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CHAPA Submits ORV Rule Change Scoping Comments PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 August 2015 15:04
CHAPA submitted scoping comments including recommendations for changes to the ORV rule on August 21. Recommendations include changes to dates for opening seasonal ORV routes, changes to times for morning opening and evening closing of ORV routes during summer months, and designation of Vehicle Free Areas (VFAs).

Click here to read CHAPA's submission..... 
 
ORV Rule Public Scoping Comments Due 8/21/2015 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 31 July 2015 15:33

Comment Now About Changes to the ORV Rule You Want Implemented

7/31/2015


The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 requires a public process to consider changes to the ORV rule as it relates to the morning opening of beaches, extending the length of seasonal ORV routes in the fall and/or spring, and modifying the size and location of vehicle Free areas (VFAs).  The National Park Service (NPS) provided preliminary alternatives for these three elements in its July 30 newsletter.  (Click this link to view the newsletter and to provide comment).

 Comments are due by August 21, 2015.  The newsletter also outlines the timeframe for steps which will follow, including a future comment period for the proposed rule which will likely occur in late 2015, early 2016.

 The alternatives in the newsletter present ideas the NPS has developed for consideration, but, the newsletter also asks the question “Are there any additional alternative options you would like the NPS to consider?”  CHAPA will submit detailed and specific recommendations to the NPS and will share them with you at a later date.  The NPS places high value on comments submitted by individuals and CHAPA urges you to personally participate in the scoping process.  Please ensure the NPS understand what is important to you in each of these elements and submit additional options for consideration as requested.  CHAPA offers the following information to help you prepare.

Click to read recommendations...
 
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Wednesday, 22 July 2015 13:41

NPS Announces Public Scoping Meetings to Consider Changes to ORV Rule

Section 3057, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area was passed in December, 2014 as part of The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. On July 20, NPS announced the scheduling of public scoping meetings between August 6 and August 12 to consider changes to the 2012 Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area ORV Rule as required by the new law.  Specifically, NPS will consider changes to three specific areas of the Rule.

  • Morning Opening of ORV access routes during summer months

The rule currently designates ORV routes to be closed from 9:00 pm until 7:00 am.  The new law requires that the utilization of a rolling schedule be considered to allow access earlier than 7:00 am.  The expectation is that NPS would schedule turtle patrols to be completed prior to 7:00 am on selected beaches to facililtate this change.

CHAPA believes greater early morning access will significantly improve the visitor experience at a time of year when sunrise occurs well before 6:00 am.  A rolling schedule, or changing the opening time for all ORV access, will facilitate important visitor activities currently not available.

  • Dates for Seasonal Closures

The rule currently designates that many ORV routes will be closed to ORV access from April 1 until October 31.  These are called seasonal routes. The new law requires that consideration be given to opening the routes to ORV access earlier in the fall and closing the routes later in the spring in order to lengthen the time ORV access is available each year.

CHAPA believes that the shoulder seasons, (early/mid fall and early/mid spring) offer visitor activities that are highly dependent on ORV access and that earlier opening in the fall and later closing in the spring will provide significant benefits.

  • Vehicle Free Areas

The rule currently designates approximately 26 miles of seashore as Vehicle Free Areas.  The law requires that consideration be given to changes in the designation of Vehicle Free Areas.

CHAPA believes a number of Vehicle Free Areas result in lost access to activities valued by visitors, significantly and negatively affecting the visitor experience.  We believe these areas are candidates to be reclassified as either seasonal routes or year round ORV routes.

CHAPA urges you to attend one of the public scoping meetings and to be prepared to voice you opinion on these important topics.

We expect, although we are not certain, that NPS will announce a public comment period for written comments.  We will keep you informed as we learn more about the process NPS will follow to complete their assessment of changes to the ORV rule.  We also urge you to participate in all phases of the process as they occur.  This is your opportunity to make a difference in what happens at Cape Hatteras in the future.

CHAPA will also prepare and present recommendations to the NPS and we will share them with you at a future date.

The NPS press release announcing the dates and locations for the scoping meetings follows.

Sincerely,

John Couch

President OBPA

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 Save the Dates

Public Scoping Meetings Scheduled to Consider Changes to

Cape Hatteras National Seashore's Off-Road Vehicle Special Regulation

Cape Hatteras National Seashore is holding public scoping meetings to consider changes to the Seashore's Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) special regulation as it relates to morning opening of beaches, extending the length of fall and spring seasonal ORV routes, and modifying the size and location of vehicle free areas.  Public scoping will help inform the development of alternatives that will be analyzed in an Environmental Assessment (EA).  The EA will be prepared in response to the Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015 (Public Law 113-291) pertaining to the Seashore's Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Management Plan.

