Fishing & Boating News

Park Service Severely Curtails Public Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore

ORV management plan ignores economic impact on local community by closing large areas to recreational fishing and other outdoor activities

by: Mary Jane Williamson, Dir Communications,

(Dec. 21, 2010 - Alexandria, VA) The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), along with Cape Hatteras (NC) civic and business organizations, denounce the National Park Service's (NPS) decision to adopt an off-road vehicle (ORV) management plan for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area (CHNSRA) that closes extensive areas of the seashore to the public and severely limits ORV access to one of the premier surf fishing locations on the East coast. The NPS adopted its preferred management plan which severely curtails recreational fishing and other recreational activities beyond what is needed to address resource protection. The final ORV plan poses serious issues for the local economy, which is largely dependent upon tourism and recreation, such as surf fishing, because it prevents reasonable public access to many of the park's best sportfishing areas.

"We are extremely disappointed with the Park Service and the Department of the Interior," said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. "Their preferred alternative for ORV access far exceeds what is necessary for resource protection and betrays the promises they made to the recreational fishing industry and local government and business leaders regarding recreational use of the seashore. We fully understand and support the need to have healthy resources in the seashore, but the restrictions placed on Cape Hatteras go far beyond any sense of balance and fairness."

Since 2008, the Cape Hatteras recreational area has been managed under an already-restrictive consent decree in anticipation of a final management plan. The consent decree is the result of a settlement reached after Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society filed an injunction asking that all ORV access, except for essential vehicles, be stopped. The consent decree has resulted in extensive restrictions on ORV access to key surf fishing spots in the Cape Hatteras recreational area and a significant economic burden on the local economy.

"At each stage of this process, the restrictions have become more and more onerous" said Bob Eakes, owner of Red Drum Tackle Shop, located in Buxton, N.C., whose business depends on sportfishing access. "Decades ago, our community engaged with the NPS to manage the seashore with promises of reasonable access for the public to enjoy fishing and recreational activities. In fact, the first responsibility identified in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area's enabling legislation is ?the preservation of traditional, cultural, recreational and commercial values for the citizen visitors.' While we have attempted to work with the NPS to seek a reasonable, balanced compromise in this plan, our input has been ignored. It saddens me beyond words to see my community suffering like this because of such overly restrictive, and unnecessary, management measures."

"With this action, the National Park Service has effectively shut down some of the best surf fishing on the East coast because they are unwilling to work with anglers and the local community to come to a reasonable compromise," said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman. "It's a damn shame."