Big Cypress National Preserve and motorized recreation

South Florida Wildlands Association joins the Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Florida Biodiversity Project, and Wilderness Watch in a legal action challenging the National Park Service decision to open the Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve to motorized recreation. Download the full press release here.

Complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Fort Meyers Division):

Dear Friends,

As readers of these occasional emails are aware, almost a year ago today the National Park Service (NPS) released their Final General Management Plan for the 146,000 acre Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve. While the world famous Ft. Lauderdale Beach creates Broward County’s eastern border, the Addition Lands form Broward County’s “other shore”. The Everglades proper ends here, and the once vast Big Cypress Swamp - “the Western Everglades” - begins, little more than a 45 minute drive on I-75 from downtown Ft. Lauderdale. But unlike the hotels, bars, restaurants and t-shirt shops which line State Road A1A, the Addition Lands contain some of the wildest, most unique and most biodiverse land in the entire continental United States. Small changes in elevation in a limestone base, formed when all of south Florida was a shallow sea, have created a subtle and complex combination of landscapes containing pinelands, prairies, marshes, hardwood hammocks and
cypress sloughs found nowhere else on earth. Species diversity - flora and fauna - goes off the scale.

In response to the decision by the NPS to open up this rare and beautiful piece of land to public motorized recreation for the first time in its history, South Florida Wildlands Association has made the difficult and painful choice to join four other local and national environmental organizations in challenging the agency in court. We are aware that tempers will once again flare in this latest “battle of Big Cypress” and there will be those who will believe that our decision is “selfish” - why can’t we just live and let live? Our motivation is simple. At a time when numerous proposed projects threaten to industrialize and degrade one of America’s most unique ecosystems (e.g. massive powerlines across the eastern edge of Everglades National Park, two new nuclear reactors on the shores of Biscayne Bay and adjacent to Biscayne National Park, the Hendry County Clean Energy Center - the largest fossil fuel plant in the United States - in primary Florida panther habitat just a
few miles north of the Big Cypress National Preserve, a new “inland port” on the south shore of Lake Okeechobee in the northern Everglades, etc.) a piece of land owned and acquired by the American people for the purpose of natural resource protection, that remains remarkably intact and contains the full range of species diversity that Florida was once famous for, that is currently open to all on foot in a preserve where the majority of units remain open to motorized use (and show the impacts), should not be compromised.

Those who wish to delve more deeply into this issue can open some of the links which follow. As always, feel free to contact us by phone or email with questions or comments - or for more information about how you can help on the variety of conservation projects South Florida Wildlands Association is currently engaged in.

Best regards,

Matt Schwartz
Executive Director
South Florida Wildlands Association
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33303

Location map of the Big Cypress National Preserve and other units of the National Park Service in south Florida:

Map of motorized and non-motorized units of the Big Cypress National Preserve. Dark areas are currently non-motorized. The Addition Lands are the triangular area in the northeast section of the preserve. As the NPS plan has not yet been implemented, the Addition is also currently closed to motor vehicles.

Some photos of a (very wet) 6 mile Addition Lands “swampwalk” taken October 29, 2011:

South Florida Wildlands Association comments to the National Park Service on the General Management Plan for the Addition Lands:

Article on the Addition Lands originally appearing in the Miami Herald:

Off-highway vehicle registrations in Florida. Of the nearly 250,000 registered vehicles, NPS intends to open the Addition Lands to a maximum of 650 vehicle owners for motorized recreation.

The National Park Service decision being challenged in this litigation. Chapters 3 and 4 lay out the numerous natural resource impacts NPS researchers expect from their “preferred alternative”: