September 20, 2022

Mr. Tom Forsyth, Superintendent
Big Cypress National Preserve
33100 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee , FL 34141

Subject: BICY Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan/Wilderness Study/EIS

Dear Superintendent Forsyth:

I am writing on behalf of over 2,200 members of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks (Coalition), who collectively represent more than 45,000 years of national park management experience. The Coalition studies, educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation of America’s National Park System. Among our members are former National Park Service directors, regional directors, superintendents, resource specialists, rangers, maintenance and administrative staff, and a full array of other former employees, volunteers, and supporters.

We offer the following comments for your consideration regarding the Big Cypress National Preserve Supplemental Draft Backcountry Access Plan, Wilderness Study, and Environmental Impact Statement (hereafter “SEIS”).

INTRODUCTION

The National Park Service (NPS) has a checkered past when it comes to the management of off-road vehicles (ORVs) and wilderness stewardship at Big Cypress National Preserve (hereafter BICY or Preserve). Completion of the Recreational ORV Management Plan in 2000 was a tremendous accomplishment at the time since it transformed the Preserve from an area of essentially unregulated and widely dispersed ORV use to an area of regulated ORV use on designated trails. Despite the clear successes of the 2000 plan, NPS has made multiple attempts since then to open an increased amount of ORV trails at the Preserve. These attempts have typically resulted in litigation, stalling NPS implementation of the proposed expansions, and leading ultimately to the development of the subject Backcountry Access Plan (BAP).

The history of NPS wilderness stewardship at BICY is similarly undistinguished. Now, nearly 60 years after the passage of the Wilderness Act of 19641https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1981/upload/W-Act_508.pdf, NPS has yet to complete a wilderness study for the original Preserve and the Bear Island Unit. Multiple previous attempts by NPS to identify wilderness eligible areas within these portions of the Preserve have typically resulted in controversy, with NPS often proposing less wilderness acreage than its own wilderness eligibility assessments (WEAs) found to be eligible.

We have observed a general lack of references to the NPS Organic Act, its conservation mandate, and related management policies in past BICY planning documents. The collective experience our of membership has been that the most effective and legally defensible way for NPS to manage controversial and litigation-prone activities, such as ORV use and wilderness stewardship have been at BICY, is to adhere to the “NPS conservation mandate” in both your words and actions throughout your planning and decision making. As succinctly explained in NPS Management Policies 20062https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/MP_2006.pdf Section 1.4.3:

Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant. This is how courts have consistently interpreted the Organic Act. (Emphasis added)

We would strongly prefer that NPS manage Big Cypress National Preserve as if “conservation is to be predominant.” However, we have a number of concerns about the SEIS that we will discuss in our comments below.

GENERAL COMMENTS

1. The NPS Preferred Alternative described in the SEIS is a relative improvement in terms of conservation value over the Preferred Alternative previously described in the October 2020 Draft EIS (DEIS). However, we have concerns about the SEIS as a whole – The NPS preferred alternative in the 2020 draft DEIS proposed an increase of 66 miles in primary ORV trails and 154 miles in secondary trails. In contrast, the NPS Preferred Alternative in the SEIS proposes a more modest increase of 54 miles in primary ORV trails and 52 miles in secondary trails. While we greatly appreciate NPS’s re-evaluation of its previous DEIS proposal, we continue to have concerns about aspects of the Preferred Alternative (i.e., Alternative 3) in the SEIS. Our concerns, which are described below, include: the significant proposed expansion of the ORV trail system that would benefit only the relatively small number of visitors who are ORV users; and the relatively low amount of wilderness acreage proposed relative to the amount of wilderness NPS has determined to be “eligible.” We will describe these concerns in greater detail in the section-by-section comments below.

2. The SEIS provides an inadequate summary of applicable laws, regulations, and policies relating to the conservation of park resources and values, the regulation and management of ORV use, and the stewardship of wilderness resources. Such information is needed in the SEIS to provide critical context for evaluating the appropriateness of proposed actions and the acceptability of associated environmental impacts – First and foremost, we are disheartened that NPS does not even mention the NPS Organic Act of 19163https://www.nps.gov/foun/learn/management/upload/1916%20ACT%20TO%20ESTABLISH%20A%20NATIONAL%20PARK%20SERVICE-5.pdf or the Big Cypress National Preserve Enabling Act of 19784https://www.nps.gov/bicy/learn/management/upload/Enabling%20Legislation.pdf description of applicable guidance. We should not have to explain that the Organic Act of 1916 is the legal basis for the NPS conservation mandate, which has played a pivotal role in ALL of the litigation regarding NPS management of BICY during the past few decades.

Similarly, the Preserve’s 1978 enabling act, which reinforced the NPS conservation mandate at BICY, is particularly relevant to past court cases, as well as to this planning process. Specifically, Section 4(a) established conservation as the priority for NPS management of BICY by stating that “such lands shall be administered by the Secretary as a unit of the National Park System in a manner which will assure their natural and ecological integrity in perpetuity” in accordance with the enabling Act and the NPS Organic Act of August 25, 1916.  (Emphasis added)  Section 4(b) identified various uses, such as “motorized vehicles” that may be allowed but must be regulated to “limit or control” such uses on Federal lands and waters within the Preserve. In plain words, Section 4(b) is a mandate to “limit or control” motorized vehicles and other specified uses of the Preserve; it is NOT a mandate to expand ORV use.

The shortcomings in the SEIS’s summary pf applicable guidance is even more glaring when compared with ORV planning documents for other National Park System units where ORV use is allowed. Multiple other park ORV plans include a more comprehensive section summarizing “Related Law, Policies, Regulations, and Plans.” For example, Chapter 1 of the 2017 ORV Management Plan/Final EIS5https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=62&projectID=19520&documentID=76582 for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area has such as section that includes the following information: Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 regarding Off-Road Vehicles on Public Lands; NPS general regulation at 36 CFR Section 4.10 regarding Travel of Park Roads and Designated Routes; the NPS Organic Act, as amended (regarding the NPS conservation mandate); the Redwoods National Park Expansion Act of 1978, as amended; and NPS Management Polices 2006, specifically Section 8.2.3.1 Motorized Off-road Vehicle Use.

Similarly, Chapter 1 of the 2010 Final ORV Management Plan/EIS6https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=358&projectID=10641&documentID=37448 for Cape Hatteras National Seashore has an informative section on “Federal Laws, Policies, Regulations, and Plans Directly Related to Off-Road Vehicle Management” that includes the following information: Executive Orders 11644 and 11989 regarding Off-Road Vehicles on Public Lands; and 36 CFR Section 4.10: Travel on Park Roads and Designated Routes. We strongly recommend that NPS look at several of these other ORV plans and use their Chapter 1 “related guidance” sections as a model for summarizing applicable guidance in the BICY BAP.

