Public Comments Wrap Up on 'Glades

Made the trip down to IGFA headquarters in Fort Lauderdale last week for the final public-comment meeting related to the new general management plan (GMP) for Everglades National Park. As expected, a wide range of opinions were spouted on which direction the park should take. Some argued for no change (Alternative 1) to current park policies and direction. A couple environmentalists, meanwhile, argued in favor of Alternative 4, which would close off huge areas of Florida Bay to boaters. Many offered sound, reasoned solutions, however, and it became apparent that some consensus is building. My guess is that the park's "preferred alternative" - which will be announced this fall - will incorporate elements of several of the alternatives. About 150 to 200 folks were in attendance in Lauderdale. The great majority were anglers, which, hopefully, was noticed by park officials. There's no question that anglers are among the top supporters of local economies associated with the park. What's more, anglers are among the most genuine in their concern over the health of the park. And that's precisely why most are primarily concerned with the problems of water quality and water quantity entering the ENP. Park officials say they are addressing these issues, but it can't be emphasized enough - this is the biggest problem in the Everglades, more so than the cosmetic irregularities caused by prop scars to sea grass beds. But this meeting revolved around reducing prop scarring, and many who spoke said they could accept elements of Alternatives 2 and 3 to help reduce this - but they felt it was important to recognize and label the bulk of existing channels throughout Florida Bay that currently are not labeled on Alternatives 2 and 3. A number of other key points and ideas were echoed throughout the evening. Here were some of them: * Focus on marking the channels better in Florida Bay, particularly in areas where prop scars are occurring. * Provide more law enforcement on the water. * Abandon the proposed Alternate Wilderness Waterway along the Gulf Coast - even paddlers admitted they don't need (or want) it. * Require education-based permits for ENP users. * Limit poll-and-troll areas to 1/2 to 1 mile (any longer can become detrimental in windy or other harsh conditions). Park officials would be wise to have listened to the many anglers that spoke. These folks know the park inside and out and understand the intricacies inherent to specific locations, flats and channels. To read the NPS report highlighting all four alternatives with maps that detail each option, click here . A public-comment period remains open until May 15. To comment, click here. Tight lines, Mike Mazur FFSW Editor