Environmental Groups Sue Over Off-Road Vehicle Trails In Big Cypress National Preserve

May 16, 2013

Credit jshyun / Flickr / Creative Commons

 A coalition of national and state environmental groups is suing a federal agency over a series of off-road vehicle trails in the Big Cypress National Preserve. 

The Sierra Club, and other conservation groups, is suing the National Park Service because they say the federal agency is violating the Endangered Species Act.

Matthew Schwartz, the Executive Director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, which is involved in the lawsuit, said ATV’s and other off-road vehicles would harm wetlands.

“The soil is very fragile, so you have destruction of soil, compaction of soil, destruction of roots, destruction of vegetation,” he explained. “When vehicles travel through an undisturbed area, they are disturbing the soil and also bringing seeds from invasive plants, like Brazilian Pepper, into an area.”

Schwartz said off-road vehicle use in the preserve would also disturb endangered wildlife.

“It disturbs wildlife in all kinds of different ways, including eastern indigo snakes, which are flushed out, Florida Panthers, which research has shown have moved away from off-road vehicle activity, impacts on the deer, which the Florida panthers feed on,” Schwartz said.

The Preserve’s Superintendent, Pedro Ramos, tells The Associated Press there’s been a history of “disagreement” over off-road vehicle trails in the Big Cypress. Ramos argues this new plan for more recreational trails is meant to dissuade people from using undesignated areas.