Anglers'Alert!

Everglades General Management Plan

The Everglades General Management Plan has been a hot topic as of late, and there is a new twist.

The State of Florida has chimed in on what they feel the park should do, and some of the stakeholders who are fighting to make sure that anglers' and boaters' rights aren't forgotten in the mix aren't happy.

Jim Trice is an Islamorada-based angler who along with Sandy Moret and a number of other influential South Florida boaters and fishermen has developed and promoted a fifth alternative plan for the Park Service to consider: Alternative E.

Unfortunately it has seemed to be the case all along that the State of Florida - like the National Park Service - doesn't listen to anybody except bird and manatee lobbyists.

Below is a copy of the letter Trice sent to members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission as well as Gov. Charlie Crist.

To see the FWC's original letter, click here.

To read more on the subject, visit www.alternativee.com.

If you want to make your feelings known on the subject, here are the major players:

Florida's Governer: Charlie.crist@myflorida.gov

Everglades National Park Superintendent: Dan_Kimball@nps.gov

FWC Executive Director: kenneth.haddad@fwc.state.fl.us

FWC Commissioners: Commissioners@MyFWC.com

Anybody who fishes in Florida owes it to the resource to get involved and let their feelings be known. If you don't speak up now, your rights as an outdoors enthusiast could be severely curtailed while state and federal policymakers placate special-interest environmental groups.

Capt. Ted Lund
Editor

Dear Honorable FWC Commissioners,

I was recently received a copy of the Florida FWC's comments and recommendations (attached) regarding the Everglades National Park's GMP preliminary alternatives, dated July 30, 2007 to Superintendent Kimball.

While signed by Mary Ann Poole, the letterhead contains your names and therefore I assume you have been fully briefed on the letter's comments and support the contents.  This letter is policy in nature and I hope not an example of staff recommending POLICY changes to the NPS without your full knowledge and endorsement.  Ms. Poole certainly seems expert on setting or writing policy but her title of stakeholder coordination is misleading.  She has had NO contact with the stakeholders in the Florida Keys and has made recommendations that have the potential of destroying our Upper Keys economy.  This critical topic got  3 official pages of comments from the State of Florida's FWC - with most of the focus on not supporting Wilderness Designations and restricting access and closures within Florida Bay.

First, after given almost 2 months to respond and obtain input from stakeholders, I notice you waited until the last day to send in your remarks (giving the people of Florida no time to share their reactions to your recommendations) and other than Chairman Rodney Barreto, I don't recall seeing any commissioner and high ranking FWC official at any public comment meeting.  Nor do I recall the FWC soliciting input from the voters of Florida.

While your comments are brief and in general make sense to me, they contain two MAJOR KILLER CONCERNS that indicate special interest groups and their lobbyist have been busy at work - the anglers of South Florida have none) and the drafter of this letter has no idea what it is like on the water (at least within Florida Bay).  

#1.  ROOKERIES:  Your suggestion that foraging wading birds and shorebird colonies that move from key to key and flat to flat, with each passing day, month and year, be given a buffer area of 100 meters is nonsense.   

_It is one thing to suggest endangered/vulnerable birds such as the Roseate Spoonbill be given buffer areas while NESTING.  It is another to suggest essentially all birds that are foraging for food or resting as a colony, or defacto every KEY and Flat in Florida Bay have a 100 meter buffer area around them.  Suggesting 100 meter buffer areas for foraging birds or areas they commonly use is like saying close all of Florida Bay that is occasionally slick calm, can be 12 inches or less in depth and at times contains baits and minnows the birds might eat, AND establishing a NO ACCESS "BUFFER" ZONE within 100 meters of every mangrove island.  These birds move constantly, just like fish do. _

_"Alternative E" www.alternativee.com  has suggested a large common area where some bird species forage and where seagrass is the must vulnerable due to numbers of users in the area  be designated a Non Combustible Motor Zone using state terminology - A Management by Water Depth Zone using NPS terminology.  But you suggesting vague 100 meter buffer zones around a moving target is naive and irresponsible. _

This concept, knowing the NPS and the environmental bias that exists in Denver and DC, could be used as fuel to close Florida Bay to all fishing and prevent vessels or paddlers from getting with 100 meters of every Key, Mangrove Island and flat that has foraging birds on it in Florida Bay, thus destroying fishing and the Upper Keys economy.  

_I can see it now, "THE FLORIDA FWC and its Commissioners appointed by the Governor support no fishing or paddling within 100 meters of any wading birds or birds resting on a Key, Mangroves, or shoreline to include cormorants, pelicans and gulls." _

How about  "The FWC supports a 100 yard buffer area for endangered and vulnerable species of birds DURING NESTING SEASON!  More specifically the species are ........"

We are already doing this at Sandy Key year round, Frank Key during the Roseate Spoonbill nesting season and other areas within the Park, yet you suggest 100 meter buffers for essentially any place, any bird might be.

