Florida senators question Biscayne National Park restriction plans

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As a part of ongoing efforts to bolster awareness of the National Park Service’s proposed General Management Plan to close nearly 20 percent of boating and fishing access in Biscayne National Park, Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio signed a joint letter expressing concern to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

In the letter they note that the proposed “marine reserve,” as well as several “non-combustion zones,” would halt fishing and boating in the area and substantially diminish the contribution boating and fishing make to Florida’s economy, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Last week, at the American Boating Congress, Jon Jarvis, director of the National Park Service, told attendees that no final decision has been made on the Biscayne National Park proposal. He acknowledged concerns from the boating and fishing communities and said it’s a matter of balancing recreation with conservation.

The NMMA continues to work on this issue and was on hand for an April 27 oversight hearing by the House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands titled “Access Denied: Turning Away Visitors to National Parks.”

Access issues at two popular national parks, Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area, N.C., and Biscayne National Park, Fla., were discussed in detail by the subcommittee.

The Park Service’s proposed plan for Biscayne National Park would close more than 10,500 acres of the park’s most popular and productive fishing areas, the NMMA said.

The Fishery Management Plan Stakeholder Working Group and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have provided detailed recommendations to the National Park Service that include less restrictive management tools. These tools, backed by sound science, can rebuild the park’s fisheries resources and protect habitat.

The NMMA, along with its boating and fishing coalition partners, urges the Park Service to reconsider a marine reserve for Biscayne National Park and instead address this option, along with several other less restrictive management tools, in collaboration with the FWC in a fisheries management plan.

“Boating and fishing in our national parks is an American pastime, and access to these waterways is essential to the public’s ability to enjoy these natural treasures,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “Boating and fishing are an essential part of Florida’s economy and a major contributor to encouraging the community to enjoy the outdoors. NMMA will continue to work toward a solution with the National Park Service on this important issue.”

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