Apart from ORV management, perceived inadequacies in NPS wilderness management at BICY have also contributed to ongoing controversy and prior litigation. As a result, the suggested “related guidance” section should also include wilderness stewardship-related guidance, starting with the Wilderness Act of 19647https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd645666.pdf and including NPS Management Policies 2006 Chapter 6, NPS Director’s Order #41 Wilderness Stewardship8https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf, and NPS Reference Manual # 41 Wilderness Stewardship9https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1981/rm41.htm

In addition, certain specific sections of NPS Management Policies 200610https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/MP_2006.pdf[/mfn (MP), as well as certain NPS Director’s Orders (DO), are relevant to this plan and should also be mentioned as “related guidance” in the SEIS. This includes the following:

MP 1.4.3 The NPS Obligation to Conserve and Provide for Enjoyment of Park Resources and Values:  “Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant. This is how courts have consistently interpreted the Organic Act.” (Emphasis added)

MP 6.3.1 General Policy [regarding Wilderness Preservation and Management]:  “For the purposes of applying these policies, the term ‘wilderness’ will include the categories of eligible, study, proposed, recommended, and designated wilderness. Potential wilderness may be a subset of any of these five categories. The policies apply regardless of category except as otherwise provided herein…  The National Park Service will take no action that would diminish the wilderness eligibility of an area possessing wilderness characteristics until the legislative process of wilderness designation has been completed. Until that time, management decisions will be made in expectation of eventual wilderness designation. This policy also applies to potential wilderness, requiring it to be managed as wilderness to the extent that existing nonconforming conditions allow.” (Emphasis added)

MP 8.2.3.1 Motorized Off-road Vehicle Use: “Off-road motor vehicle use in national park units is governed by Executive Order 11644 (Use of Off-road Vehicles on Public Lands, as amended by Executive Order 11989), which defines off-road vehicles as “any motorized vehicle designed for or capable of cross-country travel on or immediately over land, water, sand, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain” (except any registered motorboat or any vehicle used for emergency purposes). Unless otherwise provided by statute, any time there is a proposal to allow a motor vehicle meeting this description to be used in a park, the provisions of the executive order must be applied… In accordance with the executive order, [ORV routes and areas] may be allowed only in locations where there will be no adverse impacts on the area’s natural, cultural, scenic, and esthetic values, and in consideration of other existing or proposed recreational uses.” (Emphasis added)

DO #41Wilderness Stewardship10https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf, Section 5.1: “Lands that are determined to be eligible for wilderness will be managed to preserve their wilderness character.”
DO #53 Special Park Uses11https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf12https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf, Section 7: “Cost Recovery (16 U.S.C. § 3a). The NPS may recover from the permittee all agency costs incurred in processing the application, and monitoring the permitted activity if the request is approved. Applicants should be told early in the process that they may be responsible for reimbursing the park for all costs incurred by the park in processing the application (even if the application is denied) and monitoring the permitted activity and subsequent site restoration if necessary.”
3. Despite the NPS mandate that “conservation is to be predominant,” the NPS Preferred Alternative (Alternative 3) is clearly the most environmentally damaging alternative considered in the SEIS. In addition, its potential recreational benefits would be limited to a very small number of park users. NPS should do a better job of explaining its reasons for preferring Alternative 3 – According to the NPS’s analysis of Environmental Consequences in SEIS Chapter 4, the Preferred Alternative would be the most environmentally damaging action for ALL but one impact topic.

Specifically, Alternative 3 would cause the most adverse impacts of any alternative to the following impact topics: soils; wetlands; vegetation and habitat; special status species – plants; special status species – animals; wilderness character; natural soundscapes; ethnographic and cultural resources. The only impact topic that would relatively “benefit” under Alternative 3 would be visitor use and experience.

As described in the SEIS, Alternative 3’s “addition of 54 miles of primary ORV trails, 52 miles of secondary ORV trails, and 39 miles of airboat trails would adversely impact a maximum of 221,431 acres or roughly 30% of the preserve.” (SEIS p. 133)  In terms of relative benefits, the proposed expansion of motorized access “would improve the experience of 1,113 ORV users in the preserve, relative to alternatives 1 and 2, by further expanding their geographic access, sense of freedom, and opportunities for solitude.” For other user groups, new hiking trails would “result in a beneficial impact on nonmotorized users by increasing their choices in route, environment, and range of experiences, and by creating greater dispersion among hikers.” And expanding the number of backcountry campsites would benefit “3,572 backcountry campers by largely expanding their choices in designated sites.” (SEIS pp. 126-127)

The SEIS describes a significant decline in the level of interest in ORV use at BICY over the past decade or so. As stated on SEIS p. 123, “ORV permit sales in the preserve have been in decline over recent years, from a high of 2,000 permits sold in 2010 to 1,359 in 2020, a 30% decrease over 10 years. From 2015 to 2020 (the most recent years for which data are available), the average number of ORV permits sold annually is 1,113.  (SEIS p. 123)

Given the 30% decline in ORV permit sales over the past ten years, how can NPS justify expanding the ORV trail system by 20% now?  The magnitude of the proposed expansion is neither reasonable nor justifiable, especially in light of the Preserve Act’s primary mandate for the Secretary to “administer [such lands] as a unit of the National Park System in a manner which will assure their natural and ecological integrity in perpetuity.”

And given the NPS Organic Act’s and the Preserve Act’s respective conservation mandates, NPS does not adequately explain why it “prefers” the most environmentally damaging option. It simply states that, “Of all the alternatives, alternative 3 achieves the best combination of increased visitor access and long-term resource protection.” (SEIS, p. 44)

Stating the obvious, NPS has a legal mandate to conserve the BICY’s natural and cultural resources, including wilderness character; however, there is no mandate to increase visitor access, especially motorized access, to the Preserve’s relatively remote backcountry areas.

4. We ask NPS to clarify how the BAP/SEIS relates to the 2000 Recreational ORV Management Plan. Is it intended to be a complete update and replacement of the 2000 plan; or will NPS continue to use the 2000 plan as a basis for future expansions of the ORV trail system even after the BAP is completed? – On numerous occasions in the SEIS, NPS states that the 2000 ORV plan provided for up to 400 miles of ORV trails; and NPS repeatedly uses that as rationale for proposing expansion of the existing ORV trail system now. While we do not dispute that the 2000 plan identified an upper limit of 400 trail miles, the reality is that NPS never fully implemented that level of ORV access; and doing so now will cause new impacts that were not fully accounted for in the 2000 plan. Simply put, we question whether 400 miles of ORV trails remains an appropriate number today given current resource conditions and declining interest in ORV use, juxtaposed with the NPS conservation mandate and related NPS management policies.

