Everglades National Park Seeks Public Comment on Long Term Vision for the Park in Draft General Management Plan
Contact: Fred Herling, Park Planner, 305-242-7704
Contact: General Park Information, 305-242-7700
Contact: Mary Plumb, Public Affairs Officer (Acting), 305-242-7714
Everglades National Park is seeking public comment on its Draft General Management Plan / East Everglades Wilderness Study / Environmental Impact Statement (Draft GMP). The Draft GMP was released today for public review and public comment is requested by Sunday, May 12, 2013.
Superintendent Dan Kimball said, "The park has been working hard to complete the draft plan, and we're pleased to have reached this important milestone. We now look forward to presenting the results of this collaborative effort, hearing directly again from the public and many stakeholder groups, and working together to shape the long-term vision for the park."
The Draft GMP is available for review and comment at:http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ EVER(then go to the "Open for Comment" link). A limited number of paper copies and compact disks (CDs) of the plan are also available upon request by contacting Everglades National Park at 305-242-7700.
Seven (7) public meetings will be held the evenings of March 19 - 21 and April 8 - 11, 2013 (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; the April 8 meeting will also be webcast through the link above). The meetings will be organized in three parts:
· Open House - opportunities for the public to review Draft GMP materials, meet with National Park Service (NPS) staff, and provide comments
· NPS Presentation - overview of key features of the Draft GMP
· Formal Comment/East Everglades Wilderness Hearing - comment session that allows the public to comment on the Draft GMP and the East Everglades Wilderness Study (session will be transcribed)
The Draft GMP provides broad guidance and describes desired conditions to be achieved and maintained regarding natural and cultural resource protection, appropriate types and levels of visitor activities, and facility improvements and development. Also included is a wilderness study for the East Everglades Addition (an area added to the park in 1989, after the park's original 1978 wilderness designation). The Draft GMP presents and evaluates the NPS Preferred Alternative and three other alternatives. Superintendent Kimball believes that the Preferred Alternative would most effectively achieve the park's long-term goals and be compatible with Everglades ecosystem restoration efforts.
Superintendent Kimball added, "We have carefully considered public input received during many rounds of public and stakeholder meetings, the park's mission and legal responsibilities, and current and future restoration projects, in crafting the Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative is also identified as the environmentally preferred alternative."
Among other features, the Preferred Alternative includes important proposals for two areas of the park that have been of particular interest to the public and park managers: Florida Bay and the East Everglades Addition.
In Florida Bay, extremely shallow areas would be managed as pole and troll (non-combustion engine use) zones, while still providing traditional access and use through the channels and deeper basins.
Superintendent Kimball supports this proactive measure, stating, "Careful examination of damage and threats to natural and submerged wilderness features, and patterns of visitor use, pointed to the need for a new strategy. The Snake Bight Pole and Troll Zone pilot project, with overwhelming public support, showed me that new approaches to park management are possible. The Snake Bight project demonstrated that resource protection and enhanced visitor opportunities, designed in close consultation with the public, can work. Our approach in the Draft GMP is the same; it's a multi-faceted program (mandatory boater education, improvements to navigation and enforcement, and strategic zoning) and builds on work by the state of Florida in its 1995 statewide report for protecting vital seagrass resources. I'm confident that over time, we can effectively implement these strategies and see benefits to resources and visitor experience in the park."
In the East Everglades Addition, for the first time since passage of the 1989 Expansion Act, a framework would be established for managing commercial and private airboating, and backcountry uses.
Superintendent Kimball says, "The Preferred Alternative outlines a zoning strategy that would lead to implementing a limited number of airboat tour concession contracts between NPS and four eligible companies identified in the 1989 Expansion Act, and identifying areas for eligible individual airboaters, and backcountry recreational users. The Preferred Alternative also proposes 80,100 acres of wilderness and 9,900 acres of potential wilderness in the 109,600-acre Addition."
The Draft GMP also highlights a new, smarter approach to sustainable development in coastal areas like Flamingo and Everglades City, where consideration of sea level rise, storm surge and fiscal realities have led to innovative investment strategies for both the NPS and its partners, such as park concessioners.
To guide complex efforts like Florida Bay and East Everglades Addition management, a stakeholder-based advisory committee would be established. This committee would help park managers in GMP implementation by working with park managers to assess projects, and inform monitoring and adaptive management activities to meet resource protection and visitor use goals.
After the public review and comment period ends on May 12, public input will be reviewed and analyzed, and adjustments to the plan will be made. The Final GMP and Record of Decision will be issued in 2014.
Schedule of Public Meetings (all 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.):
More information on Everglades National Park can be found on the park website