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The Battle of The Little Big Cypress Continues

Ruben P. Sauleda Ph.D.

I have established this web site with the hope that someone will see it that will listen and
put politics and greed aside for the welfare of this unique area.

My grandfather always taught me that the pen was mightier than the sword but,
I am finding out that the internet is mightier than both.

My experiences in the Everglades started in 1951 when my parents first took me out to the Big Cypress and have continued until the present time. My interest in the Everglades has always been recreational. On occasion I have published papers describing the orchids that I have found in the Everglades to help demonstrate the richness and uniqueness of the Everglades. By doing this I feel that I have illustrated just how important this area is and how important it is to conserve it for future generations to enjoy.

Having lived all of my life in South Florida and being a scientist myself with a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of South Florida, I understand the threats to this fragile system and I am at times frustrated by the solutions to these threats. Most of the solutions are political solutions used to appease powerful money interests and not based on scientific fact.

I am instilling on my son and his friends an understanding and respect for the Everglades. This is becoming increasingly difficult when they see the damage that Park service is doing to the Big Cypress in the name of preservation. Park Service quickly blames the havoc that they are causing on recreational users and environmentalists.

My parents first took me to the the Big Cypress when I was 4 years old. That was 51 years ago. Many changes have occurred but the beauty and mystique of the Big Cypress have not changed. I remember seeing many more orchids and bromeliads than we see today. In the large cypress heads many species of orchids were common. Today very few orchids can be seen in the cypress heads. The cypress heads had hundreds of Encyclia tampensis and huge clumps of Cyrtopodium punctatum (cigar orchid) along the edges. In the interior on the pond apples and pop ash were Epidendrum rigidum, Encyclia cochleata var triandra, Epidendrum floridanum (previously known as Epidendrum difforme), Epidendrum anceps, Epidendrum nocturnum and the ghost orchids, Polyrrhiza lindenii and Campylocentrum pachyrrhizum.

The orchids and bromeliads still survive, although in much lower numbers, in spite of the continual mismanagement or I should say political mismanagement of the water flow into the area. Low water levels allow fires to sweep through cypress heads killing the orchids and bromeliads that are not fire resistant. If the water levels were maintained where they should be, the cypress heads would have standing water in the center where the pop ash and pond apples grow and the fires would not sweep through. Pop ash and pond apple are the preferred hosts of the orchids.

The water is now held in reserve for the sugarcane farmers and when released for their use the water gets polluted with mercury so we can not eat the fish that swim in the water. Nearly every acre of sugarcane in south Florida is irrigated and drained via a costly, tax-supported system of pumps, dikes, and canals. This system, in combination with the heavy fertilizers sugar farmers apply to their fields, has degraded the remaining "pristine" Everglades downstream, yielding years of litigation and an environmental catastrophe that will cost taxpayers $8 billion to fix. Although Florida cane farmers are footing part of the cleanup cost, their small share is all but buried under another, more pervasive government handout: a federal sugar program that keeps the domestic price of sugar some 50 percent above the world market price: This sweet protectionist deal not only adds a nickel profit to every pound of sugar produced by large U.S. cane farmers but has abetted the Everglades' decline by encouraging farming in marginal swamplands that could not be profitably planted otherwise.

Sugar is, in effect, getting paid to do serious ecological damage. Each time Congress looks at the problem, the industry prevails with an impressive blend of political skill and resources. Between 1990 and 1998, American cane farmers poured some $13 million into presidential and congressional campaigns and tens of millions more into local races, especially in Florida, where sugar has spent at least $26 million on everything from referendums to supporting Jeb Bush for governor in 1998.

That is a lot of money and it has forged a chain of political obligations and alliances that is immune to even the most vigorous good-government crazes. Three years ago the sugar lobby not only throttled a congressional attempt to phase out sugar price supports (persuading six of the bill's co-sponsors to switch sides) but dished out some $23 million to stop a Florida proposal to tax growers for Everglades restoration. And just this April, sugar lobbyists in Tallahassee pushed through a last-minute bill weakening federal authority over Everglades cleanup, then convinced newly elected Governor Bush to sign the law immediately, before incensed environmentalists could mount a veto campaign. In spite of all this the orchids and bromeliads hang on although in dwindling numbers.