Re-evaluating the theoretical 400 mile limit on ORV trails determined over 20 years ago is relevant to and should be part of this planning process, especially since recent attempts by NPS to expand the existing trail system have generally been halted by litigation. However, it is unclear whether NPS intends for the BAP to serve as a de facto update and long-term replacement of the 2000 plan; or, even after the BAP is completed, does NPS intend to continue to propose additional future expansions of the ORV trail system based on the increasingly outdated 2000 plan’s 400 mile limit? To address this concern, we simply ask that NPS clearly explain it intentions regarding the relationship of the proposed BAP relative to the 2000 ORV management plan.

5. Though not identified in Chapter 1 as part of the Purpose and Need for preparing the BAP/SEIS, NPS should make clear that the final BAP will also serve as the basis for updating BICY’s outdated 1979 special regulation on Motorized Vehicles at 36 CFR §7.68(a) – BICY’s “current” ORV rule was promulgated in 1979. It predates and appears to be out of compliance with the 1987 NPS general regulation at 36 CFR §4.10(b) that explicitly requires “Routes and areas designated for off-road motor vehicle use shall be promulgated as special regulations.” In practical terms, the 1979 special regulation refers to a 1975 map identifying general areas (sections of the Preserve) that could be opened or closed to ORV use. At best, the 1975 maps described in the rule marginally identified “areas” (not routes) where ORV use may be allowed. However, since completion of the 2000 ORV management plan, BICY has operated under a designated “ORV route” (i.e., primary and secondary ORV trails) system without ever “promulgating” the designated routes in the park’s special regulation as required under §4.10(b). Our observation has been that most parks (i.e., other than BICY) allowing ORV use have, in fact, promulgated special regulations in accordance with §4.10(b) that not only provide by clear descriptions of designated routes, but also include park-specific definitions, prohibitions, and ORV permit and vehicle equipment requirements. In BICY’s case, we encourage NPS to update its special regulation to not only identify the designated ORV routes, but to also provide key definitions (such as primary trails and secondary trails), any park-specific prohibitions such as the one on dispersed use, and BICY’s ORV permit requirements.

Besides providing necessary compliance with §4.10(b), updating the special regulation after this plan is completed would provide more certainty and consistency to ORV management at the Preserve moving forward. As the outdated 1979 special regulation stands now, the 1975 maps cited in the rule offer vague guidance at best and the lack of specificity in the rule regarding designated routes provides an unacceptable degree of latitude for future park managers to continue making changes in BICY’s designated ORV routes without triggering new rulemaking.

6. The NPS wilderness proposal is inadequate – Whereas Section 5.1 of NPS Director’s Order # 41 on Wilderness Stewardship13https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf states: “Lands that are determined to be eligible for wilderness will be managed to preserve their wilderness character”; neither Alternative 2 or 3 in the SEIS would protect all the acreage that BICY’s 2022 Wilderness Eligibility Assessment (Appendix E) has identified as “eligible” for wilderness.

As described in SEIS Appendix E, the “final” 2022 wilderness eligibility assessment (WEA) has “adjusted” the findings of two previous assessments in reaching the conclusion that “[o]f the 599,691 acres assessed in the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition, 257,762 acres (43%) were determined to be eligible for wilderness designation.” (See Appendix p.16) In contrast to that amount of eligible wilderness acreage, Alternative 2 proposes only 190,528 acres (32%) of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition for wilderness designation; and Alternative 3 proposes an even less 147,910 acres (25%) of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition as wilderness.

In other words, the NPS proposes considerably less area for wilderness designation than what it found to be eligible for wilderness designation, which is inconsistent with the NPS policy of managing wilderness eligible lands to preserve their wilderness character.

7. For such a longstanding, complex, and controversial set of issues at BICY (i.e., ORV use and wilderness stewardship), the SEIS offers a surprisingly limited range of alternatives.

The SEIS offers only two action alternatives that represent two extremes of the recreational opportunity spectrum: Alternative 2 is very similar to the No Action Alternative and contains no meaningful improvements in non-motorized recreational opportunities; and Alternative 3 which contains the most extensive expansion of the ORV trail system, the least amount of proposed wilderness, and ALL of the proposed improvements in non-motorized recreational opportunities. This creates the false impression that NPS would only improve non-motorized recreational opportunities at the Preserve in combination with the greatest increases in ORV trails and the least amount of proposed wilderness, which is not how NEPA is supposed to work. To increase the range of alternatives offered, NPS should describe and evaluate a “hybrid” alternative that combines elements of the other two alternatives along with other measures related to ORV management and wilderness stewardship. See Comment # 6 in the next section for a description of a proposed “hybrid” alternative.

SECTION-BY-SECTION COMMENTS

1. Chapter 1, Section 1.4.2 Need – Under this section, NPS should add the “Need” to update BICY’s outdated 1979 ORV special regulation on Motorized Vehicles at 36 CFR §7.68(a). See explanation about this in Comment # 5 above.

2. Chapter 1, Section 1.5 Relationship to Other Plans, Policies, and Action – Because NPS’s perceived lack of compliance with applicable ORV management and wilderness stewardship guidance at BICY has been a concern in previous lawsuits against the NPS, we strongly recommend that NPS add a section (or sub-section) to Chapter 1 that reasonably summarizes “Related Law, Policies, Regulations, and Plans.” This would be similar, in form and function, to the information that NPS provided in Chapter 1 and Appendix A of the 2010 Addition General Management Plan (GMP). Such information would provide much needed context for the analysis and discussion contained within the SEIS. See Comment # 2 above for more detail about policies to include.

3. Chapter 2, Section 2 How the Alternatives Were Developed – As described in the SEIS, NPS chose to supplement remotely sensed data about ORV trails by conducting new, on-the-ground assessments of ALL primary and secondary ORV trails that had been included in the preferred alternative (alternative 5) of the Draft EIS issued in 2020. NPS found this in-person assessment to be particularly important because it revealed that the number of sustainable ORV trails and destinations is far smaller than previously thought.

We commend NPS for conducting the additional on-the-ground assessments. However, we ask that NPS clarify whether that the on-the-ground assessments also evaluated wilderness character of these areas; and if not, why not?

