Local Community Group Challenges New National Park Service Off-Road Vehicle Restrictions at Cape Hatteras
Proper review of alternatives and socioeconomic impacts required, says group’s filing.
Buxton, NC (February 9, 2012) – The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) today filed suit challenging the National Park Service’s (NPS) issuance of a new management plan and special rule regulating off-road vehicle (ORV) use at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit NPS from imposing severe new restrictions on ORV use within the Recreational Area in accordance with the agency’s recently released Cape Hatteras ORV Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement and Special Regulations governing ORV management at the Recreational Area.
Since before the establishment of the Recreational Area, ORV access to and over the beaches of North Carolina ’s Outer Banks has been fundamental to the use and enjoyment of the area by residents, visitors, and local businesses. “The Park Service’s new ORV management plan and rules, if implemented, will have a devastating effect on our unique, local shore-oriented culture and economy,” said John Couch, President of the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA). “The OBPA and CHAPA have fought to keep the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area beaches free and open to residents and visitors since 1977. OBPA and CHAPA continuously have maintained that reasonable ORV access and bird and turtle species protection are not mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, the Park Service overlooked reasonable recommendations and information that OBPA and CHAPA put forth during the planning process that would have resulted in an ORV management plan and rules that both protect wildlife resources and ensure reasonable ORV access to and over the area’s beaches.”
Throughout the ORV planning and rulemaking process, CHAPA’s goal has been to work with NPS to develop a comprehensive ORV use and management plan that will meet the concerns of protecting the Recreational Area’s resources without compromising the distinctive lifestyle and economic health of the islands that make up the Outer Banks. CHAPA has advocated the protection and preservation of Seashore beaches within a framework of responsible and meaningful access to the ocean beaches and sound for all users, including pedestrians and properly licensed drivers and their vehicles.
According to the complaint filed by CHAPA in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia , the imposition of new, severe restrictions was “foreordained from the time that NPS began its planning process.” As set forth in the complaint, the Park Service’s planning and environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act was plagued by a series of failures. These include, among others: a failure to give meaningful consideration to views, data, or information that were contrary to NPS’s desire to impose more severe restrictions on ORV access and use; a failure to look at reasonable alternatives, including smaller and more flexible buffer and closure areas; and a failure to properly assess impacts on the local economy. The complaint asks the court to determine that NPS acted improperly and to prevent NPS from implementing its final ORV management plan and rules. The Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) is a project of the Outer Banks Preservation Association (OBPA), which is dedicated to preserving and protecting a lifestyle historically prevalent on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and specifically at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (CHNSRA). With over 10,000 active members (representing over 38 states and Canada), OBPA and CHAPA work to protect and preserve local beaches within a framework of free and open beach access for all users, including properly licensed drivers and vehicles.