 The five public meetings are scheduled as follows:

  • August 5, 2015, 5:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m. - Ocracoke School, 1 Schoolhouse Road

Ocracoke Island, NC  27960

  • August 6, 2015, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - McKimmon Conference & Training Center, 1101 Gorman Street, NC State University Campus, Raleigh, NC  27695
  • August 10, 2015, 6:00 p.m.- 8:00 p.m. -Cape Hatteras Secondary School, 48576 Hwy 12, Buxton, NC  27920
  • August 11, 2015, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Hilton Garden Inn, 5353 Virginia Dare Trail, Kitty Hawk, NC  27949
  • August 12, 2015, 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. - Embassy Suites Hampton Inn, 1700 Coliseum Drive, Hampton, VA  23666

Additional information on the Public Scoping and EA process will be provided in advance of the public meetings.  More information can be found on the Seashore's webpage at: http://www.nps.gov/caha/parkmgmt/2015ndaact.htm.

_____________________________________________________

For general information on the Outer Banks Group national parks, visit www.nps.gov/caha, www.nps.gov/wrbr, www.nps.gov/fora; Twitter: @CapeHatterasNPS, @WrightBrosNPS, @FortRaleighNPS; or call 252-473-2111.


-NPS-

Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 July 2015 14:10
 
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Tuesday, 16 June 2015 19:06

Plan Approved to Modify Wildlife Protection Buffers

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

The National Park Service has approved a plan to modify wildlife protection buffers at Cape Hatteras National Seashore (Seashore) as required by Section 3057 of the Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2015, Public Law 113-291.  (A law supported by NCBBA, CHAPA, OBPA, CHAC & others.)

The selected plan includes modified protection buffers and provides corridors around buffers for many species, including American oystercatchers, Wilson's plovers, piping plovers, colonial nesting waterbirds, and sea turtles.  The plan maintains protections for wildlife along the seashore by augmenting the seashore's monitoring and on-the-ground management program.  Additionally, the Seashore will be hosting workshops in the future to refine scientific monitoring and research towards improving adaptive management.

While it is expected that these changes will provide additional public access during wildlife nesting seasons, access to all areas of the Seashore at all times may not be possible, even with the decision to modify wildlife buffers; multiple species may nest in close proximity to each other and there are times where ORV corridors cannot be provided due to local geography.  Parts of the selected alternative may be implemented during the summer of 2015, while the entire plan will be implemented in 2016, once additional staff are available to help intensively monitor and manage wildlife protection buffers and corridors.

The plan was approved by Stan Austin, the Director of the Southeast Region of the National Park Service, completing the National Environmental Policy Act and Environmental Assessment (EA) process which began earlier this year.  The EA and FONSI were prepared in close coordination and consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and in consideration of public input that was received during the public review period.

Superintendent David Hallac stated, “Wildlife protection buffers described under the plan's selected action will continue to protect wildlife species while providing additional flexibility to allow access to pedestrians and off road vehicles.”

A brief summary of the selected plan is as follows:

• For American oystercatcher: There will be an ORV corridor at the waterline during nesting, but only when (a) no alternate route is available, and (b) the nest is preferably at least 50 meters, but no less than 25 meters from the vehicle corridor.  Buffer reductions and corridors will only be implemented with at least twice daily monitoring to ensure that the area can be managed appropriately when chicks hatch. Buffers for nests and unfledged chicks will stay the same as they are now.

• For piping plover and Wilson’s plover: The buffer during nesting will be reduced from 75 meters to 50 meters for both pedestrians and ORVs.  For unfledged chicks, the buffer will be reduced from 300 meters to 100 meters (pedestrians) and from 1,000 meters to500 meters (ORVs).  Where the standard 500 meter buffer blocks ORV access, the buffer may be reduced to no less than 200 meters to allow an access corridor along the shoreline.  Buffer reductions when chicks are present will only be implemented with intensive monitoring by qualified staff.

• For least tern: The buffer for unfledged chicks will be reduced from 200 meters to 100 meters for both pedestrians and ORVs.  The buffer during nesting would stay the same.  Buffer reductions and corridors will only be implemented with at least twice daily monitoring to ensure that the area can be managed appropriately when chicks become mobile.

• For common tern, gull-billed tern, and black skimmer: The buffer for these species during nesting and when unfledged chicks are present will be reduced from 200 meters to180 meters for both pedestrians and ORVs.

