Earlier this week, Safari Club International submitted comments to the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service (Service) in support of a rule that would expand recreational access and Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) use in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve (Big Cypress).
Safari Club and its members have long been active in supporting hunting, ORV use, and other recreational activities related to Big Cypress National Preserve, submitting extensive comments to the Service in March 2016 during a previous stage in the planning process.
Safari Club supports the adoption of the Service’s preferred alternative, dubbed “Alternative 5”. This plan best provides the broad recreational access to Big Cypress, including for hunting and other outdoor activities, that were contemplated at the time of creating this specific Preserve. Alternative 5 recognizes existing ORV trails and those trails recommended by the ORV Advisory Committee and the public as appropriate for inclusion in the trail system.
The plan also recognizes the importance of secondary trails for access to hunting camps and other recreational activities. It also establishes significant opportunities for backcountry camping, including at campgrounds and individual sites.
Lastly, Alternative five would remove the annual 60-day ORV closure. Instead, closures would be implemented where resource and trail conditions are at or near impact thresholds as determined by Service staff. Like the adaptive management approach the Service adopted for managing hunting in the Preserve, ORV closures would react to actual on-the-ground conditions and be instituted only when necessary.
The freshwaters of the Big Cypress and the surrounding swamps are essential to the neighboring Everglades’ health. Big Cypress contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther.
Providing increased access and opportunities for recreational users, specifically hunters, to explore Big Cypress, will strengthen the connection and role that hunting plays in the conservation process and help support conservation funding nationwide.