Park Seeks Comments on Proposed Pole and Troll Zone in Florida Bay

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    Everglades National Park News Release

    October 30, 2009
    For Immediate Release
    Linda Friar 305-242-7714

    Park Seeks Comments on Proposed Pole and Troll Zone in Florida Bay

    Background
    Everglades National Park proposes to implement a pole and troll boating
    zone in Florida Bay to help protect seagrass and wildlife habitat, and
    enhance a range of visitor experiences including shallow-water fishing,
    wildlife viewing and paddling opportunities. The park is seeking public
    input on the proposed action, alternatives being considered, and potential
    implementation strategies.

    The idea for this project emerged following General Management Plan (GMP)
    meetings earlier this year when new scientific and visitor use information,
    along with a new set of preliminary marine area alternatives, was presented
    to the public. That effort resulted in meaningful public input on the ways
    to improve future management of Florida Bay. Superintendent Dan Kimball was
    impressed with the depth of public input and notes, “Among the many great
    ideas we heard from stakeholder groups and long-time users of Florida Bay,
    was the suggestion for park managers to consider an initial pole and troll
    zone in Florida Bay before completing the GMP. The park is now pursuing
    this idea and over the summer my staff and I visited several pole and troll
    zones in Florida to learn first-hand about implementation and management
    options. The value of these zones for protecting shallow-water resources
    and providing better visitor use opportunities has been demonstrated, and
    we plan to use these lessons learned to better inform our efforts to
    improve resource protection and visitor experiences in Everglades National
    Park.”

    Project Startup and Preliminary Recommendation
    An interdisciplinary team from the park was recently established and began
    working on the proposed project, developing project objectives and criteria
    for evaluating potential sites in Florida Bay. Field trips in the Bay
    refined the team’s understanding of the project’s issues and challenges,
    and four alternative areas were identified and evaluated (Snake Bight,
    Garfield Bight, Peterson Key Bank, Shell Key Bank). The team’s preliminary
    recommendation is that Snake Bight, a popular area immediately east of
    Flamingo best met the project objectives and ranked highest among the four
    sites based on the criteria evaluation.

    The new zone would remain open to the public, but combustion motor use
    would not be allowed inside the zone. Inside the zone, boats would only be
    permitted to use push poles, paddles, or electric trolling motors.
    Implementation of the zone places a heavy emphasis on education and
    outreach. The park would develop and widely disseminate maps, brochures,
    and other materials in an effort to communicate the new zone to the public.
    In addition, the park would implement a monitoring plan to help assess the
    zone's effectiveness over time in protecting seagrass and wildlife habitat,
    enhancing fishing and other recreational experiences. If a decision is
    reached to implement the Snake Bight pole and troll zone, access to the
    zone would be enhanced through on-plane transit via the Snake Bight and Tin
    Can Channels while adjacent Jimmie’s Lake would allow idle-speed transit in
    waters deeper than 2 feet.

    Relationship to the GMP
    The proposed zone is not associated with future decisions to be made in the
    GMP; however, public input on the GMP earlier this year demonstrated public
    interest for this idea in advance of completing the GMP. Dan Kimball noted,
    "Our stakeholders have clearly communicated support for a pole and troll
    zone in Florida Bay to enhance resource protection and visitor experiences.
    This zone should result in increased protection of seagrass, higher quality
    fishing opportunities, better wildlife viewing, and better paddling trips,
    in a very popular area. If this project is implemented, I expect that its
    monitoring activities would provide valuable information to support GMP
    implementation and adaptive management strategies in the years ahead.” The
    draft GMP is scheduled for public review in early 2011 and completion in
    2012.

    Public comment period continues through November 30, 2009
    Comments are welcome on all aspects of the proposed project including
    objectives; alternative locations in Florida Bay under consideration; the
    boundary of the proposed Snake Bight zone; activities to effectively mark,
    educate the public, and enforce the zone; and monitoring activities to
    determine the success of the zone. A slide presentation describing the
    project and questions the park would like feedback on about the project is
    available for review at the park website link below and will be presented
    at two upcoming meetings. Public input can be provided in several ways.

    At the public meetings:
    Monday, November 9, 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., John D. Campbell
    Agricultural Center, 18710 SW 288th Street, Homestead, FL

    Tuesday, November 10, 6:00 to 7:30 P.M., Key Largo Holiday Inn,
    99701 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL

    At both meetings, park staff will be available to discuss the project,
    answer questions and record public comments. At 6:30 P.M., there will be a
    presentation about the project, followed by a formal public comment
    session.

    Through the park’s website: http:www.nps.gov/ever and the homepage link
    under “Everglades National Park Planning – Proposed Florida Bay Pole and
    Troll Zone”.

    By mail: Superintendent, Everglades National Park
    Re: Proposed Florida Bay Pole and Troll Zone
    40001 State Road 9336
    Homestead, FL 33034-6733

    For more information or questions about the proposed pole and troll zone
    contact David Hallac at david_hallac@nps.gov or 305-224-4239; or Fred
    Herling at fred_herling@nps.gov or 305-242-7704.