UFWDA’s 5 Year Journey Through Administrative Procedures
By: Carla Boucher, Attorney
ORV Management Planning at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina began in February of 2005. Over the past 5 years United Four Wheel Drive Associations has been continuously involved in the development of the ORV plan, made final in November, 2010. UFWDA involvement over the past 5 years included nomination to the 30-seat Negotiated Rulemaking Committee through participation as 1 of 8 committee members tasked with final efforts to reach unanimous consent on a negotiated rule between anti-access groups and pro-access groups.
Unlike most planning efforts and environmental analysis, the work at Cape Hatteras was complicated by the existence of a Consent Decree regarding ORV use at Cape Hatteras reached by Plaintiff’s Defender’s of Wildlife and Audubon Society represented by their attorney Southern Environmental Law Center against the Defendant National Park Service. The Consent Decree modified the no-action alternative of the planning analysis by requiring the agency to manage the park via the terms of the Consent Decree, not through a plan implemented via public involvement. Even the timeframe within which the voluminous planning occurred was dictated by the Consent Decree, calling into question the validity of whether NPS would or could put enough resources into the planning effort to meet the requirements of NEPA. So, according to the terms of the Consent Decree, the NPS issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in November of this year.
On November 15, 2010, the National Park Service announced the availability of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan for Cape Hatteras National Seashore. On November 19, 2010 the EPA published its notice of availability of the FEIS. The National Park Service will issue a Record of Decision (ROD) on December 19, 2010. It is expected that the ROD will implement the Revised Alternative F published in the FEIS. The details of how this rule will govern ORV driving at Cape Hatteras can be found on the UFWDA forums at www.ufwda.org/smf/index.php?topic=3304
UFWDA members often ask whether involvement in public land planning is worth the money and effort. Resoundingly, UFWDA can answer in the affirmative that this planning process, which likely guides future ORV Planning within National Park Service units, culminated with precious few miles of ORV access that would very likely have been half of what it is today had UFWDA and other pro-access organizations not fought the good fight for sound management and responsible recreational access. Undeniably, had pro-access organizations not made their voices heard by participating in the process, access would be negligible at Cape Hatteras. The anti-access organizations lobbying for no human access would have had unfettered opportunities to sway the decision-makers at Cape Hatteras.
The motorized recreation community, including UFWDA, consistently maintained a dialogue with the National Park Service about the availability of volunteer funding sources and assistance with park programs. The comment by Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) to the NPS in response to the Draft EIS sums up the collective attitude of the anti-access organizations toward ORV users. ORV users suggested multiple types of volunteer activities to aid the NPS, including turtle nest identification and sitting. The SELC wrote, “There is far too much risk that if a nest were located at a popular ORV ramp or between a ramp and a popular fishing area such as Cape Point, a volunteer who supports ORV use, or one who is pressured by those who do, might not report the turtle nest to the Seashore. We would be extremely concerned if the FEIS allowed the use of volunteers for turtle patrol, due to the high risk that the integrity of the patrol process could be compromised”. The attitude by anti-access organizations and their leadership is that ORV users, generally and unilaterally, are liars and thugs that pressure others of higher moral fortitude to lie for us, for the sake of a joy ride and at the expense of endangered turtles. With this type of rhetoric as their anti-access basis there is no doubt that every opportunity UFWDA has to protect and promote responsible motorized recreation and pro-active management planning is of value.
Continued support to have our collective voices heard in this and future ORV planning is necessary. Thank you for your attendance at meetings, participation in letter-writing, visiting your elected officials to lobby for common sense management, and your stalwart support of UFWDA. Your time and your financial contributions to UFWDA are greatly appreciated! It does make a difference.