This tillandsia is releasing hundreds of seeds but the dry environment, because of the lack of water flow, will not support their germination and development.

Monument Road, as the trail leading from Monument Lake is called, used to be a trail only traveled by off-road vehicles. The disturbance by off-road vehicles can actually create a habitat that is essential to the preservation of species diversity in the Big Cypress. It is very well documented in hundreds of papers in scientific journals and books that habitat disturbance is essential for the survival of many species of plants and animals. There many species that can only survive in disturbed habitats. They colonize the disturbed area and stabilize it for other species to grow. Eventually these species are crowded out as the disturbed habitat returns to the original state. These species must continually find new disturbed areas to colonize or become extinct.

In addition there were deep holes in the trails that were a source of water that lasted for a long time during times of drought. These holes were a source of water for animals that drank the water and others that lived in the holes. Deer and many other animals could be seen drinking from these holes and alligators could also be found in the holes during extreme drought periods. Many small fish and crayfish survived in the holes. These holes have been filled with rock eliminating an important source of water for the animals.

My preferred off road vehicle is a two wheel drive Honda 300EX. The machine weighs 247 lbs. and has a footprint of 344 square inches. It exerts less pressure on the ground than a man walking.

Instead of a trail which serves as an important habitat for r-stratigists we now find a sterile rock road that has eliminated the habitat and is causing the possible extinction of many plants and animals from the Big Cypress if Park Service continues to extend it.

In addition to eliminating a habitat and being unsightly the construction of this road has caused more damage to the area than all the registered off road vehicles could do in ten years. Damage done by bulldozers is evident adjacent to most of the rock road.

A large amount of habitat has been destroyed.

One of the arguments for building the rock road was that all of the buggy trails were changing the flow of water in the Big Cypress. Numerous slew lines that crossed the road have been filled in with rock. Actually the entire road is a barrier to water flow.

I remember a few years back, I was camping with my family and friends at Bear Island when one of my friends arrived, his dog got out of his truck just in time to be spotted by a ranger. The ranger stated in front of my son and several children that were present that he could shoot the dog for being loose if he wished. This was a great impression of a Ranger that the children got and one that they have not forgotten. They still tell their friends about the ranger that was going to shoot our friends dog. He then stated that if we tied the dog to a tree he could give the owner a ticket for damaging a tree. Without further comment I present the following pictures of damaged cypress, pine trees and other trees. These are just a few examples, there were hundreds of damaged trees.

In addition many trees were painted red or yellow.

All of the damage that has been done by all of the off-road vehicles that have traveled
the Big Cypress in the past is inconsequential compared to the damage that this rock
road has done and will continue to do in the future by impeding water flow, eliminating
the disturbed habitat so necessary to the maintenance of species diversity and by the pH
changes that will occur as the water flows across the rock road. Changes in pH in the
water as it flows across the road can cause damage to the plants adjacent to the road.
I would like to see the study that was done to determine the environmental impact
of this road. I spoke to one of the Rangers and she indicated that the measures that
were being taken to prevent the roads from being washed away were not working.
Does this mean that as the rock washes away into the surrounding habitat that more
rock will be used to rebuild the road?? This will be a blight on the Big Cypress.
The buggy trails heal in a short time as can be seen from the trails leading away from the
west side of Monument Lake that have been closed only a few months but, the rock roads
will not heal. The rock road will eventually be abandoned by Park Service due to a lack
of interest as the politics change or the money runs out. The ugliness and damage
will remain. This folly will be Park Superintendent John Donahue's legacy. History
will judge him.

All of this started because our government did not defend the rights of Americans
to use the area as it was originally intended when the Big Cypress was established.
Brian Scherf, of The Florida Biodiversity Project, with Amy Atwood, Attorney at
Meyer & Glitzenstein, sued the government because they claimed that ORVs were
damaging the area. The government instead of fighting this absurd suit (based solely
on pictures carefully taken for emotional impact) in court sold out the American people.
The allegations in the suit could not have been proven because they were not true.
Many competent scientists could have been found to testify against the ridiculous
allegations. The government thought it was cheaper to settle than to fight for what was
right. But as history has shown, nothing lasts for ever. Environmentalists prey
on the emotions of often well intentioned but uninformed people to further their private
agendas and achieve their personal goals.

