January 8, 2016
Jonathan Jarvis, Director
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
First of all, happy New Year and best wishes for 2016 and the Centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). We hope all goes well for the NPS this year! The Coalition looks forward to helping NPS celebrate the Centennial.
The purpose of this letter is to follow-up on the ORV issue in the Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY). The Coalition is participating in the current litigation over this issue in an amicus curiae capacity. The brief we filed in that case is attached.
The Coalition’s reason in joining the case was to express concern over the manner in which the district court characterized the Organic Act and related legislation applicable to BICY as “multiple use” laws. The Coalition is very concerned that the district court discussion of this point could become damaging precedent not only for BICY, but also for other NPS units.
Specifically, our brief argues that the court’s statement that the BICY enabling legislation “tweaked” the NPS Organic Act and required “multiple use management” is legally flawed and inconsistent with NPS’s longstanding interpretation of its statutory mandate under the Organic Act, as described at NPS Management Policies 2006, Sections 1.4.1 and 1.4.3. In the answering brief filed on November 20, 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) essentially agreed with the Coalition’s argument. The government’s brief states, in part:
In the view of the federal appellees, the district court’s use of the term “multiple use management” was infelicitous and is susceptible to misinterpretation. “Multiple use management” is generally understood to be a term of art under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. The court’s citation to Norton v. S. Utah Wilderness Alliance suggests that the court used the term “multiple use management” in the FLPMA sense. If so, the court erred. FLPMA governs the management of public lands administered by the Secretary of the Interior through the Bureau of Land Management, not the Secretary’s management of the National Park System through NPS. Id. §1702(e). Moreover, NPS generally does not interpret the enabling legislation for an individual unit of the National Park System to alter (“tweak”) the Organic Act’s conservation mandate in 16 U.S.C. §1. See 2006 Management Policies 1.4.1.
We are very pleased that the federal brief makes this important point. We commend DOJ and NPS for taking this stance.
Despite the clear litigation position stated by DOJ on behalf of NPS, the recent environmental assessment (EA) for the proposed Burnett Oil Company seismic survey at BICY relies upon the very district court statement disavowed by the federal brief. Page 6 of the EA states, in part:
The U.S. District Court has ruled that “[t]he conservation mandate of the NPS Establishment Act [Organic Act] was tweaked by the subsequent Preserve Act and the Addition Act, both of which required multiple use management …striking a balance among the many competing uses to which land can be put.” NPCA v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Case No. 2:11-cv-578-FtM-29CM (M.D. Fla. 2014).
The Coalition believes BICY should not rely on the district court language in any way, and we urge NPS to remove the reference from the EA and to refrain from referring to it in all future management documents for BICY. We have submitted a comment letter on the BICY EA to make this point, and by this letter we seek your assistance in correcting the record and ensuring that the NPS authority is not characterized as “multiple use” legislation.
Thank you for considering this request. Please let me know if the Coalition can be of further assistance.
Chair, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Attachment (amicus curiae brief)
NPS Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin
BICY Superintendent Tamara Whittington