Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources unanimously advanced a bill that opens the door to reexamining the onerous beach access closures at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area in North Carolina. While the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) recognizes the work and effort that the bill’s sponsors put into this measure and believes that the committee’s action is a step in the right direction; ASA remains concerned that the measure falls short of providing immediate relief to the businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the National Park Service’s access restrictions.
“The recreational fishing-dependent businesses in and around the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area should be encouraged by today’s action,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “While we would have liked language included in this bill that provides more definitive public access improvements, we do appreciate the hard work by committee staff and the many Senators who helped usher this negotiated bill.”
Roberson also noted, “In particular, we wish to thank Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), as well as Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.),for working diligently to come to an amenable resolution. We also wish to thank Representative Walter Jones (R-N.C.)for his continued leadership on this issue in the House of Representatives.”
The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area is one of the premier surf fishing locations in the United States. Off-road vehicle (ORV) access to the seashore is essential for surf fishing from the beaches, as well as for many other recreational activities.
On December 20, 2010, the National Park Service announced its decision to approve an ORV management plan that closes extensive areas of the seashore to the public and severely limits ORV access, far outweighing what is needed to address resource protection. The final ORV plan, which went into effect on February 15, 2012, has had a devastating impact on the local economy, which is largely dependent upon tourism and recreation.
Earlier this year, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the “Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act,” introduced by Representative Jones (R-N.C.). That bill, and its companion in the Senate, would revert to an interim management plan that provides greater public access until a new final plan is approved that meets certain access conditions. That bill faced significant opposition in the Senate, but within the last month, the bill’s sponsors and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee staff worked to produce the substitute bill the committee passed today.
“This substitute bill provides a real opportunity to alter the Hatteras management plan in a way that better accommodates public use and enjoyment of this recreational area,” said Mike Leonard, ASA’s Ocean Resource Policy director. “It’s unfortunate that Congress has had to legislate this issue because the National Park Service did such a poor job of allowing for reasonable and balanced public access in the first place.”
“We urge Congress to move swiftly to pass this bill,” continued Leonard. “The burden will then fall upon the National Park Service to use this second chance wisely and provide a better balance of public access and resource protection at Cape Hatteras. These two concepts are not mutually exclusive.”
The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.