With the election of George Bush many were hopeful that the hysteria of the environmentalists
could be stopped. Many have given George Bush the benefit of the doubt and
felt that he was too busy dealing with terrorists to worry about our rights to access to the
Big Cypress. However, this is not the case. The Bush administration has time to continue
the sell out of the rights of the American family as can be seen by this press release by:


Amy Atwood, Attorney at Meyer & Glitzenstein, 202-588-5206
Brian Scherf, Florida Biodiversity Project, 954-922-5828
Alix Rauschman, Natural Trails and Waters Coalition, 202-429-2672

Department of Justice Concludes that Off-Road Vehicle Suit Lacks Merit

The Administration Defends Big Cypress Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan

Washington, DC (March 15, 2002) -

The Department of Justice yesterday filed a brief with
the Federal District Court in Ft. Myers, Florida
that defends the National Park Service's
Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan designed to
protect Big Cypress National Preserve from the
damage caused by swamp buggies and other
off-road vehicles. If the Plan is fully upheld by
the Court, then a critical component of the larger Everglades ecosystem
may finally begin to receive the protection it deserves.

In its response to a lawsuit challenging the Park Service's Off-Road
Vehicle (ORV) Management Plan, the Department of Justice states in its
brief that the arguments offered by off-road vehicle interests challenging
the Plan lack merit and are unpersuasive.

The Department of Justice also concluded that:
The Park Service fully complied with the law in developing the 2000 ORV Management Plan;
The Park Service properly modified the ORV Management Plan in response to public comment;
The Plan complies with the Big Cypress National Preserve Act; and
The Plan is supported by the evidence documenting the negative impact of off-road vehicles on wildlife.

"This lawsuit is a kitchen sink attack on the Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan for Big
Cypress? said Amy Atwood, Attorney at Meyer & Glitzenstein. "It is refreshing to see the
federal government present a solid defense of the Plan as Big Cypress deserves this strong

The Department summed up the consequences of striking down the Park Service's Plan:
"it would be ironic - at best - if the Court were to impose a remedy for an alleged violation
of the National Environmental Policy Act that resulted in greater harm to the environment."

The Bush administration is worried about the buggy tracks but is in favor of oil drilling in the Big Cypress. Something is wrong with this picture.

The following article was published recently (Feb, 2002: Search for Florida oil gets first boost. (Looking Ahead).(Oil exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve approved by the National Park Service)

A proposal to explore for oil in the Big Cypress National Preserve has won approval from the National Park Service. Plans call for a seismic survey, requiring 14,700 shotholes and the drilling of an 11,800 ft. exploratory well. However, an environmental assessment, including stipulations intended to protect the vegetation and wildlife within the 729,000 acre preserve, was issued soon afterwards. Collier Resources Co. still needs approval from the state and several other regulatory bodies. The firm plans to build a 7 1/2 -mi access road in the preserve. The Sierra Club's Roderick Tirrell said he is concerned about the potential damage to the environment the road would cause since it could alter water flows southeast into the Everglades.

Where are the defenders of the Florida environment now? PARK SERVICE approves and Brian Scherf does not complain that 14,700 shotholes will be made and a 7 1/2 mile access road is going to be built in the preserve. Buggy trails are bad but rock roads and oil drilling are good?? Why would Park Service approve oil exploration if drilling was not to follow?? What did the oil companies do to convince Park Service and silence the so called defenders of the environment that the potentially environmentally devastating oil drilling is good?

Why does The Sierra Club's Roderick Tirrell not object to the 6 miles of rock road already built in the Big Cypress by Park Service and the plans to build many more miles, but is concerned (not objecting to) the access road of the oil drillers?

This leads to an interesting question; where do Brian Scherf, Florida Biodiversity Project and Amy Atwood, Attorney at Meyer & Glitzenstein get the funds to continue to impose, through the courts, their inconsistent environmental morality on the American people. If Park Service had decided to build the rock road in the Big Cypress without the excuse that it was replacing the buggy trails, would these same defenders of the environment have filed a suit to stop them.

