• 79°

Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt visits Outer Banks

Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt visited the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Wright Brothers National Memorial at the end of a four-day trip to see how federal facilities were maintaining access for the public and mitigating risks.

The secretary talked with federal employees at maintenance facilities in the refuge and the seashore.

Bernhardt started his journey at Shenandoah National Park and continued to Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a stop in Cherokee. On Wednesday, he visited Regulator Marine in Edenton accompanied by Congressman Greg Murphy.

At the Alligator River refuge, the visit started with a ride down Sandy Ridge Trail and a visit to the maintenance shop, where the refuge fire crew was working on equipment. The secretary drove two pieces of firefighting equipment. In the shop, Bernhardt talked with fire crew members. Project leader Rebekah Martin, who supervises managers of nine refuges in eastern North Carolina, accompanied Bernhardt.

David Hallac, superintendent of National Parks of Eastern North Carolina, met Bernhardt at Ramp 2 for a beach ride. Along the way, Bernhardt was able to talk with two anglers. The beach ride ended at Ramp 4.

The tour crossed NC 12 to the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, where Bernhardt met with Russ King, the lessee for the fishing center. The secretary also talked with some charter boat owners.

The tour brought Bernhardt to the Bodie Island Light Station, where he walked along the boardwalk beside the lighthouse talking with Hallac.

Bernhardt then met with representatives of television, print and online media.

After the press meeting, he visited with federal employees at the Bodie Island maintenance compound. The tour ended at Wright Brothers National Memorial and a walk up Big Kill Devil Hill. On the walk, interpretive ranger Ashley Dickerson talked with Bernhardt about the Wright Brothers.

Bernhardt visited the Outer Banks in 2016 when his family vacationed on Hatteras Island.

During the press gathering, Bernhardt reported that park and refuge managers were able to look at each structure and unit to determine what each park or refuge could keep open and protect the health of visitors and workers. He said the Interior Department was fortunate to keep most refuges and Bureau of Land Management locations open during the pandemic.

Bernhardt said managers would reverse the closure procedure to reopen.

Hallac responded that park facilities would open in phases, for example, restrooms and then campgrounds. He is consulting with health experts regarding lighthouse climbing.

Asked about offshore drilling, Bernhardt said a pause on leases was still on hold. He also said that in the past, leasing moved forward with support from local and state leaders.

Hallac reported that four lifeguard stands will be operating this season.

Asked about climate change, Bernhardt said the “Department of Interior recognizes climate is changing.” He said it’s a factor in decisions.

David Bernhardt serves as the 53rd Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 11, 2019 and took office on the same day.

“As Secretary of the Interior, Bernhardt leads an agency with more than 70,000 employees who are stewards for 20 percent of the nation’s lands, including national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and other public lands. The department oversees the responsible development of conventional and renewable energy supplies on public lands and waters, is the largest supplier and manager of water in the 17 Western states, and upholds trust responsibilities to the 573 federally recognized American Indian tribes and Alaska Natives,” states the department in a media release.

From 2001 to 2009, he held several positions within the Department of the Interior, including serving as solicitor. Prior to that, he served then-Secretary Norton as a deputy solicitor, deputy chief of staff and counselor to the secretary, and as director of Congressional and Legislative affairs and counselor to the secretary.

He is a native of Rifle, Colorado.

Bernhardt tweeted “Thank you to the employees at National Parks of Eastern North Carolina for your work to keep our beautiful parks accessible during this challenging time.”

The visit by Bernhardt may be the first official visit by a serving Secretary of the Interior.

At the dedication ceremony for the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Roger C. Ernest came on behalf of the then Secretary of the Interior Fred A. Seaton, who could not attend.

Ernest presided over what was known as “the mixing of the waters” from Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park and waters from the Atlantic Ocean during the dedication ceremony. The ceremony, conducted at the Coquina Bathhouse on Bodie Island, was on April 24, 1958. Conrad Wirth, then director of the National Park Service, was also present.

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS HERE.

RECENT HEADLINES:

Dredging at Hatteras Inlet to start soon

Currituck beach parking permits available Thursday

News

Woman pulled from surf, pronounced dead at North Carolina beach

Lifestyles

North Carolina Beach Buggy Association members gather for annual meeting

News

Million-dollar Powerball ticket sold in Elizabeth City

News

Regional COVID-19 case numbers continue to go up

Crime

North Carolina man charged after toddler left in hot car dies

Crime

FBI campaign to raise hate crime awareness in North Carolina

News

Audit: NCDOT spent less than planned, but risks remain

Business

Worker advocates seek more state aid as federal benefits expire

Crime

Thrown brick at North Carolina protest results in prison term

Crime

Child in critical condition after shooting that also injured mother

Lifestyles

Hatteras Island Cancer Foundation 5K going virtual

Business

Two employees die at eastern North Carolina plant

Crime

Police: North Carolina man shot on front porch has died

Lifestyles

Scuppernong River Festival to bring music, entertainment and more to downtown Columbia

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to seven years in prison for methamphetamine, firearm charges

Crime

Second man charged in toddler’s shooting death in North Carolina

News

UPDATE: Silver Alert canceled for Kill Devil Hills man

News

Southern Shores votes to allow changes to Marketplace shopping center

News

Dare commissioners oppose rufa red knot habitat designation

Lifestyles

Applications now being accepted for Artist Support Grants

Lifestyles

Alice Kelly Memorial tournament: A fun day on the water for a good cause

News

Investigation underway into two deaths on Roanoke Island

News

Duck Town Council meets new employees

Business

Celebrate your favorites: Nominations for Coastland Gold awards closing soon