Our underlying concern is that in Appendix E, the 2022 Wilderness Eligibility Assessment, NPS states that it “assumed evidence of off-road vehicle (ORV) use is substantially noticeable on primary trails, recently closed secondary trails, and off-road vehicle advisory committee recommended trails.” (See Appendix p.16) In other words, NPS evidently decided (or “assumed”) that such areas were automatically not eligible for wilderness protection without conducting any further analysis, including field assessments. We ask NPS to explain this apparent inconsistency between the additional “field assessments” described in Chapter 2, Section 2 and the “assumption” described in Appendix E. We have additional concerns about the 2022 WEA, which we will cover in a later section of this letter.

4. Chapter 2, Section 2.5 Alternative 2 – Alternative 2 is described as being largely similar to the No Action Alternative, except for the following differences: wilderness designation of 190,528 acres in the original Preserve and Western Addition; an increase of 15 miles in ORV secondary trails; realignment of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST), but no other hiking trail increases; and elimination of dispersed backcountry camping. In addition, Alternative 2 would retain the current annual limit of 2,000 ORV permits. While Alternative 2’s wilderness proposal of 190,528 acres is substantially greater than that of Alternative 3, it is still substantially lower (approximately 26% less) than the total of 257,762 acres that NPS determined to be “eligible” for wilderness designation in the 2022 WEA. (See Appendix E, p. 16)

There has long been a significant disparity between the numbers of trail miles for ORVs versus hikers at BICY. When examined through the lens of NPS’s Visitor Capacity Determination methodology described in Appendix D of the SEIS, the difference in mileage and relative impacts of the respective users groups is even more striking. In the appendix, NPS uses a ratio of 5:1 (five visitors per mile of hiking trail or 5 ORV permittees per mile of ORV trail) to determine trail use capacity.

When we apply the 5:1 ratio to the existing 63 miles of hiking trails, we find that the existing hiking trail system has a capacity of only 315 visitors, which is woefully inadequate for a “backcountry park” the size of BICY. Conversely, using the same 5:1 ratio for determining capacity for ORV users, the existing 278 miles of ORV trails could reasonably accommodate 1,390 ORV permittees, which is 25% more than the recent average of 1,113 permits sold annually.

To put these numbers in context, BICY receives on average over 1 million visits per year and 99.9% of visitors are not ORV users; and only 0.1% of visitors are ORV permit holders. See calculation below in Comment # 5.a. In stark contrast, the proposed increases in ORV trail mileage would benefit only 0.1% of park visitors.

To address this striking difference in ORV miles vs. hiking trail miles, we encourage NPS to revise Alternative 2 to include: 1) a moderate increase of 50-60 miles in hiking trails to provide increased non-motorized recreational opportunities that would benefit the vast majority of park visitors; and 2) a decrease the annual number of ORV permits for sale to 1,400 (i.e., round up the 1,390 permits identified in the comment above). Based on the analysis in the preceding paragraph, 1,400 permits would be sufficient to accommodate not only current levels of ORV use, but would also accommodate up to a 25% increase in ORV use.

Lastly, based on the only two action alternatives described in the SEIS, NPS should identify Alternative 2 as the Environmentally Preferable Alternative, in accordance with Section 4.3.D. of NPS NEPA Handbook 201514https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nepa/upload/NPS_NEPAHandbook_Final_508.pdf. Compared to Alternative 3, Alternative 2 combines more substantial wilderness protection with a lesser amount of ORV trail increases. As a result, Alternative 2 would be significantly less environmentally damaging than the NPS Preferred Alternative (Alternative 3).

5. Chapter 2, Section 2.6 Alternative 3 (Proposed Action/Preferred Alternative) – We have a number of comments about Alternative 3, including:

a. (Positive) Alternative 3 would add 114 miles of hiking trails to the existing trail system, for a total of 141 miles. This does not include the FNST, which would be rerouted and cover 44 miles.

In order to help improve public understanding of and support for conserving the Preserve’s incredible ecological resources, it is critical that NPS improve and diversify non-motorized recreation opportunities at the Preserve for the vast majority of park visitors who are not ORV users. According to NPS data15https://irma.nps.gov/STATS/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Annual%20Park%20Recreation%20Visitation%20(1904%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year)?Park=BICY from 2015 to 2020 park visitation averaged 1,020,178 visitors per year at BICY, while the average number of ORV permits sold annually during the same period was 1,113 per year. (See SEIS p. 123) Statistically speaking, ORV users (i.e., permit holders) comprised just 0.1% (one tenth of one percent) of all park visitors. Increasing hiking trail miles at BICY is both important and appropriate.

b. (Concern) NPS’s Preferred Alternative is clearly the most environmentally damaging alternative

. See General Comment # 3 above. NPS should reconsider its Preferred Alternative or create a new hybrid alternative that would provide more opportunities for non-motorized recreation and still be significantly less environmentally damaging than Alternative 3.

c. (Concern) Despite declining ORV use at BICY, Alternative 3 would significantly expand the existing 278 mile ORV trail system by adding 54 miles of primary trails and 52 miles of secondary trails, an increase of approximately 38%. As described previously, ORV permit sales in the preserve declined 30% during the past decade, dropping from a high of 2,000 permits sold in 2010 to 1,359 in 2020. More recently, the average number of ORV permits sold annually from 2015 to 2020 has been 1,113. (See SEIS p. 123) During the same period (2015-2020), overall park visitation at BICY averaged 1,020,178 visitors per year.16Ibid.

d. (Concern) Alternative 3 would end the annual mid-summer 60-day ORV closure that has occurred since implementation of the 2000 ORV plan. The existing annual 60-day closure would be removed throughout the preserve in favor of “targeted closures” aimed at specific problem areas identified by preserve staff, such as high or low water levels or extensive trail braiding, etc. According to NPS:

“The use of targeted closures would increase access while still giving resources the opportunity to recover, as needed, from pressures related to ORV use…no data exist to support the supposition that the existing 60-day closure provides a material benefit to wildlife. The annual closure would not be reinstated unless observation of adverse impacts demonstrated that resumption of the closure would have a beneficial impact on preserve resources.” (Emphasis added) (See SEIS pp. 27-28)

NPS’s explanation above for ending the annual 60-day closures is problematic for multiple reasons. First, numerous studies over many decades at multiple sites in many kinds of wildlife habitat have documented the adverse impacts of ORV disturbance on wildlife. A representative sampling of such studies are identified in the following literature reviews.17https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_rp_t3200_1081.pdf 18https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.805707/full 19https://pdf.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/Recent_ORV_research_reviews_January_2011.pdf?docID=9962&AddInterest=1304 Based on these many studies, it would be reasonable for NPS to deduce that a complete absence of ORV disturbance for 60 days a year over the past 20 years has been generally beneficial for wildlife even if NPS has not conducted field studies to confirm the benefits. However, it is unreasonable for NPS to assume there must be no benefits simply because NPS has not actually studied and documented the benefits of “no ORV disturbance” on wildlife at BICY.