This photograph was taken by Ralph Middleton Munroe in 1884 of the mouth of the Miami River. It is from the book The Forgotten Frontier, Florida Through the Lens of Ralph Middleton Monroe, text by Arva Moore Parks. For any one who appreciates the beauty that was Florida, this book is a must. It was published by The Alina Press, Miami, Florida, 1977. By looking at this book we can see what Florida was like. Just about every location photographed in this book has been destroyed. What little we have left of the beauty that was Florida will also be destroyed if we keep electing people to represent us that have been bought and paid for by the sugar industry, oil drilling industry, land developers and netters. There is hope however, I know bankers, lawyers and doctors fooled by the emotional arguments of the environmental terrorists, but they can not fool the children and young people. When they see what Park Service is doing to "their" Everglades they are upset. They can see right through the politics and greed that has always managed Florida's environment. Beware!!! They will be voting soon.
It was very interesting that a few days after I established this web site the following article was published in the Miami Herald: Posted on Thu, May. 30, 2002 Deals block oil drilling in Everglades and Gulf President moves to buy back rights, protect resources BY TIM JOHNSON AND CURTIS MORGAN cmorgan@herald.com Ron Edmonds /AP "This is a win for all sides," says Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton after Wednesday's announcement of a deal to head off further oil drilling in the Everglades and offshore of Florida's Panhandle beaches. Gov. Jeb Bush, left, attended the meeting at the White House. WASHINGTON - President Bush on Wednesday blocked efforts to erect drilling rigs off sugary Panhandle beaches and among cypress stands fringing the Everglades, announcing two landmark deals to buy back oil and gas rights for $235 million. ''Florida is known worldwide for its beautiful coastal waters and the Everglades,'' the president said at a White House ceremony attended by his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. ``Today, we are acting to preserve both.'' The agreements also have broader implications, giving Jeb Bush a campaign boost and bolstering the president's image in a state vital to his reelection hopes as well. Asked if a deal sponsored by his brother would help him politically, Gov. Bush responded: ``I hope so. But more importantly, it is good public policy. And when there's a convergence of good politics and good policy, I don't think we should be ashamed about it.'' The announcement earned the administration something it has rarely heard while pursuing a national energy policy to open vast new wilderness areas to exploration: gushers of praise from environmentalists, particularly in Florida, where anti-rig sentiment runs deep across political lines. ''This will go down as one of the great environmental victories for Florida,'' said Mark Ferrulo, director of the Florida Public Interest Research Group, which has fought growing pressure from oil and gas companies to tap into rich reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. The two deals are different but effectively block the most immediate drilling prospects in Florida -- in the sprawling Big Cypress National Preserve in Southwest Florida and in the Destin Dome, about 25 miles off pristine Panhandle beaches in the Gulf of Mexico. The Big Cypress deal seals seven years of federal efforts to negotiate with the powerful Collier family for mineral rights in the preserve, a key part of the Everglades system, the strangled River of Grass the state and federal governments are shelling out some $8 billion to revive. ''This agreement is a win for all sides,'' said Interior Secretary Gale Norton, whose agency negotiated both complex deals. ``The Collier area -- the Big Cypress Preserve -- is home to endangered species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, the crocodile, the manatee and the Florida panther. It is an area that is especially sensitive.'' Interior will pay about $120 million to two Collier companies for oil and gas exploration rights under 400,000 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The Colliers also have agreed to suspend plans to begin as many as 26 new exploratory wells. Nine existing oil rigs are not affected. Some terms remain to be worked out. The compensation could be in cash or in bidding credits for future oil and gas leases elsewhere, which the Colliers could use or sell. Congress also must give final approval. In addition, if the rights are eventually assessed for more money, the Colliers could benefit with tax breaks, subject to Internal Revenue Service review, by donating excess value to the U.S. government. Miles Collier, grandson of patriarch Barron G. Collier, namesake of Collier County, said the family had seen public and political sentiment swing against oil drilling. The Colliers had pursued numerous federal deals for the rights. 'When there's sort of an overwhelming groundswell that basically says, `Gee, we really would rather you didn't do this,' then we look for another way,'' he said. In the offshore deal, the government will pay $115 million to buy back nine leases in the ''Destin Dome'' natural offshore gas field in the Gulf of Mexico near Pensacola, using proceeds from lawsuits to make the payments. Two remaining offshore leases, held by Murphy Oil, will be suspended for a decade and the state and federal governments will retain broad veto rights. The leases are owned by Conoco Inc., Murphy Oil Corp., and the ChevronTexaco Corp., which was closest to establishing the first full-fledged rig off Florida. President Bush hailed the deal as a backbreaker for an oil industry that has been pressing for decades to expand into Florida's coastal waters. ''Effectively, off the shorelines of Florida, there will be no drilling,'' Bush said. Sen. Bob Graham, while praising the deals, said some 99 leases remained active or in litigation in the Eastern Gulf. ''This is a step in the right direction, but today's developments should be a starting point to permanently end future drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast,'' Graham said. Environmentalists, while pleased with the end result, questioned the motivation. Lisa Speer, a senior policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the agreements a ''bit of a double standard'' for Florida. Phil Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust, was less diplomatic, calling the agreement a ``$235 million campaign contribution to the Re-Elect Jeb Bush Committee, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.'' As U.S. consumers face possible disruptions of foreign oil supplies, possibly triggered by Middle East upheaval, the Bush administration has increased emphasis on domestic oil production, most notably targeting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. California also is battling proposals for new offshore drilling. Norton said environmental considerations were paramount. ''There are things that can be done in Alaska to ensure that production is taking place in an environmentally sound way that cannot be done in Florida,'' she said. ``For