Big Cypress ORV Plan a Travesty: Former Superintendent   

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For Immediate Release:  Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Contact:  Kirsten Stade


Big Cypress ORV Plan a Travesty: Former Superintendent   


Park Service Shirking Wilderness, Wildlife, and Conservation Responsibilities  

Washington, DC — The Big Cypress National Preserve plan to expand off-road vehicle access is fundamentally flawed and displays a broken planning process, according to comments from its former superintendent posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).  Big Cypress is proposing to add more than 200 miles of off-road vehicle (ORV) trails in the Preserve, which will allow motorized access deep into its wild, swampy terrain.

In formal comments opposing the plan, John Donahue, the Big Cypress National Preserve Superintendent from 2000 to 2003 excoriates the proposal.  Winner of the prestigious Stephen T. Mather Award, Donahue served in the National Park Service (NPS) for 38 years, heading several parks, retiring as Superintendent of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in December 2017.  He pinpoints several major shortcomings in the ORV plan, including –

  • “The proposed backcountry access plan is the exact opposite of the prescription needed to accomplish your mission. Under the Organic Act of 1916 and under the enabling legislation for the preserve (BICY) and for the Addition Lands.”
  • “It is tragic that for so many decades the National Park Service has spent most of its time and appropriations trying to accommodate the tiny number of visitors who enjoy being ORV users.  It was only after the 2000 ORV plan that the agency finally recognized the need so the 99% of visitors who do not wish to use motorized vehicles in the sensitive and important lands and waters of BICY.”
  • “The NPS has spent decades not managing ORVs properly by any standard and only two decades attempting half -hearted management of this recreational use that the enabling legislation calls ‘not prohibited’.”

“Big Cypress’ ORV plan epitomizes why the Park Service is in sore need of new leadership,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, pointing out that, since Donahue’s tenure, Big Cypress and NPS leadership have turned their backs on protection of wildlife habitat and wilderness.  “As John Donahue so effectively describes, the current Park Service hierarchy has lost the conservation ethic which is supposed to be its guide-star.”

PEER has developed a roadmap, entitled Beyond 2020: National Park Service, laying out steps the agency needs to take to recapture its basic mission and forge a vision for its second century.


Read John Donahue’s comments  

View the Big Cypress ORV proposal

Revisit egregious wilderness rollback in Big Cypress Addition Lands

Look at PEER’s Park Service Beyond 2020 plan

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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