Sidelined under the Trump administration, the Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission seems poised for a comeback.
Last Thursday, Congressman Bill Keating, D–9th District, reintroduced legislation to reauthorize the commission, which has been disbanded since its previous authorization ended in 2018. The bill is the same one Keating introduced in the last Congress, which passed in the House in November 2019 before languishing in the Senate. The legislation would apply retroactively, reauthorizing the commission until 2028.
The Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission, first authorized in 1961, undergoes statutory re-authorization every 10 years. It enjoyed fairly routine renewals in the past, but that changed in 2017 when the Trump administration signaled a desire to limit community input over the use of public lands. Many national parks saw their citizen advisory commissions deauthorized.
Though some national parks have contentious relationships with the communities where they are located, the National Seashore and the towns from Provincetown to Chatham have historically had cooperative relationships. In recent years, the National Seashore has been a key regional organizer in efforts to improve shark safety on area beaches.
While some national parks' advisory committees are not particularly active, the all-volunteer Cape Cod National Seashore Advisory Commission has been a key link between Lower Cape towns and the National Park Service since the seashore's beginning. Each of the six towns has a delegate, with other representatives coming from the county, the state and the Secretary of the Interior.
The National Seashore's jurisdiction includes all of Nauset (North) Beach, including North Beach Island and South Beach, south to the area off Monomoy Island known as Shark Cove. In the past, the commission has provided a forum for locals to speak out on key issues like the disposition of the historic family-owned camps that once dotted the barrier beach.
The National Seashore Advisory Commission was allowed to hold a single meeting in June 2018 – its 307th session since the body was founded – but was then deauthorized. Lower Cape towns sent letters of support seeking to preserve the commission, or to create some sort of alternative body.
With Democrats now in control of the Senate, Keating’s bill seems likely to become law.
“Despite COVID, the National Seashore saw an increase of more than 35,000 visitors this summer, proving this uniquely beautiful place provides joy and solace even during the most trying of times,” Keating said. “Under the new Biden Administration, we feel confident we will finally have a partner who understands the importance of the commission and the Seashore itself. I look forward to the reauthorization of this important board.”