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Contact: Pedro Ramos, 239-695-1103
Contact: Bob DeGross, 239-695-1107
National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Regional Director David Vela announced today the signing of the Final General Management Plan/Wilderness Study/Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Record ofDecision for the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition. The Record of Decision, final EIS, and the Biological Opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can be viewed on the Preserve website at here.
The EIS provides a framework for management, public use, and development options for the Addition by the NPS for the next 15 to 20 years. "The selected alternative, the ‘preferred alternative’ in the EIS, offers strong resource protection while providing for a great diversity of recreational opportunities, including off-road vehicle (ORV) use, hunting, hiking, biking, horseback riding and canoeing," said Vela. "Most importantly, the EIS was developed through nearly 12 years of intensive civic engagement and follows the law that created the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition in 1988. It is remarkable to look back and see the level of civic engagement that took place with over 20,000 comments received. We are extremely grateful to our partners and the public in general, for participating in this process and in helping to preserve this national treasure."
Since the draft document was released for public comment in June 2009, the NPS held four public meetings and wilderness hearings, and received thousands of comments from agencies, organizations, tribes, and individuals. All comments received throughout this entire planning effort, including those received during the recent 30-day "no-action period" was considered, and is part of the EIS administrative record.
"This has been a long planning effort, and we are looking forward to beginning the implementation phase in partnership with our partners and stakeholders, said Preserve Superintendent Pedro Ramos. We have already begun our work to develop hunting regulations with our partners at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Also, a tremendous amount of progress has been made by the Florida Department of Transportation in developing the access points off Interstate 75 for our visitors to safely access the Addition. We are looking forward to formally proposing approximately 50,000 acres of wilderness within the Addition," Ramos added.
The final EIS includes a Wilderness Study that identifies lands that will be proposed to Congress for designation. The proposal will be first reviewed by NPS leadership, Department of the Interior, and the White House before making it to Congress for consideration.
The Addition Lands encompass 147,000 acres that were added to Big Cypress National Preserve in 1988. The original Preserve, created in 1974, allows for the same type of recreational opportunities that are planned within the Addition. These recreational opportunities are allowed for under the enabling legislation that created the Preserve and the Addition. Today, the Preserve protects more than 720,000 acres of the Big Cypress Swamp.