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National Parks Conservation Ass'n v. U.S. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20145
Nos. 14-15326, 15-11599, (11th Cir., 08/31/2016)

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the National Park Service's (NPS') wilderness assessment and management plan for the addition of approximately 112,400 acres of land to the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, including its decision to allow off-road vehicle (ORV) use on the added land. Environmental groups filed suit under the Wilderness Act and ESA, but the court sided with the agency. Despite the groups' arguments to the contrary, NPS' reassessment of the wilderness eligibility determination was the result of reasoned decisionmaking, its rationale for excluding certain lands from wilderness eligibility was supported by the record, and claims that NPS impermissibly failed to assess the impact of the ORV trails to visitor experience and non-ORV user safety lacked merit. As for the ESA claims, the record supports the NPS' and FWS' determination that formal consultation with respect to the eastern indigo snake was not required based on the lack of adverse effects posed by ORV use. And the agencies appropriately analyzed the effects of ORV use on the existing Florida panther population.