example, ice roads are not particularly successful in Florida.'' Gov. Bush also brushed aside suggestions of political favoritism. ''I disagree with that but I don't really care. How about that? I have a long-standing commitment to doing everything I can to protect our coastline from offshore drilling,'' he said. The following is a condensed version of the Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan placed into effect October, 2000. It demonstrates a clear plan by Park Service to eliminate from the Big Cypress one of the largest segments of the population that uses the Big Cypress; the AMERICAN FAMILY which is also the largest contributor to the financial support of the Park Service through taxes and purchases of Off-road vehicle stickers. The requirement of a state issued motor vehicle driverís license or learnerís permit to acquire another license issued by park service to operate any off-road vehicle effectively prevents a family from camping or riding in the Big Cypress. We are not going to leave our children alone in a campground while the adults go riding. The purpose of camping is to bring our children, as our parents brought us, to enjoy and learn respect for the environment. Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan The National Park Service is concerned about past, present, cumulative, and future adverse effects of off-road vehicle use on the preserveís soils, vegetation, water quality and flow, and wildlife habitat. Thousands of miles of off-road vehicle tracks within the preserve have resulted in extensive soil and vegetation disturbance and modification of water flow. The Final Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan and Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement placed into effect October, 2000, addresses the management of recreational ORV use within the original 574,440 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve. In addition to federal law, executive orders and regulations, the preserveís General Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement (NPS, 1991) provided overall guidance for ORV management, but recommended the preparation of a more detailed ORV management plan. An ORV management plan was prepared in response to that recommendation. The planning effort was tiered off the general management plan (GMP), and therefore incorporates by reference, all alternatives and analysis in the original Plan, as well new information gathered and new issues raised by the public since 1991. The purpose of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) was to analyze the alternatives presented in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The ORV Management Plan now in effect was prepared in accordance with the 1995 settlement agreement negotiated between the NPS, several other federal bureaus and agencies, and the Florida Biodiversity Project (FBP). The settlement agreement was the result of a lawsuit filed by FBP concerning protection of resources and the management of ORVs within the preserve. The plan requires the following: - All ORVs are required to depart from designated access points. - All ORVs will be allowed to travel only on designated trails as soon as they have been designated. - Sensitive areas, such as marl prairies and Cape Sable seaside sparrow habitat, are closed to ORV travel. - Zone 1 of the Stairsteps Unit is closed to ORV travel. - The Loop Unit and Deep Lake Unit remain closed. - The area south of lower and upper Wagonwheel Road is closed. - Bear Island Unit trails are designated. - Street legal 4x4s are allowed only on Bear Island Unit trails. - Zones 2 and 3 of the Stairsteps Unit are closed until trails are designated. - Monroe Station vehicle storage area is closed and will be converted to a public parking area. - U.S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) Ė one-mile wide buffer zone parallel to U.S. # 41 closed to ORV use except on designated trails to cross the zone to and from designated access points. - Seasonal closure Ė a 60-day preserve-wide closure will be established as a rest and restoration period for resources. -Zone 4 Ė Cape Sable seaside sparrow protection zone is closed. -Zone 4 - Hydrologic Trigger(will be open depending on water levels) Trails and campsites have been designated. -ORV vehicle permits are required ($50). - No more than 2000 vehicle permits will be issued. Permits are available to all United States Citizens who meet the requirements for a permit. - All vehicle operators are required to attend an education course (approximately 1 hour long) and obtain a free photo ID operatorís permit. (required as of February 1, 2001) - A state issued motor vehicle driverís license or learnerís permit are required for all operators. - All recreationists are required to have a free backcountry permit for each trip (including day trips) into the backcountry of the preserve. - Monitoring, restoration, and research activities are being implemented. - Adaptive management based on increased knowledge gained through implementation of the plan and other factors, such as research results, is being used to optimize all of the plan components. - Vehicles may operate only between the hours of 5 A.M. and 10 P.M. -Speed limits are 30 MPH for airboats and 15 MPH for wheeled vehicles. -Only one rider allowed on ATV/ATC unless vehicle is designated for more than one person. In their continuing plan to eliminate the AMERICAN FAMILY from the Big Cypress, the area will be closed while school is out and most families would be bringing their children to the Big Cypress. This includes the 4th of July, when many families come to the Big Cypress. The title of the following Park Service announcement is a joke and should be changed to STAY OUT OF OUR PARK. EXPERIENCE YOUR AMERICA The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior Big Cypress National Preserve HCR 61, Box 110 Ochopee, FL 34141 941-695-2000 phone 941-695-3901 fax Big Cypress National Preserve News Release 6/3/02 For Immediate Release 941-695-1107 Big Cypress National Preserve Announces Seasonal Off-Road Vehicle Closure Superintendent John Donahue announced today that Big Cypress National Preserve will close to all off-road vehicle use for a sixty-day period beginning June 15. The Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan calls for a sixty-day seasonal closure to allow a period free from resource pressures related to ORV use. This year's closure (2002) was originally announced last year (June 22, 2001). Using adaptive management principles in the implementation of the management plan, the closure was instituted last year with a forty-five-day period. This year, the seasonal closure will be the full sixty days called for in the plan. The closure is scheduled for June 15 through August 15. This closure does not apply to landowners that hold special use permits to access their private properties through the Preserve. Donahue said, "Motorized travel in the Preserve is minimal at this time of year, therefore the closure will inconvenience very few people and will benefit the resources. The National Park Service has a congressional mandate to restore the wilderness character of the Preserve and a period without motorized vehicles will help us meet that obligation." -NPS-

