Draft Hunting Management Plan Comment Opportunity

Sunset in the Turner River Unit of Big Cypress, February 2011. Photo by Andrea Elfenbein.

Read more: http://www.floridasportsman.com/2011/10/26/big-cypress-xtra/#ixzz2H1LkRUYA

Big Cypress Press Release

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 released for public comment a revised draft Hunting Management Plan/ Environmental Assessment for Big Cypress National Preserve. The purpose of the plan is to allow the Preserve superintendent to consider 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.

This is the third draft version of the plan released for public review. The draft plan was first released to the public for review and comment in March 2012 and a revised version in July 2012. Comments received during both periods have been addressed in the most recent revised draft.

Preserve superintendent, Pedro Ramos, said “We are now going back to the public with a third version of the draft Plan as a result of the valuable information we have received through our civic engagement efforts. At the end of the day, this is not a race to a finish line, the most important thing is that we end up with a strong plan that protects this valuable resource and provides sustainable opportunities to our visitors.”

To review and comment on the draft plan, click here.

Comments are requested by February 4, 2012. Once the comment period concludes, we will consider all comments submitted in the development of the final plan/EA.

We invite your comments regarding potential issues and concerns that should be addressed within the plan. You may submit comments by mail or on-line and all comments received will be considered carefully. 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.

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.