CSF Supports Access Expansion in Big Cypress

Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator

  • The National Park Service (NPS) released the Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Supplemental Draft Plan) for the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.
  • In the Supplemental Draft Plan, there are three Alternatives under consideration by the NPS, with Alternative 3 being the NPS’s preferred Alternative.
  • On September 26, 2022, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter supporting most components of Alternative 3 in the Supplemental Draft Plan which would have reopened 54 miles of primary off highway vehicle (OHV) trails and 52 miles of secondary OHV trails across the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve.

Why It Matters: An increase in access would not only benefit Florida’s sportsmen and women, but it would also assist in the management of natural resources located within the Big Cypress National Preserve. Off highway vehicles can be an important tool for accessing backcountry destinations, managing wildlife habitat, and giving youth, elderly, and those with mobility limitations the opportunity to participate in outdoor recreation.

Each Alternative in the current Supplemental Draft Plan evaluates a different management approach:

  • Alternative 1 (No Action): The current system of primary OHV trails (a total of 278 miles) would remain unchanged and no secondary OHV trails would be opened. The current annual 60-day ORV closure would remain in place. There would be no congressionally designated wilderness proposed.
  • Alternative 2: The primary OHV trail system would remain unchanged, and 15 miles of secondary ORV trails would be opened. The current annual 60-day OHV closure would remain in place. Additionally, it proposes that Congress designate approximately 190,528 acres of land (32% of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition) would be proposed as wilderness.
  • Alternative 3 (NPS’s Preferred Alternative): Reopen 54 additional miles of primary OHV trails and 52 miles of secondary OHV trails as well as lift the current annual 60-day OHV closure. Additionally, it proposes that Congress designate approximately 147,910 acres of land (25% of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition) as wilderness.

CSF’s comments were primarily in support of expanding the designated trail system, which would ensure that resources are protected, and access is preserved for hunters and anglers including youth, the elderly, and others with mobility limitations. CSF also supported the removal of the 60-day OHV closure.

However, CSF expressed opposition to establishing over 147,000 acres as Congressionally designated wilderness which would reduce access and limit natural resource management capabilities in favor of preservation over conservation. Science-based management practices to improve wildlife habitat, fight invasive plant and animal species, and provide quality hunting opportunities would be negatively impacted.

CSF will continue to stay engaged on the Supplemental Plan and work with the Florida outdoor sporting community to advocate for increased access for sportsmen and women.

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