Big Cypress National Preserve, Talk:Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve
is a United States National Preserve
located in southern Florida
, about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Miami
. Big Cypress, along with Big Thicket National Preserve
, became the first national preserves in the United States National Park System
when they were established on October 11, 1974.
Big Cypress borders the wet freshwater prairies of Everglades National Park
to the south, and other state and federally protected cypress country on the west, with water from the Big Cypress flowing south and west into the coastal Ten Thousand Islands region of Everglades National Park. Big Cypress has historically served as home to Native American
tribes, including the Miccosukee
s, to early settlers who almost wiped out the herons and egrets of the Everglades to supply feathers to hat-makers in New York and Paris, to a timber industry that built railroads to haul out most of the cypress country's big trees, and to poachers who used Big Cypress as homebase to threaten extinction even to the alligators of Everglades National Park. The poachers' communities, on an isolated road in the southern Big Cypress, operated almost without law enforcement or any form of government until Park Rangers began patrolling after the Preserve was established.
Ecologically, the Preserve is a slightly more elevated part of the western Everglades, was included in the boundaries of Everglades National Park when the Park was established in 1947, but had not yet been purchased from its private owners and at their request in 1954 was removed from Everglades National Park. In the 1960s, efforts by land speculators to stimulate development by having Miami agree to move Miami International Airport's international flights to a new airport in Big Cypress failed when Native Americans, hunters and conservationsts forced the airport to be closed to commercial flights, then campaigned to put Big Cypress back into the National Parks System. Big Cypress differs from Everglades National Park in that the Miccosukee and Seminole people have permanent rights to occupy and use Big Cypress, the Native Americans and hunters may use Off-Road Vehicles, and home and business owners are able to keep their properties. As in Everglades National Park, oil exploration was allowed in Big Cypress, but plans are under way to buy out oil leases within the Preserve.thumb|left|200px|A cottonmouth crosses a heavily-traveled off-road vehicle access road in Big Cypress National Preserve.
Big Cypress is the most biologically diverse region of the terrestrial Everglades, and while dominated by a wet cypress forest is host to an array of flora and fauna, including mangrove
s, venomous snakes like the cottonmouth
and Eastern diamondback rattlesnake
, a variety of birds, and the Florida Panther
The preserve is also home to nine federally listed endangered species
including the West Indian manatee, the eastern indigo snake, and the Florida sandhill crane.
A number of campgrounds in Big Cypress are tailored to motor vehicles, where tourists planning overnight stays can park their vehicles and ORVs in designated areas like Burns Lake. The southern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail
is located in Big Cypress providing for hiking opportunities during the dry months of January to April. For nature lovers who don't mind getting their feet wet, hiking throughout Big Cypress is enjoyable in all seasons, with most of the cypress country more hospitable to hikers than are the denser sawgrass prairies of the central Everglades. Some of the most beautiful wading and walking can be found in cypress strands and prairies between the Loop Road and the Tamiami Trail. Because alligators are numerous and often large (fifteen-footers and larger gators are regularly seen in the area), wading through the cypress country requires constant alertness.
Controversy Over Off-Road Vehiclesthumb|200px|Burns Lake campground, one of Big Cypress' many seasonal camps designed mainly for R.V.s and ORVs.
Touted as a "recreational paradise" by the Department of the Interior, Big Cypress was created in part to accommodate access with off-road vehicles (ORVs)
by the hunters and the Miccosukee and Seminole people who had worked so hard to protect Big Cypress from being drained and developed. But mismanagement by the National Park Service allowed an increase in ORV recreation far beyond the use by hunters and Native Americans, leading to so much damage that the National Park Service finally restricted ORVs to designated trails.. A ruling in 2001 restricted ORVs to 400 miles of trails within the Preserve, but sportsmen and recreational ORV riders - sharply divided from conservationists - have consistently demanded more.
A http://fl.water.usgs.gov/cesi/rkg_publiclandindicator_proj.htm report
by the United States Geological Survey
, a government organization, states that "ORV use in Big Cypress National Preserve (BICY) has impacted wildlife populations and habitats through modifications to water flow patterns (direction and velocity) and water quality, soil displacement and compaction, direct vegetation damage, disturbance to foraging individuals, and, ultimately, overall suitability of habitats for wildlife."
More pointedly, the http://www.npca.org/marine_and_coastal/wetlands/beaten_path.html National Parks Conservation Association
has called Big Cypress "the blighted poster child of what can go wrong when ORVs rather than park managers take the driver's seat."
Despite this, park officials in 2006 began http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2006/may/21/big_cypress_road_riding_will_be_studied/?local_news new studies
to consider expansion of the existing ORV trails. The study will determine whether the recreational benefit of more trails is worth condoning more degradation.
ORV critics have said that the existing 23,000+ miles of legal and illegal trails in Big Cypress are "enough to encircle the planet, and 20 times more than the Park Service’s own one time
estimate of 1,240 mileshttp://www.wildlifeadvocacy.org/programs/panthercypress.htm
." However, the 23,000 mile figure is from a University of Georgia study that documented all manmade disturbance in Big Cypress since early in the 20th Century -- all the existing and abandoned roads, logging roads and railroad beds, farms, airports and other construction.
*http://www.nps.gov/bicy/ National Park Service: Big Cypress National Preserve
*http://www.nps.gov/applications/Parks/bicy/ppmaps/BICYmap1.pdf Map of Big Cypress National Preserve
*http://www.nps.gov/bicy/newrules.htm NPS policy on ORV use
*http://www.friendsofbigcypress.org/ Friends of Big Cypress nonprofit websiteCategory:1974 establishmentsCategory:National Preserves of the United StatesCategory:Nature reserves