• For sea turtles: The expansion buffer will be reduced to 30 meters (15 meters on either side), and, when light filtering fencing is installed, 5 meters minimum behind the nest.  In the absence of an existing corridor, the shorter buffer behind the nest may allow ORVs to travel behind a nest where sufficient beach width exists.  Where a turtle nest blocks access during the hatch window from one ORV area to another and no way around the nest exists, ORVs may drive in front of the nest only when qualified staff  are regularly monitoring the nest for signs of hatching and available to remove ruts in front of nests on a daily basis.

For nests laid prior to June 1, the Seashore will retain the option of not expanding the buffer until day 60, unless signs of hatching prior to day 60 were detected.  For nests laid after August 20, the Seashore will retain the option of not expanding the buffer for nests that block access to ORV passage.

On the rare occasion that a sea turtle nest is laid in such a location as to completely block ORV ramp access to and from an open section of beach where there is no ability to provide a corridor or other route around the nest, that nest may be relocated to an area that does not block access.

The buffers and corridors proposed in alternative B are contingent on NPS having the resources (funding and staff) to perform intensive or increased monitoring to protect species.  In cases where resource management personnel document adverse impacts to resources greater than those described in this EA, the Seashore would retain the discretion to revert to the resource protection measures in the ORV FEIS.

Alternative B only makes changes related to the review and modification, as appropriate, of wildlife protection buffers and the designation of pedestrian and vehicle corridors around buffers.  All other aspects of the ORV FEIS remain unchanged.

Later this summer, the Seashore will commence a public process to consider modifications to the final rule on off road vehicle management (2012).  Specifically, the Seashore will consider changes to the final rule related to: morning openings of beaches, the time periods open for use of seasonal off road vehicle routes, and the size and location of vehicle free areas.

Additional information and a copy of the FONSI and related comments can be found here: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=358&projectID=56762&documentID=66763

Neither NCBBA nor OBPA or CHAPA fully support the published plan and will comment at a later time.  We suggest that you read and familiarize your selves with the rules that will be implemented.

 

 
CHAPA Official Comments - NPS EA - Review & Adjustment of Wildlife Protection Buffers PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 14 May 2015 17:00


5/14/2015

 CHAPA submitted comments for the "Review and Adjustment of Wildlife Protection Buffers" Environmental Assessment (EA) to the National Park Service (NPS) today.  The NPS published the assessment on April 29, 2015 as we previously communicated. As part of the EA, NPS also opened a public comment period which expires at midnight, May 14, 2015.

CHAPA's comments acknowledge several changes in the NPS proposal which will have a positive impact on visitor access, both pedestrian and ORV, if implemented.  CHAPA also described a number of additional changes which must be implemented to ensure NPS compliance with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 section 3057.  That law requires NPS "to insure that the buffers are of the shortest duration and cover the smallest area necessary to protect a species....."

CHAPA's recommendations were originally sent to the Superintendent for his consideration on April 10, 2015, prior to the publication of the EA.  We continue to believe the recommendations offered at that time can be implemented with minimal disruption to the NPS resource management processes already in place at the Seashore.  We also believe our recommendations will balance resource protection and pedestrian / ORV access at the Seashore in a way that is consistent with the intent of the law.

 The official CHAPA comments can be viewed at this link. This letter and other communications which have occurred on this subject in the past cand be viewed at www.obpa,org , www.ncbba.org , or www.IslandFreePress.org .  In addition to following our communications, we urge you to visit the NPS webpage titled   "2015 National Defense Authorization Act Actions Update"   to stay current with the latest information.

John Couch

President, OBPA



Last Updated on Thursday, 04 June 2015 21:38
 
NPS Releases EA - Review and Adjustment of Wildlife Protection Buffers PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 03 May 2015 12:54
The National Park Service published  the "Environmental Assessment: Review and Adjustment of Wildlife Protection Buffers - Cape Hatteras National Seashore" on April 29, 2015".

This document presents the changes to wildlife buffers and corridors proposed by NPS for implementation after June 19th.

As previously announced, NPS is holding public meetings between May 4 and 8 to explain the proposals and to receive public input.  OBPA will provide additional information to assist you in understanding the potential impact of these important changes.
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 May 2015 15:17
 
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The OBPA is a not-for-profit corporation with 501(c)(3) IRS designation.  Donations are tax deductible.

 
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NCBBA Donates $10,000 to CHAPA to fight for Access 11/21/2013



Jim Keene, NCBBA Director (center) presents a check to John Couch (L), OBPA President and David Scarborough (R). OBPA Treasurer in the amount of $10,000.00 to be used by the Cape Hatteras Access Preservation Alliance (CHAPA) in the continuing fight for free and open beaches.



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