Collier opposes Big Cypress wilderness plan

Map of Big Cypress National Preserve.

Courtesy National Park Service

Map of Big Cypress National Preserve.

— Collier County commissioners approved a proclamation this morning siding with off-roaders against a proposed wilderness designation for part of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

The draft proposal by the National Park Service has drawn protests from sportsmen who want more access to Big Cypress lands along Interstate 75 by traditional users. Environmental advocates say the wilderness designation will protect important natural resources.

The plan would phase in up to 140 miles of off-road vehicle trails cutting through 86,000 acres that would be proposed for a wilderness designation by Congress. A decision is expected in 2010.

"It's very important that the public who purchases and supports these public lands have access in a reasonable and responsible way to them," said Florida Wildlife Federation southern regional representative Franklin Adams, who accepted the proclamation at this morning's County Commission meeting.

The so-called Addition Lands has been closed to motorized recreation and hunting since 1996, when the National Park Service took over management of the land. The public is allowed to use the land for hiking, bicycling and camping.

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