Fire Island National Seashore was established in 1964, supported by a coalition of organizations that opposed Robert Moses' plans to construct a parkway the length of Fire Island. When the park's current General Management Plan was completed in 1977 the need to reduce driving on Fire Island was articulated. Many parties have agreed that the park's current driving regulations (36 CFR Ch. 1, Section 7.20), in effect since 1987, need to be rewritten and simplified.
By 2002, the National Park Service (NPS) began the development of new regulations for off-road driving at Fire Island National Seashore using the Negotiated Rulemaking process, which allows private citizens to participate in revising federal regulations. See the Negotiated Rulemaking Act of 1990 (5 U.S.C. 561-570).
Negotiated Rulemaking (also called regulatory negotiation) is still a relatively new law allowing the public to participate in writing federal regulations. In the reg-neg process, those parties who will be significantly affected by a regulation are invited by the agency to participate in a working group to negotiate possible new regulations. This negotiating committee, including the NPS and local governments, seeks to reach consensus on regulations that all can live with. This allows key interests of stakeholders to be met through dialogue and negotiation, rather than through the traditional process, which can be adversarial and litigious.
The NPS maintains the responsibility to prepare effective regulations and will do so using the standard regulation-writing process on points where consensus could not be reached by the Reg-Neg Committee.
The purpose of the Reg-Neg committee was to advise the National Park Service with regard to proposed rulemaking governing off-road vehicle use at Fire Island National Seashore. Twenty-four persons were appointed to the committee by then Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton in March 2002. The committee was composed of individuals representing various interests with a stake in driving within Fire Island National Seashore. Membership was identified through a series of meetings conducted by the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, a non-profit mediation firm.
The first meeting of the committee was held on June 28-29, 2002, and included discussion and adoption of organizational protocols, development of an agenda for later meetings, presentation and discussion on applicable laws, regulations, policies and data, discussion of committee members' ideas for improving management of off-road vehicles, and discussion of agenda for the next meetings and tasks between sessions.
Subsequent meetings were conducted on July 26 - 27, 2002 and September 13 - 14, 2002. All meetings were open to the public. However, only persons assigned to the committee could participate in the discussions. Interested persons made brief oral or written presentations to the Committee during the meetings or provided written statements prior to the meeting.
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