Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan Released for Big Cypress National Preserve: Concerns Surrounding Sportsmen and Women Access

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.
  • The Supplemental Draft Plan was prepared after public comments were received on the Draft Backcountry Access Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Plan), which was released to the public in the fall of 2020.
  • On December 15, 2020, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter supporting Alternative 5 in the Draft Plan  which would have reopened 66 miles of primary off highway vehicle (OHV) trails and 154 miles of secondary ORV trails across the 729,000-acre Big Cypress National Preserve.
  • In the Supplemental Draft Plan, there are three Alternatives that are under consideration by the NPS, with Alternative 3 being the NPS’s preferred Alternative.

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.

The former Alternative 3, as well as Alternatives 4 and 5 from the 2020 Draft Plan, were dismissed from further consideration by the NPS. Each Alternative in the current Supplemental Draft Plan evaluates a different 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

The NPS will be hosting three virtual meetings on August 29 from 2:00-4:00 p.m., August 30 from 7:00-9:00 p.m., and August 31 12:00-2:00 p.m. to present the Plan and receive feedback from the public.

The public comment period on the proposed Supplemental Draft Plan opened on August 12 and will close September 26. The comment portal and more information on the Supplemental Draft Plan can be found here. CSF will review the Supplemental Plan and work with the Florida outdoor sporting community to advocate for increased access for sportsmen and women.

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