Second, if NPS were to eliminate/replace the 60-day closure period with “targeted closures based on field observations” as proposed, we fail to understand how NPS could routinely and reliably conduct the level of field monitoring necessary to implement targeted closures or reinstate area-specific closures in a timely manner, if adverse impacts occur. It would require NPS to sufficiently staff and effectively the Trail Monitoring Protocol described in Appendix F of the SEIS. Although the Protocol identifies indicators of potential impacts of ORV use, it provides no information about staffing needs or the frequency of monitoring that would occur if the 60-day closure were eliminated. Absent such information, we have doubts that NPS has sufficient resources management staffing to proactively implement an effective monitoring program.

Finally, to be frank, this appears to be another example of NPS choosing to increase ORV access for a limited number of ORV users rather than erring on the side of avoiding the reintroduction of the impacts of ORV disturbance on wildlife after a 20+ year annual 60-day hiatus. We ask that NPS include a literature review summary as an appendix to the SEIS that identifies whatever studies NPS has to document the lack of benefit of the 60-day closure at BICY and/or rebut the many studies about the adverse impacts of ORVs on wildlife that are cited above.

e. (Concern) In Section 2.6.5 ORV Permitting, NPS would continue to charge a fixed fee of $100 for ORV special use permits. This is inconsistent with NPS cost recovery guidance related to special use permits. Under 16 USC § 3a20https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2010-title16/pdf/USCODE-2010-title16-chap1-subchapI-sec3a.pdf , NPS is authorized to “recover all costs of providing necessary services associated with special use permits.” Additional guidance on administering special use permits, which includes ORV permits, is provided in NPS Director’s Order # 5321https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf, which states, in part:  “The NPS may recover from the permittee all agency costs incurred in processing the application, and monitoring the permitted activity if the request is approved… The NPS unit or office that incurred the cost retains 100% of the cost recovery monies and should use the money to defray expenses.” (See p. 9)
More guidance is provided in NPS Reference Manual # 5322https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/RM-53_amended.pdf, which states, in part:
The NPS will charge a fee and recover costs for special park use permits unless prohibited by law or Executive order … Charges should reflect the fair market value of the benefit provided the permittee. The fair market value of a special park use is the value of the lands or facilities used, as well as the NPS costs incurred in managing, facilitating or supporting the useThe NPS will retain funds recovered for the cost incurred in managing a special park use. (Emphasis added) (See p. C5-1)

We seriously doubt that BICY’s longstanding ORV permit fee of $100 still covers the costs of administering the program, especially given the dramatic decline in ORV permit sales in recent years, which has inevitably resulted in significantly less fee revenue over time. In contrast to BICY, other parks allowing ORV use do administer their ORV permits in accordance with NPS cost recovery guidance; and there is no valid legal or policy reason for BICY not to do the same.

Under the well-established principles of the NPS cost recovery program, permit fees should not be fixed or remain unchanged for decades. The park should determine the fair cost of a permit by considering the total agency cost of administering the permit program, which includes the cost of monitoring the permitted activity, and the estimated number of permits likely to be sold. Then divide agency costs by the estimated number of permits to determine the appropriate permit fee needed to recover costs. In practical terms, this means that the cost of ORV permits at BICY should be periodically evaluated and adjusted, as needed, based on the guidance cited above in order to ensure that program costs are actually being recovered.

f. (Concern) Alternative 3’s wilderness proposal is inadequate. As described in the SEIS, only 147,910 acres (25%) of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition would be “proposed” for wilderness under the NPS Preferred Alternative. In contrast, the final WEA described in Appendix E has determined that 257,762 acres (43%) of the original Preserve and Western Addition are “eligible” for wilderness designation. NPS’s proposed action amounts to a 43% reduction from what is “eligible” to what would be “proposed” for actual wilderness designation. As stated previously, NPS Director’s Order # 41 on Wilderness Stewardship states: “Lands that are determined to be designation eligible for wilderness will be managed to preserve their wilderness character.” As a matter of principle, NPS should follow its own guidance in completing the wilderness study at BICY. We therefore urge NPS to reconsider Alternative 3’s wilderness proposal and present an alternative that is more in line with NPS wilderness stewardship guidance and which proposes a greater percentage of the Preserve’s “eligible” wilderness for wilderness designation.

In the event that NPS decides to stick with its 147,910 acres wilderness proposal, we remind NPS that Management Policies Section 6.3.1 provides that NPS shall “take no action that would diminish the wilderness eligibility of an area possessing wilderness characteristics until the legislative process of wilderness designation has been completed. Until that time, management decisions will be made in expectation of eventual wilderness designation. This policy also applies to potential wilderness, requiring it to be managed as wilderness to the extent that existing nonconforming conditions allow.” In practical terms, this means that NPS should not open or re-open any proposed ORV trails on the acreage that NPS has determined to be wilderness eligible in the WEA, until the legislative process of wilderness designation has been completed..

g. (Concern) The NPS explanation for “preferring” Alternative 3 is inconsistent with the NPS conservation mandate. On p. 44 of the SEIS, NPS states: “Of all the alternatives, alternative 3 achieves the best combination of increased visitor access and long-term resource protection.” (Emphasis added) To be frank, Alternative 3 does not provide the best “combination” of use versus conservation because it falls short on the “resource protection” side of the equation. While, yes, Alternative 3 would provide the most increases in both non-motorized access and ORV access, it also is clearly the most environmentally damaging alternative considered in the SEIS. And many of the adverse impacts are directly attributable to the proposed increase in ORV trail mileage, not the proposed increase in hiking trails.

The NPS Organic Act’s and the Preserve Act’s mandates to conserve Preserve resources are well established and litigation tested. As a result, we do not understand why NPS believes it has a mandate to increase visitor access, in general, but especially to significantly increase high-impact ORV access for a declining number of ORV users. We are skeptical why NPS has only proposed increasing hiking trails in Alternative 3, but not Alternative 2, which would have been a logical “increase low impact non-motorized recreational access while minimizing  impacts from ORV use” option. If NPS truly intended to “increase visitor access while improving long-term resource protection,” it would have proposed an alternative that would increase non-motorized recreational opportunities and wilderness protections, while minimizing increases in ORV trails. However, that is not what NPS is proposing.

