Hearing is First Step to Reopen Angler Access

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Fishing can be as simple as driving or walking to the water’s edge and tossing in a lure—unless you want to go to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area (CHNSRA).  There, a 2008 ruling, and another ruling this past February, have severely restricted human access to the recreation area and beach access by anglers resulting in business closures and less tourism.  Cape Hatteras is thought by many to provide the best shore fishing in the United States.

However, those beach restrictions could soon be a thing of the past. House of Representatives 4094, introduced by Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina, also known as the Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act, would again authorize pedestrian and motorized vehicle access.

A hearing will be held on HR 4094 this Friday, April 27 at 9 a.m. in the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.  Sportsmen need to contact their Congressman and urge them to support this bill. The hearing will be broadcast live through the House Natural Resources Committee website at http://naturalresources.house.gov/Live

In part, the Cape Hatteras restrictions on driving or walking on the beach were the result of lawsuits filed by the Defenders of Wildlife and the National Audubon Society as the CHNSRA was developing required visitor plans. The Cape Hatteras plan, a more than 100-page long report developed by the National Park Service (NPS), determined that driving or walking on the beach by anglers would not harm endangered plovers, sea turtles, and other shore animals.

Defenders and Audubon were not deterred and sued anyway.  The National Park Service caved to pressure from the plaintiffs and the court and banned motor vehicles from many regions of the beach, and foot traffic was eliminated from other areas. This severely restricts or reduces beach access and angler activity on the CHNS.

The closing of miles of beaches also had a dire economic impact on many local businesses. Most simply closed shop and laid-off employees. This created a ripple effect that reduced the number of anglers who came to the region, and thus losses in tourism dollars and incomes for other businesses.

“I’ve been there many times over the past decade and businesses I’ve shopped at from the beginning are now boarded up,” reports Doug Jeanneret, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance vice president of marketing. “The business owners I interviewed all agree that the beach restrictions are the number one reason the local economy has collapsed.”

To add insult to injury, special regulations also went into effect in February  require that anyone wanting to drive on the beach, in the few areas where it is still allowed, purchase a special Off Road Vehicle permit.  The permits can only be obtained at one of three NPS permit offices and cost $120 for an annual permit or $50 for a 7-day ORV permit. Before a permit is issued the intended driver must watch a seven-minute video.

Take Action!  Call your Congressman today and urge them to support HR 4094.  To find your Congressman, visit the USSA Legislative Action Center.