Florida hunters who’ve long wished to explore the so-called Addition Lands within Big Cypress National Preserve need to be aware of the management plan currently in the pipeline. The 147,000-acre Addition Lands have been in public ownership for over 15 years, and during that time hunting has not been permitted, as it is in other portions of the Preserve. The following announcement comes from Bob DeGross, Big Cypress Chief of Interpretation and Public Affairs.
–Jeff Weakley, Editor

The deadline for submitting comments related to the Hunting Management Plan has been extended by 15 days. The original deadline for comments was April 6, 2012. The new deadline for comments has been set for April 21, 2012. Once the comment period concludes, we will consider all comments submitted in the development of the final plan/EA.

The National Park Service (NPS), in consultation with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), has drafted a Hunting Management Plan/ Environmental Assessment for Big Cypress National Preserve in accordance with NPS policies. The purpose of the plan is to allow the Preserve superintendent to provide for hunting opportunities in a manner that is in the best interest of the Preserve’s resources and the public, while meeting the requirements set forth by the NPS, the Preserve’s enabling legislation, the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement, and all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Preserve Superintendent, Pedro Ramos, said “We take our civic engagement responsibilities very seriously and the fifteen day extension will provide an opportunity for people to review the document more carefully and have plenty of time to submit their comments to us.”

Hunting in the Preserve is authorized by Public Law (P.L.) 93-440, which established the Preserve in 1974. The original 1974 Preserve is a State Wildlife Management Area, and hunting is managed through regulations published each year by FWC. P.L. 93-440 was amended in 1988 by P.L.100-301, which expanded the Preserve by 147,000 acres. These new lands, known as the Addition, were largely acquired by the federal government in
1996 and have not been open to hunting pending completion of an Addition General Management Plan. That plan was completed in 2010 and states that the NPS will develop a Hunting Management Plan and work with FWC to provide hunting access, define hunting seasons, and develop hunting regulations that are consistent with both agencies’ policies and goals for the Addition.

Alternatives included in this plan are as follows:
Alternative 1 – No Action – Apply Current Management to the Addition Under alternative 1 (no action), management of hunting in the entire Preserve would occur in accordance with the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement.

Alternative 2 – Minimum Management – No Hunting in the Addition Under alternative 2, current hunting management would continue within the original Preserve boundaries, using the guidance outlined in the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement. In the Addition, public hunting would be prohibited.

Alternative 3 (Preferred Alternative) – New Adaptive Management Strategy Under alternative 3, the NPS and FWC, in consultation with FWS, would cooperate to implement an adaptive management strategy to manage hunting in the Preserve in accordance with the NPS/FWC Cooperative Partnership Agreement.

To review the draft plan, click here. Follow the appropriate link to Hunting Management Plan/EA.

We invite your comments regarding potential issues and concerns that should be considered during the planning process. You can provide comments at the meetings, by mail, or on-line. Before including an address, phone number, email 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. While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Comments by mail may be sent to Superintendent, Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141-1000. Comments may also be submitted on-line.

Comments are requested by the new deadline – April 21, 2012. Once the comment period concludes, we will consider all comments submitted in the development of the final plan/EA.

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