#2.  AREA CLOSURES/PROPELLER SCARRING:  You got most of it right.  Effective, strategically placed signage and markers (I would hope in Spanish and English) and yes, altering any traffic pattern will only put more pressure elsewhere.  You at least got that much right - although you say way too little about education.

Your narrow minded suggestion of CLOSURES even if in targeted areas is again, only giving the NPS more ammunition to do what they want to do - CLOSE and RESTRICT and NEVER GIVE THE CLOSED AREA BACK (for every illogical reason imaginable, but mostly because there is a lack of funding to enforce if an area is reopened).  What does targeted closure mean to you?  Your 100 meter buffer idea means all of Florida Bay that is fished in.  Do you mean every place boats travel because there are prop scars, mostly due to poorly marked channels and unmarked egress/ingress routes into shallow waters?

_Closures don't work.  All they do is create distrust and more pressure on other resources. _

We will NEVER see Joe and Little Madeira Bay opened again, even if the current preliminary alternatives suggest paddlers be able to visit those waters.  The Audubon and Sierra Club and others that have the real ear of the NPS will win yet again and no one but Researchers and Rangers will ever get to legally visit those spectacular waters (even in a canoe).  Those waters were closed decades ago, promised to be reopened, yet even with the Croc no longer endangered it will never happen.  And you, the FWC are suggesting more closures.  

You suggest "targeted" closures with documented need (what ever that is) and do not mention the need to reopen or proactively repair targeted areas with proven technologies to repair prop scars or designate areas as idle speed only or what the Park now calls "Management by Water Depth Zones."  You also take no responsibility or recognize that most seagrass damage is from water quality, quantity, timing and algae blooms,and there are many species of seagrass in the ENP, all very unique - all requiring specific management approaches.

THE FWC and NOAA under the concept of Wildlife Management Areas (WMA's) essentially invented the concept of Non Combustible Motor Zones (No motor zones where motor has to be trimmed up and boat can only be poled, paddled or propelled by electric trolling motor, yet you don't encourage the Park to use this proven seagrass, wildlife and user experience protection technique.  You suggest CLOSE instead of adopt proven techniques the STATE of FLORIDA has implemented and the park being light years behind has never even tried.

You must know how effective the marking of ingress and egress routes into shallow waters has been in Mosquito Lagoon and then allowing people to pole or use trolling motors.  NOT CLOSURES.  Please don't over react to photos taken in 1990's of areas like Garfield Bight that clearly show many prop scars.  What you don't see is every few years, almost every blade of seagrass dies in that same bight due to water quality, then it grows back.

You conclude by saying you look forward to working with the NPS on the revised alternatives that frankly, with the generosity of Dan Kimball, the grass root public and the drafters of Alternative E drove, not the FWC.  

In my opinion, you should have no more right to work with the NPS during the redrafting of alternatives process than any other organization (the comment period is OVER) and second the fact you support CLOSURES and 100 meter buffer areas for all wading birds and shoreline colonies is frightening.  The last thing I want is the FWC to be any more involved than is necessary based upon the contents of the attached letter. The drafter of this letter of recommendation(s) clearly has little knowledge of Florida Bay and what the public has been saying during 60 days of public comment workshops.  

You have shown no imagination or tried to educate the NPS on resource management techniques we use within the state, thus avoiding closures other than the MPA's we have in deep water.  You have shown no respect for the recreational anglers and real stewards of ENP Florida Bay, but rather have defacto suggested we go away.  The letter is political.  Manatees, Indians, panthers, all the right words with no content except closures and major access reductions for anglers in Florida Bay.

_I respectfully ask you - the COMMISSIONERS - to request Ms. Poole and Mr. Haddad to retract recommending any support for closures or 100 meter buffer areas unless a critical species is NESTING until every other known management technique has been tested;i.e., (more education, stiffer fines, vessel and equipment confiscation, idle speed zones near shorelines, mandatory boating permits to operate a vessel in ENP, mandatory classes for certain violations, establishing a point system like we have with vehicles to legally operate, use of non-combustible motor zones (MBWDZ), MUCH, MUCH improved signage in Spanish too (you must realize that about 50% of S. Florida is Latino), fines for seagrass damage like we have in the FKNMS, uniform markers in the Park, much improved and targeted collaterals, more effective deployment of limited Rangers, marking high spots with a uniform danger buoy, etc.) _

Again, check out www.alternativee.com  if you have not.  The website is averaging over 800 hits a day and Alternative E is supported by many 1000 people.  It appears you have not even looked at it.

In conclusion your letter looks to me like you made a deadline, listened to lobbyists and did not even mention the importance of new zoning concepts and definitions within the Park.  It is like you only read the parts of the preliminary alternatives you wanted to read.

_You have set back the South Florida recreational angling and wildlife viewing community (vessel users and paddlers) with two irresponsible recommendations and essentially said nothing else other than mention politically correct words. _

Thanks a lot for taking hundreds, perhaps thousand of hours, of grass root partnering, teamwork, joint education, consensus building and creative thinking, and tossing it in the garbage Ms. Poole and Mr. Haddad.  

Sincerely,

Jim Trice

www.alternativee.com

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