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September 27, 2012

Agencies Take Steps to Resolve Access to Biscayne National Park

Recreational boating and fishing community guardedly optimistic but firm on need for General Management Plan changes

Today, a coalition of national boating and fishing organizations, concerned with the long term health of and public access to Florida’s Biscayne National Park, sent a letter expressing appreciation for recent positive steps in the development of a General Management Plan for the Park, but reiterated concerns about the potential to unnecessarily close large areas of the Park to the public.
 
The coalition, comprised of the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the National Marine Manufacturers Association, is optimistic that a positive outcome is possible based on recent and ongoing discussions between the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in an effort to resolve differences and develop joint solutions for the park’s management plan.
 
Recently, the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission released a joint agency statement which says, “Both agencies made progress to resolve differences and develop joint solutions. Discussions focused on the long term goals the park is trying to accomplish, as well as an analysis of possible management strategies for the proposed Marine Reserve Zone.” Read the full statement here.
 
In August 2011 Biscayne National Park officials released a draft management plan that proposed to close up to 20 percent of the park’s waters to fishing. The park’s preferred alternative included a 10,000-acre marine reserve, or no-fishing zone, despite recommendations from stakeholders and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission that a marine reserve is overly restrictive. The coalition fully supports the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s longstanding position that less-restrictive management measures should be implemented in the park.
 
“As representatives of America’s leading recreational fishing and boating organizations, we are highly interested in the management of Biscayne National Park, one of the country's largest urban recreational fishing and boating areas. Biscayne National Park is a jewel in the national park system and helps support Florida’s $19 billion recreational fishing and boating economy and the associated 250,000 jobs,” the coalition stated in its letter.
 
This summer the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission agreed to reengage in the General Management Plan development process.  The coalition is hopeful that discussions between the National Park Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will result in a management plan that balances resource conservation with public access including adequate areas for fishing.

“The sportfishing and boating community recognizes that there are management challenges facing Biscayne National Park, but simply excluding the public from accessing this public resource is not the appropriate way to address these challenges,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO, American Sportfishing Association. “Unwarranted closures to public access will inevitably keep Americans from enjoying the great outdoors and diminish the economic benefit of sportfishing and boating to Florida's economy."