Eleventh Circuit Brief Filed Seeking to Protect Wilderness and Biodiversity in Big Cypress National Preserve

Earlier this week, we filed our opening brief in an Eleventh Circuit appeal of a district court decision sustaining the National Park Service’s (“NPS”) drastic reduction of wilderness eligibility in the Addition Lands portion of Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve when opening these public lands to extensive off-road vehicle (“ORV”) use for the first time.  The Addition Lands has for decades served as a place of solitude for hikers, nature photographers, and birdwatchers, whose experiences will be severely diminished by the hundreds of miles of ORV trails authorized by NPS’s decision.  NPS achieved this result by improperly excluding pristine lands from its wilderness eligibility determination through the application of an erroneous legal standard, which allowed NPS to bypass recommending those areas to Congress for long-term preservation as wilderness for the public’s enjoyment of these lands in their natural state.  The lawsuit also raises concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion analyzing the effects of NPS’s ORV trail system, which failed to address several key threats to the highly imperiled Florida panther, as well as other protected species such as the eastern indigo snake.  Our clients are Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Sierra Club, South Florida Wildlands Association, and Wilderness Watch.