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National Parks Conservation Ass'n v. United States Department of Interior

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20214
Nos. 2:11-cv-578, -647, (M.D. Fl., 09/19/2014) (Steele, J.)

A district court upheld the National Park Service's (NPS') plan to allow off-road vehicle (ORV) use on designated trails in the "addition lands" of Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve. In 1988, Congress authorized the acquisition of what is referred to as the "addition lands," consisting of approximately 147,000 acres adjacent to the original preserve. Because the addition lands were not covered in NPS' 2000 general management plan for the original preserve, NPS began drafting a separate general management plan for the addition lands, which included an ORV use component. NPS' preferred alternative, adopted in its record of decision, allows recreational ORV use in addition lands on designated trails within 49,449 acres designated as “backcountry recreation;” provides for the future designation of approximately 130 miles of primary ORV trails in three phases; prohibits ORV use in 96,413 acres designated as “primitive backcountry;” and purposes 47,067 acres for “wilderness” designation. Various groups filed suit, arguing that NPS violated various federal environmental laws, including NEPA, the Wilderness Act, and the ESA. But the record supports NPS' decisions. NPS assessed the sustainability of the existing roads and trails in the addition lands, analyzed the impacts of implementing the ORV plan, identified mitigation measures to avoid potential impacts, and took the requisite hard look at the impacts of ORV use in the addition lands. The court, therefore, dismissed the lawsuits.