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Contact: Ardrianna Mclane, 239-695-1107
Acting Superintendent J.D. Lee announced today that Big Cypress National Preserve has completed a wilderness eligibility assessment for all lands in the original Preserve as part of the Backcountry Access Plan (BAP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Based on this assessment, the National Park Service (NPS) has concluded that of the 557,065 acres assessed, 188,323 acres meet the eligibility criteria in the Wilderness Act of 1964 and NPS Management Policies. The full text of the wilderness eligibility assessment can be found on the backcountry access plan website at http://parkplanning.nps.
Acting Superintendent Lee also announced that the scope of the BAP/EIS will be expanded to provide for a more detailed analysis and intensive review of the eligibility of these lands through a formal wilderness study. "This wilderness eligibility assessment was completed using best available data by a team of Preserve staff with extensive knowledge of the Preserve. The wilderness study, and the public review process that accompanies it, will provide an opportunity to further refine these determinations based on public input and a more detailed analysis of these lands. The wilderness study may result in revised eligibility determinations for lands within the original Preserve as well as the identification of a need to re-assess the eligibility of adjacent areas in the Addition," said Lee.
Under National Park Service management policy, lands are considered eligible for wilderness if they are at least 5,000 acres or of sufficient size to make practicable their preservation and use in an unimpaired condition, and if they possess wilderness characteristics. Wilderness studies ultimately result in a determination of whether any portions of a national park unit should be formally recommended for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System as defined in the Wilderness Act of 1964. Only Congress can formally designate lands as wilderness.
The NPS will conduct public meetings in the local area this summer/fall to receive input from the public on preliminary alternatives for backcountry access and use, as well as wilderness designation within the Preserve. The dates, times, and locations of the public meetings will be announced through local media outlets and on the backcountry access plan website at http://parkplanning.nps.