There are two federally recognized tribes residing in and near the Preserve: The Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida. There are also numerous Native Americans not associated with either tribe that also use and claim rights within the Preserve. Approximately 200 Miccosukee and Seminole Indians reside in the Preserve on either individual sites or in a series of 22 small villages. Two additional sites are set aside for Miccosukee religious ceremonies within the original Preserve boundary and one Seminole ceremonial site exists in the Addition. Large tribal reservations exist to the immediately adjacent to the Preserve boundary, and thus the Preserve must partner with the tribes on numerous occasions. P.L. 93-440, the act that established Big Cypress National Preserve, states in Section 6:
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, before entering into any contract for the provision of revenue producing visitor services,
(i) the Secretary shall offer those members of the Miccosukee and Seminole Indian Tribes who, on January 1, 1972, were engaged in the provision of similar services, a right of first refusal to continue such services within the Preserve subject to such terms and conditions as he may deem appropriate,
(ii) and before entering into any contract or agreement to provide new revenue-producing visitor services within the Preserve the Secretary shall offer to the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida the right of first refusal to provide such services, the right to be open for a period of ninety days. Should both tribes respond with proposals that satisfy the terms and conditions established by the Secretary, the Secretary may allow the Tribes an additional period of ninety days in which to enter into an inter-Tribal cooperative agreement to provide such visitor services, but if neither tribe responds with proposals that satisfy the terms and conditions established by the Secretary, then the Secretary shall provide such visitor services in accordance with the Act of October 9, 1965 (79 Stat. 969, 16 U.S.C. 20). No such agreement may be assigned or otherwise transferred without the consent of the Secretary”
Legislative History of P.L. 93-440 (Senate Report No. 93-1128) further clarifies in Section by Section Analysis of H.R. 10088 with the following,
“Section 6 is designed to give members of the Miccosukee and Seminole Tribes a right of first refusal on any concession contract in the Preserve.”
In order to ensure the rights of the recognized Tribes, before entering into any contract or agreement to provide new visitor services, including Commercial Use Authorizations, BICY will offer the right of first refusal to each of the Tribes. In the case of CUAs, each CUA would be a separate “contract or agreement” and therefore will be offered to the Tribes first. The right of first refusal does not apply to renewals of either CUAs or concession contracts, but under concessions, the benefit to Indians and Indian tribes will be a factor in deciding whether to issue a renewal.