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Contact: Matt Johnson, 786-335-3679
The National Park Service (NPS) announces that the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Biscayne National Park's General Management Plan (GMP) is available for public comment. All interested parties are invited to attend any of three identical public meetings as follows:
· December 9, 6-9 p.m. - Newman Alumni Center, University of Miami, 6200 San Amaro Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146
· December 10, 6-9 p.m. - City Hall, Commission Chambers, 404 West Palm Drive, Florida City, FL 33034
· December 11, 6-9 p.m. - Holiday Inn Key Largo, 99701 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL 33037
The public meetings provide opportunities to learn about the supplemental plan and to submit comments. Presentations and exhibits at the meetings will focus on the plan's two new alternatives.
In developing the supplemental plan the park is working closely and cooperatively with partner agencies, especially the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service. The NPS preferred alternative proposes a new and creative approach to park management. This new approach proposes a special recreation zone (SRZ) and utilizes adaptive management strategies to provide a more enjoyable and diverse visitor experience and achieve the goal of a healthier coral reef ecosystem.
Two new alternatives (6 and 7) were developed as part of this new approach. In alternative 6, preferred by the park, the SRZ would include year-round fishing with a special permit required and specific fishing restrictions (on spearfishing and grouper harvesting for example). Alternative 7 is similar to alternative 6 in that it includes a SRZ with many of the same fishing limitations. Alternative 7 would not require a permit to fish, but the area would be closed to recreational fishing during the summer months (June through September).
"The supplemental plan was developed in response to public comments and consultation with partner agencies," stated Biscayne National Park Superintendent Brian Carlstrom. "Continued public involvement, consultation with partner agencies, and constructive comments are critical to success of park management actions."
Coral reefs are important global resources that experienced dramatic declines worldwide in recent years. The park is important to the function and dynamics of the larger Florida reef tract. Decades of resource monitoring show a steady decline in coral reef ecosystems including fish populations. This concern is further supported by park creel surveys which show that about half of fishing trips in the park return to dock with no fish. The low abundance of fish is an unfavorable condition for park resources and visitor experience.
"Park visitors travel long distances to enjoy the diversity and abundance of the park's signature resources, which they fully expect the park to preserve and protect," said Superintendent Carlstrom. "The goal of the SRZ is to satisfy those expectations. The SRZ will limit or prohibit access and activities that are most damaging to the coral reef system, while maintaining access for a diverse group of park users."
How to comment: The 90 day public comment period continues through February 20, 2014. Comments received by then will be helpful in developing the final plan. This is the final opportunity for public comments on this plan. Comments may be submitted by several methods. E-mailed comments and telephone comments cannot be accepted.
1. Mail written comments to: Biscayne National Park GMP, National Park Service, M. Elmer (DSC–P), PO Box 25287, Denver, CO 80225-0287.
2. Comment via the NPS planning website (http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bisc).
3. Hand deliver comments at the public meetings held December 9-11, 2013.
Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment - including your personal identifying information - may be made publicly available at any time. Although you may request in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, the park cannot guarantee that it will be able to do so.
More information: A more detailed newsletter about the GMP is available to download at www.parkplanning.nps.gov/bisc. For more information about the GMP please use the following link - http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=353&projectID=11168&documentID=56275.