I’m not really sure who it was that first sent me a copy of the “enabling legislation” that in the process of creating Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, provided the Park Service with a framework with which to manage the Seashore.
What I do know is that before I read it the first time those many years ago, I was told that it was a “dual mandate” that gave NPS two missions to accomplish. One, the creation of a recreational area, and two, preserve the remaining area as primitive wilderness, which still comprises the vast majority of the Seashore as a whole.
It is upon the “dual mandate” premise that NPS has managed the area and many a debate has been centered. Often during that debate, whether coming from the NPS, environmental groups or certain individuals who argue this issue on various websites, we hear that the legislation is vague in that it doesn’t delineate where the recreational area is supposed to be as opposed to the primitive wilderness area. Presumably, it is that argument, that the law is vague, which led Sandy Hamilton, a Colorado based NPS employee, to proclaim during the negotiated rulemaking process that “as long as we leave a small area open for recreational access, we have fulfilled the recreational mission… ‘
Early morning last Thursday I was busy with my chores when suddenly I was struck by thought so powerful that it did what my coffee had yet been able to do; it woke me right up. Forgetting the chores, I pondered for a while then sat down here to look again at what the Congress wrote and passed.
The “enabling legislation” is not a “dual mandate”.
Within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, NPS outlines its preferred alternative (F) which includes the construction of additional ramps, parking areas, walkovers, inter-dunal roads, and a parking lot at Hatteras Spit, all of which would potentially destroy “wilderness” area and or the “unique flora and fauna now contained within”.
If the primary mission is to preserve these portions of the Seashore as opposed to recreation, how can NPS tear up these areas and develop them for recreational use? It’s because the Congress told them to do exactly that when they stated “which shall be developed for such uses as needed”.
In fact, read like its written, and you’ll see that Congress assumes that the entire Seashore can be developed by NPS for recreational use if it’s needed.
Congress used the term “reserved” when they spoke of primitive wilderness, not “preserved”. Had they said “preserved”, there would in fact be a dual mandate. The use of the word “reserved” tells NPS nothing more than that they are to preserve the flora and fauna until it’s needed for recreational use at which point it is to be developed for such purpose.
That’s not a dual mandate.
In my own experience, I have been in many a neighborhood that was being developed where the developer in question wasn’t allowed to cut out the trees on a given lot until the owner was actually ready to build a house. Consequently, at least for a while, many of the lots remained as they were for an extended period and were only “developed for such uses as needed”.
That’s what the Congress told NPS, and that’s all they told them. Develop the area for recreational use, reserve the rest until you need it and don’t mess with it while it’s in reserve.
That’s why congress never bothered to specify exactly where one area is as opposed to the other. Because they had already said it was all “fair game” for development for recreational use and in fact implored NPS to develop it for that purpose whenever necessary and in that respect is not vague at all.
As you read the legislation, which I will post below, try and read it without the bias of a “dual mandate” and carefully read it as the one long congruent thought it is.
SEC. 4. “Except for certain portions of the area, deemed to be especially adaptable for recreational uses, particularly swimming, boating, sailing, fishing, and other recreational activities of similar nature, which shall be developed for such uses as needed, the said area shall be permanently reserved as a primitive wilderness and no development of the project or plan for the convenience of visitors shall be undertaken which would be incompatible with the preservation of the unique flora and fauna or the physiographic conditions now prevailing in this area:”
Chew on that for a while…