A New Alternative (6-20-2007)
Over the past several weeks, we’ve been following the controversy surrounding Everglades National Park’s proposed alternatives A, B, C and D for its General Management Plan.
We’ve covered those alternatives in depth in previous posts, so there’s no need to recap them here.
But after nearly four weeks of effort, a group of concerned anglers and boaters representing the Hawley Foundation, Bonefish and Tarpon Unlimited, Florida Keys Guides Association, The Islamorada Fishing and Conservation Trust, The Ocean Reef Rod and Gun Club and the Islamorada Fishing Club has put together an additional alternative, Alternative E, that they plan to submit to ENP Superintendent Dan Kimball.
The team consisted of Sandy Moret, Charlie Causey, Capt. Mike Ehlers, Capt Tad Burke, Jack Curlett, Dianne Harbaugh and Jim Trice.
Although they don’t represent the CCA, the Audubon Society, the Sanctuary Advisory Committee or the Coalition of Park Users, all or some are members of those various organizations.
“I know some have a great distrust for the NPS and have a history of seeing an inch taken to a mile,” says Trice. “And I know not all will value all of our recommendations. And I know some would prefer the Park do nothing – Alternative A. However, we feel A is as irresponsible as D, which essentially closes the park to most visitors.”
Trice also said he and the concerned group believe that alternatives B and C aren’t viable and that increased restrictions on boating and motor vessels accomplish nothing in the way of gains for the environment or any other user groups.
This ad hoc committee has worked hard to try to offer a better view of – and a better alternative to – the NPS proposals.
Trice and his group are waiting to hear whether the Islamorada Village Council will support their alternative.
To voice your concerns or opinions on the entire process, visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentForm.cfm?parkID=374&projectID;=11170&documentId;=19058.
The period for public comment ends July 30. Stay tuned for further updates.
Not So Fast, My Friends
__The following was posted by FFSW Editor Ted Lund on _ June 7, 2007
The superintendent of Everglades National Park and his staff met with the public on Tuesday in the first of a number of public forums. They invited public comment on proposals drafted by the committee developing ENP’s General Management Plan.
We told you about that document in the July/August editorial Federal “Assistance.”
We raised several serious questions, ranging from how the four proposed alternatives would impact fishing guides to how they would restrict access for the elderly and physically challenged.
To say that the plan has drawn fire from critics would be an understatement.
It was standing-room-only at the June 3 meeting at the South Dade Regional Library in Cutler Ridge. The upstairs conference room of the library was packed with 140 people interested in voicing their opinions on the four ENP proposals, which range from a no-action approach to one so restrictive it could put nearly 300 duly-permitted fishing guides who work within the park out of business.
This first in a series of public meetings began with ENP Superintendent Dan Kimball explaining the proposed alternatives (Click here to download a copy of the plan.)
Alternative A: No-action alternative, basically maintains the status quo of management.
Alternative B: Approximately 51,000 acres in the east Everglades would be set aside as a wilderness area, and recreational boaters would be required to obtain an “educational” permit (this sounds like a thinly-veiled access fee).
Alternative C: Some 94,000 acres in the east Everglades would be set off as potential wilderness. Marine boating would be managed by boat size (24 feet or less) in shallower areas to protect sensitive biological communities.
Alternative D: In the east Everglades, 106,000 acres would be reclaimed as wilderness. Although private airboating activities would be allowed to continue, commercial operations would be acquired by the Park Service and closed. Marine boating would be managed by water depth to protect the shallow portions of the bay; that is, in depths of less than 3 feet, boaters would be required to pole, paddle or use trolling motors.
This, the most restrictive proposal, would essentially shut down over 80 percent of Florida Bay. For those leaving Islamorada to fish Flamingo, it could mean they would have to pole or use a trolling motor to make the 30-mile crossing. Clearly, that’s not feasible.
Kimball started off by explaining that the original maps distributed with the plan didn’t have the necessary resolution to show access points and channels cutting through the thousands of acres of Florida Bay. But then he went on to say of Alternative D: “This plan is one where we consider the Everglades to be a part of a large network of public lands. That would mean that the Everglades wouldn’t be everything to everybody. If you wanted to go airboating in the Everglades, you’d have to go someplace else, since airboats wouldn’t fit in anymore.”
Anglers and boaters involved in the focus groups – which have been meeting since 2003 – have felt a little disenfranchised since the proposed alternatives were released. One, who asked not to be named since he’s still trying to work within the process, said: “It’s almost like they didn’t even look at any of our suggestions.”
Additional meetings (see below) are scheduled, and the public-comment period ends in July. Now is your chance to let the National Park Service know how you feel. Send an electronic comment on the plan by logging on to http://parkplanning.nps.gov. It’s important that people get involved now, before it’s too late.
Left: Members of the South Florida fishing community showed up in force to voice concerns about the proposed alternatives for the Everglades National Park General Management Plan on Tuesday, June 4. Right: Some of the comments from the public at the first meeting to discuss alternatives for park management. One includes “not providing camp sites that aren’t accessible, because the noseeums won’t allow it.”