the plan. Over 1000 correspondences were received and analyzed. Responses to these comments are included in the final plan. In addition, a proposed regulation was published in the federal register in 2015. Public comment was also encouraged on the proposed regulation and was considered as part of the revisions made to the plan.
The final plan has several key elements that will ensure reasonable access, which will mirror at a minimum current use, while also providing preservation of park resources: 1) requiring fee-based ORV permits, 2) establishing a limit on the number of vehicle permits issued, 3) requiring a free education certificate for all ORV operators, 4) establishing restrictions on night driving, 5) creating pedestrian only areas, and 6) protecting wildlife (buffers and monitoring efforts).
According to Superintendent Pat Kenney, “The final plan includes adjustments based on the comments we received from the public. The Cape Lookout National Seashore staff is very appreciative of the public’s interest in this planning effort and feels that the input received through the process has improved the overall plan.” Kenney added, “The plan allows public access while ensuring the resources of this national significant place are protected.”
The next step in the process will involve signing the Record of Decision, which is anticipated to occur 30 days from the date of the release of the final plan. Once the Record of Decision is signed, the final regulations will be published in the Federal Register. Following the completion of the planning and regulation process, the NPS will implement the plan to continue to ensure visitors will be able to utilize the seashore while the resources are protected for future generations.
Link to CALO ORV Management Plan/FEIS: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=359&projectID=15978&documentID=76455