Press Release | June 26, 2012

MEDIA ADVISORY Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center to testify before U. S. Senate Subcommittee on beach driving bill

Derb Carter of the Southern Environmental Law Center will testify on June 27 before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on National Parks regarding a bill that would overturn the National Park Service’s plan to manage beach driving at Cape Hatteras National Seashore where rare sea turtles and shorebirds nest. Senate Bill 2372, sponsored by U.S. Senators Hagan (D-NC) and Burr (R-NC), would overturn the plan that designates miles of beaches within the national seashore as available to off-road vehicles while protecting the safety of pedestrians and beach-nesting wildlife, increasing visitation to the seashore, and increasing revenue from local tourism despite the recession.

WHAT: Hearing on Senate Bill 2372, a bill to overturn the National Park Service’s balanced plan to manage beach driving within Cape Hatteras National Seashore, before the Subcommittee on National Parks, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

WHO: Derb Carter, senior attorney and director, North Carolina Office, Southern Environmental Law Center (copies of his testimony will be public at the time of the hearing)

WHEN: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 3 p.m. EDT

WHERE: Room 366, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.

BACKGROUND:
• The National Park Service rule designates 28 of the seashore’s 67 miles as year-round ORV routes with only 26 miles designated as year-round vehicle-free areas for pedestrians, families, and wildlife. The remaining 13 miles of seashore are seasonally open to ORVs, but reserved for pedestrians during the peak tourism seasons. Some areas may be temporarily closed during nesting season to allow birds and sea turtles to nest and raise their young. The new plan also proposes new parking facilities, access ramps, and water shuttles to increase visitor access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches.
• The long-awaited ORV management rule is the final step in a process agreed to by all parties—including Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (a coalition of beach-driving proponents) and local counties—concerned about beach driving in the national seashore. While the Seashore was managed under temporary measures similar to the final plan that became effective February 15, 2012, rare bird and sea turtle populations showed signs of recovery, park visitation held steady or increased annually, and tourism remained strong in Dare County, NC, where much of the seashore is located, despite a nationwide recession.
• Tourism flourished in Dare County during the period when temporary protections under a Consent Decree were in place. Rental occupancy receipts in Dare County increased by millions over the previous decade as recorded by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Park visitation and gross occupancy in Dare County during peak breeding and nesting season under interim management held steady or increased compared to the three preceding years. According to a state report on tourism for 2009-2010, Dare County experienced an 8.8 percent growth in tourism—placing it among the top growth counties in the state during a recession. The county’s strong tourism industry employed 11,260 people with $172 million in payroll and generated $44.55 million in tax receipts for the state and $39.78 million in local tax receipts.
• As a unit of the National Park System, Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been required under federal law since 1972, when President Nixon issued an executive order to establish guidelines that to manage off-road vehicles in such a way to minimize harm to the wildlife and other natural resources of the seashore in accordance with the best available science, to minimize conflicts with other, non-vehicle-based uses of the seashore, and to preserve the seashore for present and future generations. After decades of non-compliance, the new rule that became effective February 15, 2012 and which would be overturned by Senate Bill 2372, brought the NPS into compliance with that requirement.

Note to editors:
• Charts showing data for wildlife numbers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore as reported by NPS are available at: https://www.southernenvironment.org/cases/beach_driving_on_cape_hatteras_national_seashore/cape_hatteras_national_seashore_species_under_consent_decree/
• Dare County Gross Occupancy graphs as reported by the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau are available at https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/Dare%20County%20Gross%20Occupancy%201994-2011.pdf
and https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/Dare%20County%20Gross%20Occupancy%202005-2011.pdf
• A chart of Cape Hatteras National Seashore Visitation as reported by NPS is available at https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/pages/CHNS%20Visitation%202005-2011.pdf

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-967-1450
Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org