Florida Senators Call for Review of Park Closures
In a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Florida’s bi-partisan U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio urge the National Park Service to reconsider the proposed General Management Plan (GMP) for Biscayne National Park and to work cooperatively with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to maintain public access for anglers and boaters.
The National Park Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the FWC in 2007 that specifically stated they would provide for recreational and commercial fishing opportunities for the angling public by seeking the least restrictive management actions necessary. “But the measures proposed in the National Park Service plan represent the most extreme tools available for making fishery management modifications in Biscayne National Park, ignoring alternative ways to achieve the desired resource improvements without sacrificing the public’s ability to access and enjoy the park,” the letter to Sec. Salazar from U.S. Sens. Nelson and Rubio states.
The recently released GMP for Biscayne National Park includes a preferred alternative that would close roughly 10,500 acres of the Park’s most popular and productive shallow water reefs to recreational fishing, boating and other activities by designating these waters as a marine reserve. The most extreme alternative would close twice that much area.
On April 27, Karl “KC” Crook, a member of CCA Florida’s Dade County Chapter and owner of Crook & Crook Bait and Tackle, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands in a hearing entitled, “Access Denied: Turning Away Visitors to National Parks.” “Biscayne National Park is a regional treasure. It deserves the proper attention and controlled use to sustain and protect the natural beauty and resources contained within the Park,” Crook said. “Anglers are willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of the resource, as long as they are confident that these sacrifices are based on strong science and a true desire to improve the health of the fisheries we enjoy. However, the closures being proposed in Biscayne National Park are not based on solid fisheries management and seem to place undue blame for any and all problems in the park on anglers and boaters.”
At the same hearing, Kenneth W. Wright, vice chairman of the Florida FWC, outlined his agency’s concerns over the development of the new General Management Plan for the Park. “The new GMP proposes alternatives for management of the Park for the next 20 or more years,” he said. “The FWC has significant concerns with the management actions that are proposed in the GMP by the NPS, but are hopeful and guardedly optimistic that these concerns can be resolved through further coordination with the National Park Service.”
A coalition of boating and angling groups, including Coastal Conservation Association, the American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, the Center for Coastal Conservation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, has worked to find a reasonable compromise that will protect the Park’s marine resources, but not disconnect the Park from millions of America’s citizens. “We are grateful that Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio are engaged on this effort and are seeking to have the National Park Service work cooperatively with the Florida FWC to maintain access in the park,” said Center for Coastal Conservation President Jeff Angers. “Conservationists across the country applaud them for standing up as stewards of our fisheries resources and our coastal communities.”