News Release

Draft Backcountry Access Plan/EIS Released for Public Comment

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ORV Backcountry Recreation

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News Release Date: October 26, 2020

Contact: Joshua Boles, 2396951107

Draft Backcountry Access Plan/EIS Released for Public Comment

OCHOPEE – This week, the National Park Service (NPS) will begin seeking public review and comment on the Big Cypress National Preserve Backcountry Access Plan / Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The 45-day comment period begins October 30 with the publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register and ends on December 15, 2020.

The draft EIS – developed in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – analyzed five alternatives, including the no-action alternative, and identified a preferred alternative. The plan incorporates feedback from the public comment periods in 2014 and 2016. Each of the action alternatives analyzed in the plan has been developed considering wilderness eligibility assessments completed in 2010 and 2015, with the result that all proposed off-road vehicle (ORV) trails and motorized recreational opportunities would avoid wilderness eligible areas.

The NPS selected Alternative 5 as the preferred alternative, because it provides the greatest amount of public access to the Preserve while providing for protection of cultural and natural resources. The draft EIS analyzed impacts on the following park resources: soils, vegetation and habitat, wetlands, special status species, visitor use and experience, natural soundscapes, and ethnographic and archeological resources.

Three virtual public meetings will be held on November 10, 7-9 p.m., November 12, 1-3 p.m., and November 18, 7-9 p.m. to present the plan and to seek feedback from the public. Please visit for more details and links to the virtual public meetings.

Written comments may be submitted via the following channels:  The plan/EIS was prepared in response to litigation brought in 2013, and the subsequent settlement agreement, challenging the opening of certain “secondary” ORV trails and the way those trails were established. The plan has been prepared in part, to re-evaluate the Preserve’s trail network, establish a system of secondary ORV trails and define a set of destinations for the Preserve. The plan also addresses the management of the other backcountry activities in the Preserve as a whole, including hiking and camping.

After public comments are reviewed and considered, the NPS will issue a Final EIS followed by a Record of Decision. The Final EIS and The Record of Decision will be posted online and announced via press release.

Last updated: October 27, 2020

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