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Contact: Bob DeGross, 239-695-1107
As part of a settlement agreement with plaintiffs related to the designation of secondary off-road vehicle trails within Big Cypress National Preserve, the National Park Service will leave all secondary off-road vehicle trails closed until further environmental review and analysis can be completed.
The trails were closed on June 2, 2014, as part of the annual 60-day recreational trail closure. Upon lifting of that closure on August 1, 2014, the National Park Service announced that the secondary trails would remain closed for an additional 60-day period, through September 29, 2014, as further negotiations with plaintiffs were held.
The National Park Service has agreed to leave all secondary trails closed through the completion of a Backcountry Access planning effort. As part of the planning effort the environmental impact of the secondary trails will be further analyzed.
"The judge in this case spoke clearly in May of the need to complete further environmental analysis of the secondary trails. We are listening to the judge and will be investing all of our effort to complete this process as expeditiously as possible." said Superintendent Pedro Ramos. "My expectation is that the outcome of the analysis will help to permanently define secondary trail locations in both, the Addition Lands and the Original Preserve, in a manner that will balance preservation and traditional access into the preserve as our legislation directs us to."
The National Park Service began the planning effort related to backcountry access in early 2014. More details on the planning process can be found at - https://parkplanning.nps.gov/
This most recent planning effort will more clearly define management of a variety of backcountry use issues including hiking, camping and secondary off-road vehicle trail placement and designation.
The Backcountry Access Plan is being completed as part of the National Park Service National Environmental Policy Act process. The process will provide a variety of opportunities for public review and comment. The National Park Service anticipates the release and review of draft alternatives of the plan in spring/summer 2015, and estimates that a final record of decision would be signed in 2016.