|04-24-2001, 04:19 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: Dec 2000
Member # 2510
Location: Miami, Fl
Big Cypress National Park
This is the crap that the public sees about the trails that we want to preserve. I wouldn?t doubt it if the person who wrote this, and is not identified, has never seen any trails or the responsible OHV owner on them.
The full article will be available on the Web for a limited time: http://www.miami.com/herald/content/...ocs/085966.htm
The Miami Herald
Published Sunday, April 22, 2001
Monster swamp buggies poised to overrun Big Cypress Preserve
First, ply 'em with arsenic-laced tap water.
Then hitch them to a behemothic swamp buggy ripping through the Big Cypress National Preserve, via a screaming 200-horsepower engine, looking like a nightmare machine from a sci-fi comic book, churning through the muck in a deadly pursuit of Bambi.
Tow them, bouncing though the gashes and ruts and slashes cut into the marl prairies and cypress swamps by those ungodly machines with their oversize tractor tires.
Drag them along 22,000 miles of impromptu trails blazed by these lunatic-mobiles through the unpreserved preserve bisected by Alligator Alley. Then, in case they miss the point, lash them to one of the new offshore oil derricks that the George W. Bush administration envisions along the once-pristine Florida Gulf Coast.
Then ask them, those arrogant and prissy Ralph Nader voters, whose measly few votes were enough to decide the election, if they still believe there was ``no difference'' between the Democrats and what the Bush administration would bring to the American wilderness.
Bush's gang, in their latest backroom assault on the environment, are currently working to undo new park service regulations meant to save Big Cypress from the ravages of big wheeled off-road vehicles. The rules keep them on 400 miles of designated routes.
Apparently 400 miles ain't enough. Off-off-roaders angrily claim some God-given right to drive their 5,000-pound monsters anywhere they chose in pursuit of wild hogs or those runt-size Everglades deer. They reject any suggestion that once they've driven their buggies deep into the Big Cypress and spotted some animal worthy of killing that they park the thing and pursue it on foot (which pretty well coincides with what most Americans envision as ``hunting'').
Instead, they want to terrorize the creatures, chase them with loud, huge, ugly machines across the preserve until they drop from exhaustion. From there it's unclear whether the ``hunters'' shoot Bambi, bean it with an empty Jack Daniel's bottle or just grind it into roadkill under those huge tractor tires.
The right to unregulated swamp buggies, of course, must have been one of those unspecified natural rights that the American voters were considering when they went to the polls last November. The swamp buggy operators, offended by the new rules meant to save the Big Cypress, filed suit in January.
More important, they hired Bill Horn, a Washington lawyer, a veteran of the Reagan administration and a close buddy of Interior Secretary Gale Norton. The Republican insider is the same fellow who seems to have convinced the Bush Interior to undo similar restrictions on snowmobiles roiling across Yellowstone and Denali national parks.
Horn and Interior Department officials have entered into settlement talks over the Big Cypress lawsuit. And the coalition of environmental groups that intervened in the suit have been shut out of the negotiations. ``I have every reason to worry,'' said Don Barry, executive vice president of the Wilderness Society.
Barry, who served as assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks in the Clinton administration, worries that if the Interior Department surrenders to the buggy operators, they'll be allowed to run amok in the muck. ``In my 27 years working on land management issues, I can't think of another piece of land, under the park service, forest service, even the bureau of land management, as damaged and hammered as the Big Cypress,'' Barry said.
Both Barry and Mary Munson of the National Parks Conservation Association employed the same metaphor to describe how the big-tire buggies have transformed Big Cypress. ``It was like Rommel's tanks had invaded,'' said Munson.
``It looks like a Panzer division has spent months and months tearing it up,'' said Barry.
The preserve was created back in 1974. The accompanying congressional report, mapping legislative intent, said: ``While the use of all-terrain vehicles must be carefully regulated by the secretary of interior to protect the natural wildlife and wilderness values of the preserve, the bill does not prohibit their use along designated roads and trails.''
Somehow the off-roaders, like some weird backwoods religious sect interpreting the Bible, see in those terse words a license to go berserk through the 729,000-acre preserve, with its 11 endangered species and fragile hydraulics that contribute 40 percent of the flow into the Everglades National Park.
Oddly, the plan to install 400 miles of improved trails would actually allow more of the public access into the preserves than the 2,000 who traverse the swamps in their super action hero machines. Any old SUV laden with birdwatchers could then handle the park's designated trails. But this isn't about public access to Big Cypress. This is about the fervent group clever enough to hire an anti-environmentalist lobbyist with lots of juice in an anti-environmentalist administration.
Next time you come across a Nader voter, take him to the Big Cypress where the Panzer division rips across the marl prairie.
And he if can hear you over the roar of the buggies, ask him if, maybe now, he can discern a difference.
Ian, all the way from sunny South Florida where women are in bikinis all year long!