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The superintendant is leaving. BEWARE Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. He does not like trail riders.
Big Cypress National Preserve News Release

For Immediate Release
Sandra Snell-Dobert 239-695-1107

Superintendent John Donahue Leaving Big Cypress National Preserve

The National Park Service (NPS) has selected John Donahue, superintendent of Big Cypress National Preserve, as the new superintendent of Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (NRA) in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to NPS Northeast Regional Director Marie Rust. Leaving here in early June, Donahue will succeed William "Bill" Laitner who has accepted the post of suprintendent of Olympic National Park in Washington.

"We're pleased to have John return to the Northeast. He is an excellent steward of both natural and cultural resources," Rust said. "I believe that he has just the right combination of business acumen and environmental sensitivity to address the challenges now facing Delaware Water Gap, " she emphasized.

Superintendent of Big Cypress since 2000, Donahue is credited with developing and implementing the park's first sustainable management system for high impact recreation, creating a designated trails system for off road vehicles. He is also credited with overseeing the largest NPS prescribed fire program, establishing a Florida Panther Capture Team, and managing one of the largest hunting programs in the National Park System while expanding the park's youth and diversity programs.

On hearing of his new assignment, Donahue said, "I am very excited about becoming the Superintendent Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area which is a spectacular area. While it is extremely difficult to leave Big Cypress National Preserve and South Florida behind, I could not pass up this opportunity to manage the unique blend of natural and cultural resources found in Delaware Water Gap."

During his Park Service career, Donahue worked for five years as an environmental protection specialist in the environmental quality division at the Park Service's Washington headquarters and for three years as natural resource management specialist at Morristown National Historical Park in New Jersey. For a brief period in 1993, Donahue also served as chief ranger at Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts. The following year, he became superintendent of George Washington Birthplace (VA) and Thomas Stone National Historic Site (MD). In 2000, he was appointed superintendent of DeSoto National Memorial (FLA) as well as superintendent of Big Cypress NP.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y. , Donahue holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies and planning from California State University, Sonoma. He and his wife, Sarah, have a five- year-old son, John Vincent. "We are excited about the opportunity to be closer to our families that this transfer brings, " said Donahue.


Big Cypress official transferring

By David Fleshler
Staff Writer


March 25, 2003


The National Park Service announced Monday it is transferring John Donahue out of Big Cypress National Preserve, where his crackdown on off-road vehicles infuriated hunters and earned praise from environmentalists.

Donahue, who was superintendent of the preserve for three years, will take over Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, one of the most heavily visited parks in the United States. He said the transfer was voluntary. But it comes at a critical time for Big Cypress, a vast stretch of wet prairies and cypress swamps that has become an environmental battleground.

The preserve is working on a plan for managing hunting, off-road vehicle riding and other activities on 147,280 acres that were added to it in 1988. Hunters are demanding access to these areas, known as the Addition Lands. But environmentalists are pushing to protect some areas from rifles and swamp buggies. All sides will closely watch Donahue's successor.

"All the battles are going to be fought all over again," said Mary Munson, South Florida representative for the National Parks Conservation Association. "We'd like to see some of the trails converted to walking and
hiking trails so hunters and off-road vehicle users are not the only constituents."

The fight between hunters and environmentalists dominated Donahue's time at the preserve, one of the last strongholds of the Florida panther. He sharply restricted off-road vehicles, which he thought had severely damaged the ecosystem by carving thousands of miles of trails and ruts.

"I think John was sent out to Big Cypress on a mission that was very difficult, traumatic, exacting," said Nathaniel Reed, an Everglades advocate and former top official in the Interior Department. "John Donahue's assignment was to gain control, lay out a series of rules and regulations that could be enforced so the area could be thoroughly enjoyed without scarring it, damaging it or hurting it. I think he has completed his assignment."

Donahue, a Brooklyn native, said he requested the transfer to be closer to his family. He said he was proudest of working out good relationships with the two Indian tribes on the preserve.

Donahue restricted off-road vehicles to a network of designated trails and access points, infuriating hunters who said they needed the vehicles to make their way through the swamp. Having worked hard to persuade Congress to designate the land as a preserve, they felt entitled to pursue traditional activities.

"He and the park service demonized the hunters," said Frank Denninger of Hialeah, who hunts deer, hogs and turkeys in the preserve. "They created an image that we were running amok, destroying the resource, treating it like a country club. They manipulated the press. They were very adept creating an image of us."

Denninger and other hunters hope the next superintendent will show more sympathy to the people who prowl the preserve for game.

"I hope the Bush administration appoints someone who manages the preserve as Congress intended," said Barbara Jean Powell, spokeswoman for the Everglades Coordinating Council, a coalition of hunting clubs.

David Barna, spokesman for the National Park Service, said there would be no change in policies with Donahue's successor.

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David Fleshler can be reached at [email protected] or 954-356-4535.

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