6. Chapter 2 (General concern): For such a longstanding, complex, and controversial set of issues at BICY, the range of action alternatives in the SEIS is very limited and the only two action alternatives presented are problematic for multiple reasons. To address these concerns, we urge NPS to consider a third “hybrid” action alternative that combines alternative elements described elsewhere in the SEIS. As described previously, it is striking that NPS only proposes an increase in hiking trails in combination with the greatest increases in ORV trails in Alternative 3. NPS has the discretion to mix-and-match various alternative elements analyzed in the SEIS, which, in essence, would create a “hybrid” alternative. The general theme of such an alternative should be “to improve resource conservation while providing increased non-motorized recreational opportunities”; and we urge NPS to develop a “hybrid” action alternative that includes the following provisions:

  • Provide no net increase in ORV trail mileage, as described in Alternative 1Rationale: As described previously, the existing ORV trail mileage is sufficient to accommodate 25% more ORV users than the recent average. As a result, there is no apparent “need” for NPS to significantly increase ORV trail mileage as proposed in Alternative 3. The proposed increases are the primary reason why Alternative 3 (NPS’s Preferred Alternative) is the most environmentally damaging alternative.
  • Increase hiking trails by 114 miles, as described in Alternative 3.
    Rationale: NPS data indicates that non-ORV users account for approximately 1 million visitors per year at BICY, or 99.9% of all visitors, compared to ORV users who account for the remaining 0.1%. Yet the existing hiking trail system of 63 miles can only accommodate approximately 315 hikers based on Appendix D’s 5:1 visitor capacity ratio. Providing increased non-motorized recreational opportunities such as hiking, which causes relatively few environmental impact compared to ORV use, would serve the vast majority of park visitors who do not operate ORVs at BICY. Therefore, increasing hiking trail mileage should be an NPS priority.
  • Propose the full 257,762 acres (43%) of original preserve and adjoining Western Addition for wilderness designation, as described in Appendix E, the 2022 WEA.
    Rationale: The NPS preferred alternative would propose only 147,910 acres (25%) of the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition for wilderness designation, which is a 43% (109,852 acres) reduction in the amount of wilderness that the WEA (Appendix E) found to be “eligible.” NPS Director’s Order # 41 on Wilderness Stewardship states: “Lands that are determined to be eligible for wilderness will be managed to preserve their wilderness character.” NPS should consider at least one alternative wilderness proposal that complies with DO #41 policy.
  • Reduce the number of ORV permits for sale for the original Preserve to an annual maximum of 1,400Rationale: NPS has documented a clear trend of declining interest in ORV use at BICY. The current average number of ORV permits issued annually is 1,113. Based on Appendix D’s 5:1 visitor capacity ratio, the existing ORV trail system of 278 miles can accommodate 1,390 ORV permittees or 25% more than the recent average number of permits sold. Round 1,390 up to 1,400 to identify a reasonable capacity for the existing ORV trail system, which is more than enough to accommodate current levels of use as well as absorb an increase in use of up to 25% over current levels.
  • Administer ORV permits as a cost recovery program, as provided for under 16 USC §3a and Director’s Order # 53. NPS should periodically evaluate the costs of administering the ORV program at BICY and adjust permit costs accordingly.
    Rationale: Under applicable authorities and guidance, most parks where ORV use is allowed administer the related special use permits as a cost recovery program. There is no justifiable reason for BICY not doing the same, particularly since declining interest in RV permits at BICY has likely resulted in permit fee revenue no longer covering the costs of administering the program.
  • Last but not least, NPS should use the final BAP/EIS as a basis for updating BICY’s 1979 special regulation on Motorized Vehicles at 36 CFR §7.68(a).
    Rationale: The special regulation on ORV use at BICY should be updated to reflect NPS’s current/proposed ORV management program that is based on a designated trail methodology. The new rule should also codify key definitions (such as “primary trails” and “secondary trails”), prohibitions (e.g., on dispersed ORV use), and the ORV permit requirement.
7. Chapter 2 (General concern): NPS has not identified the Environmentally Preferable Alternative as provided for in NPS NEPA Handbook 2015.23https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nepa/upload/NPS_NEPAHandbook_Final_508.pdf Section 4.3.D. of the handbook describes the Environmentally Preferable Alternative as follows:

The environmentally preferable alternative is the alternative developed and analyzed during the NEPA process “that causes the least damage to the biological and physical environment and best protects, preserves, and enhances historical, cultural, and natural resources” (46.30). An environmentally preferable alternative must be identified in a ROD and may be identified in EAs, FONSIs, and draft and final EISs (1505.2(b); 46.450).

While identifying the environmentally preferable alternative in a draft EIS or SEIS is not absolutely “required” under this guidance, many parks choose to identify one in their draft planning documents for the sake of transparency and to help the public better understand the differences between the proposed action (i.e., the  NPS preferred alternative) and the most environmentally protective alternative. Given BICY’s track record of multiple past attempts to expand ORV use at the Preserve resulting in litigation, we urge NPS to identify the Environmentally Preferable Alternative in the SEIS, which would undoubtedly be the hybrid alternative described above; or, if no hybrid alternative is considered, then Alternative 2 would be the least environmentally damaging action alternative currently described in the SEIS. Identifying the Environmentally Preferable Alternative in the draft SEIS would improve transparency and help the public better understand the differences between the action alternatives that NPS has proposed.]

8. Chapters 3 and 4 (general comment): In some of the comments above, we have cited information or findings that appear in Chapter 3 or 4 of the SEIS. However, we have no additional comments specific to these chapters.

9. Appendix D: Visitor Capacity Determination: The description of the 5:1 ratio as it is applied to hiking trail capacity is confusing and should be clarified or corrected : There is confusing information on Appendixes pp. 11-12. On page 11, NPS states (regarding the number of ORV permits): “2,000 permits for up to 400 miles, or “5 permits for every 1 mile of trail.” The same ratio [i.e., 5 permits

or every 1 mile of trail] was used to determine permits issued in the Addition, up to 650 permits annually.” (Emphasis added)

However, on page 12 NPS states (regarding the application of the ratio to other backcountry users): Based on the preserve’s assessment, the current capacity and management program for ORV use has been a success, so it is practical to extend this method to other backcountry users (“ratio of 5 trail miles to 1 backcountry user”). (Emphasis added)

In other words, in one place NPS uses a ratio of “5 ORV users per 1 mile of trail” (i.e., 5:1); and in the other place NPS uses a ratio of “5 miles of trail for each [backcountry] user” (i.e., 1:5).  As written, it is confusing since NPS has not explained why it would flip the 5:1 ratio used for ORVs and make it a 1:5 ratio for other backcountry users. We ask NPS to review this information to ensure it is written as intended, and, if so, please explain it; or, if not, make any corrections needed.

