South Florida Sierra Club members and supporters have been following the story of the Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve for some time. Described by congress as a place of "unique wild beauty," and as "habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida panther, the bald eagle, native orchids and many other species", the 146,000 acre Addition has also been a favorite getaway for many who live in this crowded part of the world.
That is about to change. After 14 years of public meetings, newsletters and comment periods, the National Park Service (NPS) has decided that these fragile and completely unique lands will be opened to motorized hunting and recreation in order to allow for a 'diversity of users'. According to the NPS itself, the price to be paid for that 'diversity' will be compaction, rutting and oxidation of soils; destruction of surface vegetation and roots; spread of invasive plant species throughout the Addition; changes to the Addition's hydrology, wetlands and water quality; and disturbances and degraded habitat for red cockaded woodpeckers, Everglades snail kites, eastern indigo snakes, and the critically endangered Florida panther (23 of which were killed in 2010 - as habitat continues to shrink by about 1% per year). Human visitors will also experience a very different landscape and soundscape as motor vehicles become a major part of a weekend outing. For many of the Addition's 31 animals and 96 plants listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern, the impacts are not known (or simply not considered by NPS).
Although the plan was released just before Thanksgiving, as of this date that decision has not yet been signed. Please take a moment to send a brief message to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis and ask him to reconsider this bad decision. Most of the 582,000 acres of the original preserve are already motorized and provide ample opportunity for those who desire motor vehicles as a way of experiencing the Big Cypress. It is completely unnecessary to bring this level of damage and degradation to the Addition Lands. Jon Jarvis can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax at 202-208-7889
Two outings have also been scheduled for the Addition on February 13th and March 20th - sponsored by the Broward Group of the Sierra Club. If you're up for some adventure, come and see what the fuss is all about. The Miami Group will lead an outing to the Florida Trail north of I-75 (also a part of the Addition and soon to be converted into a thoroughfare for off-road vehicles) on March 5th, it is almost full so sign up quick!
Thanks for all you do -
Matt Schwartz, Conservation Chair, Broward Group
Debbie Matthews, Chair, Miami Group
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