• The Florida panther's steely gaze - NPS/RALPH ARWOOD

    Big Cypress

    National Preserve Florida

Preserve Seeking Comments on Revised Draft Hunting Management Plan Environmental Assessment

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Date: July 19, 2012
Contact: Bob DeGross, 239-695-1107

The National Park Service (NPS), in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), has released for public comment a revised draft Hunting Management Plan/ Environmental Assessment for Big Cypress National Preserve. The purpose of the plan is to allow the Preserve superintendent to provide for hunting opportunities in a manner that is in the best interest of the Preserve's resources and the public, while meeting the requirements set forth by the NPS, the Preserve's enabling legislation, the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement, and all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.The first draft of the plan was released to the public on March 7, 2012.Comments received on that draft have been addressed in the revised draft.

Hunting in the Preserve is authorized by Public Law (P.L.) 93-440, which established the Preserve in 1974. The original 1974 Preserve is a State Wildlife Management Area, and hunting is managed through regulations published each year by FWC. P.L. 93-440 was amended in 1988 by P.L. 100-301, which expanded the Preserve by 147,000 acres. These new lands, known as the Addition, were largely acquired by the federal government in 1996, and have not been open to hunting pending completion of an Addition General Management Plan. That plan was completed in 2010, and states that the NPS will develop a Hunting Management Plan and work with FWC to provide hunting access, define hunting seasons, and develop hunting regulations that are consistent with both agencies' policies and goals for the Addition.

Alternatives included in this plan are as follows:

Alternative 1 - No Action - Apply Current Management to the Addition

Under alternative 1 (no action), management of hunting in the entire Preserve would occur in accordance with the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement.

Alternative 2 - Minimum Management - No Hunting in the Addition

Under alternative 2, current hunting management would continue within the original Preserve boundaries, using the guidance outlined in the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement. In the Addition, public hunting would be prohibited.

Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative) - New Adaptive Management Strategy

Under alternative 3, the NPS and FWC, in consultation with FWS, would cooperate to implement an adaptive management strategy to manage hunting in the Preserve in accordance with the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement.

To review and comment on the draft plan, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bicy. Follow the appropriate link to Hunting Management Plan/EA.

The agencies will host a public meeting from 5 - 7:30 pm on August 9, 2012, at the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center, 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida. The meeting will provide an opportunity for you to review the draft alternatives and provide comments and suggestions on changes prior to the creation of a final approved plan. Information will be provided regarding the current status of this effort, and NPS staff will be available to answer questions. Preserve Superintendent, Pedro Ramos, said " We are fully committed to providing ample opportunity for the public to engage in this planning effort and are happy to be announcing this additional public meeting and opportunity to commentover the next 30 days."

The meeting will be held in an "open house" format. There will be a short introductory presentation at the beginning of the meeting, but you are invited to visit at any point during the scheduled time to review materials and provide comment.

We invite your comments regarding potential issues and concerns that should be considered during the planning process. Attendance to the meeting is only one way in which you can provide comments. You may also do so by mail or on-line and all comments received, whether in person or otherwise, will be considered carefully. Before including an address, phone number, email address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Comments by mail may be sent to Superintendent, Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141-1000. Comments may also be submitted on-line.

Comments are requested by August 24, 2012. Once the comment period concludes, we will consider all comments submitted in the development of the final plan/EA.

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