10. Appendix E: 2022 Wilderness Eligibility Assessment (WEA):

In general, the WEA is clearly written and reasonably understandable. However, we have several concerns and comments.

a. (Concern) NPS proposes significantly less wilderness than what NPS has identified as “eligible” in the WEA. The WEA found that “of the 599,691 acres assessed in the original preserve and adjoining Western Addition, 257,762 acres (43%) were determined to be eligible for wilderness designation”(a 26% reduction in the amount of wilderness that the WEA determined to be eligible). Yet Alternative 2 proposes only 190,528 acres (32%) of the original preserve and Western Addition for wilderness designation. And Alternative 3 proposes even less of the original preserve and Western Addition (147,910 acres or 25%) for wilderness designation (a 43% reduction in the amount of wilderness that the WEA determined to be eligible).

Proposing far less wilderness than what NPS has found to be eligible for wilderness designation is inconsistent with NPS wilderness stewardship guidance. NPS Management Policies Section 6.3.1 provides that NPS “take no action that would diminish the wilderness eligibility of an area possessing wilderness characteristics until the legislative process of wilderness designation has been completed.”  Section 5.1 of NPS Director’s Order # 41 on Wilderness Stewardship24https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf states: “Lands that are determined to be eligible for wilderness will be managed to preserve their wilderness character.” Despite this guidance, neither Alternative 2 or 3 would protect anywhere near all of the acreage that the 2022 WEA identified as “eligible” for wilderness.

We urge NPS to increase the amount of acres proposed for wilderness in at least one of the action alternatives or fully consider a “hybrid” alternative that includes the WEA proposal. If NPS chooses not to consider the full amount of “eligible” wilderness for designation, then we ask NPS to provide a reasonable explanation for why its significant departure from its own wilderness eligibility finding.

b. (Concern) The WEA discusses several significant assumptions made by NPS, including one that is apparently based on old advice from the defunct BICY ORV advisory committee. As written, the assumptions are confusing, if not seriously flawed. As described on p.16 of the appendix, NPS considered: “established trails” to include “primary trails, recently closed secondary trails, and trails recommended by the Off-Road Vehicle Advisory Committee”; and “for the purposes of this eligibility assessment, it was assumed that evidence of off-road vehicle (ORV) use is substantially noticeable on recently closed secondary trails and off-road vehicle advisory committee recommended trails.”

Since NPS is using these assumptions to eliminate significant portions of the Preserve from further consideration for wilderness eligibility, we ask that NPS explain how these assumptions were developed and how they were applied in the WEA. Specifically, we ask NPS to address the following concerns regarding the following components of the assumption statement: 1) primary trails; 2) recently closed secondary trails; and 3) trails recommended by the ORV advisory committee.

1) “Primary trails”: As written, it sounds like “primary trails” refers only to “currently open primary trails” and not to the theoretical maximum number of primary trails identified in the 2000 ORV management plan, but never built. Please confirm if our understanding is correct and, if it is, please add language to clarify that “primary trails” in Appendix E refers only to “currently open primary trails.” If our understanding is incorrect, then please explain how NPS could assume that any primary trails identified in the 2000 plan that have remained closed for over 20 years should be automatically disqualified from wilderness eligibility now without further evaluation. Trails closed that length of time, even if not properly rehabilitated by NPS after their closure, have inevitably experienced some level of natural vegetation recovery; and should be thoroughly evaluated, including a field survey, to determine their wilderness eligibility.

2) “Recently closed secondary trails”: Please define “recently” in the context of NPS’s assumption statement. Does this mean that trails closed over 20 years ago as a result of the 2000 ORV management plan are now considered “recently closed” and could be excluded from wilderness eligibility without further evaluation? Or is NPS referring only to secondary trails that were opened in 2007 then closed in 2012 by court order and/or trails that were opened in 2010 and closed in 2014 due to a settlement agreement?  If “recently closed” refers only to the 2007 and 2010 trails that were temporarily opened then reclosed as a result of litigation, then NPS should state that plainly. And, if that is the case, we contend that those trails were not properly opened in the first place and NPS should not “assume” such trails are inherently ineligible for wilderness now. Regardless of the intent of NPS’s assumption, the 2007 and 2010 trails have now been closed to ORV use for 8-10 years; and some degree of natural vegetation recovery has inevitably occurred. Rather than “assume” that these trails, which some would say were opened improperly, should automatically be excluded from wilderness eligibility now, NPS should evaluate them anew, including conducting a field survey, to determine their current condition(s) as it relates to their wilderness eligibility. Our message is simple, don’t assume; evaluate!

3) “Trails recommended by the ORV advisory committee”: If this category includes something other than “primary trails and recently closed secondary trails,” then NPS should disclose what the committee’s specific trail recommendations were and whether these trails are currently open for ORV use or would be newly opened under the proposed action. If the committee’s trail recommendations includes only primary trails and recently closed secondary trails, then that should be explained also. Either way, we ask NPS to explain why it is still considering the advisory committee’s advice in an SEIS issued in 2022. According to FACADatabase.gov25https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001h0ge, the committee has not met and has been terminated since 2016. Similar to our concern above about “recently closed secondary trails,” if NPS intends to exclude wilderness eligibility of certain trails based solely on advice from a committee that hasn’t met in 6 years, then NPS should thoroughly evaluate the trails involved, including a field survey to determine the current condition of these locations, rather than automatically assuming they are not eligible.

11. Appendix F: Big Cypress National Preserve Trail Monitoring Protocol:

While the protocol includes a solid list of “ORV Indicators, Thresholds, and Adaptive Management Actions” (e.g., table on pp. 24-25), the monitoring plan is extremely vague about staffing and frequency of monitoring efforts. Page 23 states: “The goal of the program is to assess periodically all ORV trails (primary, secondary) and nonmotorized trails using Big Cypress National Preserve staff and/or volunteer surveyors. The extent and frequency of assessments will depend on the availability of personnel and other resources.” (Emphasis added)

Our concern relates specifically to the NPS proposal to eliminate the annual 60-day ORV closure and replace it with “targeted closures” such as when NPS observes increased disturbance of wildlife by ORVs during the traditional closure period. As described in the numerous studies cited earlier in our letter, the disturbance of wildlife by ORVs is well documented and likely to occur if ORVs are reintroduced into remote locations of the Preserve during that period.

We are generally opposed to eliminating the 60-day closure for the reasons described in comment # 5.d. above. We are even more concerned that NPS would eliminate the 60-day closure without providing adequate monitoring of impacts likely to be caused by the re-introduction of ORVs during the 60-day period. We therefore ask that NPS provide sufficient details regarding the level of staffing and frequency of monitoring it would provide during the 60-day closure period to minimize adverse impacts and document the impacts of ORV disturbance during the re-opening. “Targeted closures in response to increased disturbance” could only be effective if NPS can ensure the staffing and frequency of monitoring necessary to detect those impacts. If NPS cannot provide the level of staffing and frequency of monitoring needed, then we urge you to retain the 60-day closure in the Preferred Alternative.

CLOSING COMMENT

The NPS conservation mandate, as established under the NPS Organic Act of 1916, is described in NPS Management Policies Section 1.3.4, which states: “[W]hen there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant. This is how courts have consistently interpreted the Organic Act.” We would strongly prefer that NPS manage Big Cypress National Preserve as if “conservation is to be predominant.” However, as described above we have numerous concerns about NPS’s proposed action.

The gist of our concerns is that NPS “prefers” and presumably would implement the most environmentally damaging alternative (Alternative 3). Many of the damages would be due to the proposed 20% expansion of the existing 278 mile ORV trail system, which is being proposed by NPS even though ORV permit sales at BICY have declined 30% over the past ten years and ORV users currently comprise 0.1% of park visitors.

In addition, for such a longstanding, complex, and controversial set of issues, such as ORV use and wilderness stewardship at BICY, the SEIS offers a surprisingly limited range of alternatives. Alternative 3, which is preferred by NPS, offers the only meaningful increases in nonmotorized recreational opportunities at the Preserve. However, it does so only in combination with the greatest proposed expansion of the ORV trail system and the least amount of proposed wilderness. We urge NPS to fully consider a “hybrid” alternative that would combine elements from the other alternatives and include additional measures related to ORV management and wilderness stewardship.

In closing, we appreciate the opportunity to comment on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Michael Murray signature

 

 

Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
2 Massachusetts Ave NE, Unit 77436
Washington, DC 20013

cc:

Pedro Ramos, Superintendent, Everglades National Park
Shawn Benge, Deputy Director for Operations, National Park Service
Charles Sams, Director, National Park Service
Shannon Estenoz, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, USDOI

  • 1
    https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1981/upload/W-Act_508.pdf
  • 2
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/MP_2006.pdf
  • 3
    https://www.nps.gov/foun/learn/management/upload/1916%20ACT%20TO%20ESTABLISH%20A%20NATIONAL%20PARK%20SERVICE-5.pdf
  • 4
    https://www.nps.gov/bicy/learn/management/upload/Enabling%20Legislation.pdf
  • 5
    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=62&projectID=19520&documentID=76582
  • 6
    https://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=358&projectID=10641&documentID=37448
  • 7
    https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd645666.pdf
  • 8
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf
  • 9
    https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1981/rm41.htm
  • 10
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/MP_2006.pdf[/mfn (MP), as well as certain NPS Director’s Orders (DO), are relevant to this plan and should also be mentioned as “related guidance” in the SEIS. This includes the following:

    MP 1.4.3 The NPS Obligation to Conserve and Provide for Enjoyment of Park Resources and Values:  “Congress, recognizing that the enjoyment by future generations of the national parks can be ensured only if the superb quality of park resources and values is left unimpaired, has provided that when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant. This is how courts have consistently interpreted the Organic Act.” (Emphasis added)

    MP 6.3.1 General Policy [regarding Wilderness Preservation and Management]:  “For the purposes of applying these policies, the term ‘wilderness’ will include the categories of eligible, study, proposed, recommended, and designated wilderness. Potential wilderness may be a subset of any of these five categories. The policies apply regardless of category except as otherwise provided herein…  The National Park Service will take no action that would diminish the wilderness eligibility of an area possessing wilderness characteristics until the legislative process of wilderness designation has been completed. Until that time, management decisions will be made in expectation of eventual wilderness designation. This policy also applies to potential wilderness, requiring it to be managed as wilderness to the extent that existing nonconforming conditions allow.” (Emphasis added)

    MP 8.2.3.1 Motorized Off-road Vehicle Use: “Off-road motor vehicle use in national park units is governed by Executive Order 11644 (Use of Off-road Vehicles on Public Lands, as amended by Executive Order 11989), which defines off-road vehicles as “any motorized vehicle designed for or capable of cross-country travel on or immediately over land, water, sand, snow, ice, marsh, swampland, or other natural terrain” (except any registered motorboat or any vehicle used for emergency purposes). Unless otherwise provided by statute, any time there is a proposal to allow a motor vehicle meeting this description to be used in a park, the provisions of the executive order must be applied… In accordance with the executive order, [ORV routes and areas] may be allowed only in locations where there will be no adverse impacts on the area’s natural, cultural, scenic, and esthetic values, and in consideration of other existing or proposed recreational uses.” (Emphasis added)

    DO #41Wilderness Stewardship10https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf
  • 11
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf
  • 12
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf
  • 13
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf
  • 14
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nepa/upload/NPS_NEPAHandbook_Final_508.pdf
  • 15
    https://irma.nps.gov/STATS/SSRSReports/Park%20Specific%20Reports/Annual%20Park%20Recreation%20Visitation%20(1904%20-%20Last%20Calendar%20Year)?Park=BICY
  • 16
    Ibid.
  • 17
    https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/pwd_rp_t3200_1081.pdf
  • 18
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2021.805707/full
  • 19
    https://pdf.wildearthguardians.org/site/DocServer/Recent_ORV_research_reviews_January_2011.pdf?docID=9962&AddInterest=1304
  • 20
    https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2010-title16/pdf/USCODE-2010-title16-chap1-subchapI-sec3a.pdf
  • 21
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_53_2-23-2010.pdf
  • 22
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/RM-53_amended.pdf
  • 23
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nepa/upload/NPS_NEPAHandbook_Final_508.pdf
  • 24
    https://www.nps.gov/subjects/policy/upload/DO_41_5-13-2013.pdf
  • 25
    https://www.facadatabase.gov/FACA/FACAPublicCommittee?id=a10t0000001h0ge