The conspiracy to prevent tax paying Americans from legally enjoying
the Big Cypress with their families continues.  Park Service is attempting
to make it as difficult as possible for Americans that ride ATVs to camp
at Monument Lake.

Big Cypress National Preserve News Release August 16, 2002 For Immediate Release Sandra Snell-Dobert 239-695-1107
Big Cypress National Preserve Reopens to Off-Road Vehicles Big Cypress National Preserve reopened to off-road vehicles at sunrise, August 14. This date marked the end of the annual 60-day seasonal closure of the Preserve that began June 15. All campgrounds, with the exception of Midway, will be open beginning August 30 in anticipation of the upcoming archery season. Monument campground has remained open throughout the year. Off-road vehicle operators will find a change in the access point for the area north of Monument. The access is now located on the north side of U.S. Highway 41 at Monroe Station. This access point replaces the access from Monument Campground. Parking is located in the lot of Monroe Station with backcountry permits and information available at the bulletin board in the parking area. "This change in our access to the old Sandy Road area of the Preserve, known to some as the Monument Road or Buckskin Road, provides for a quieter campground experience and minimizes resource damage to the area", said Superintendent John Donahue. The access point change and the annual seasonal closure are part of a continuing effort to implement the Recreational Off-Road Vehicle Management Plan of 2000. As we move into the fall season, off-road vehicle operators are reminded to obtain all necessary ORV permits at the visitor center and to ride safely and responsibly. "We look forward to another successful hunting season," said Superintendent Donahue. He also expressed gratitude to all of the off-road vehicle operators who have made a concerted effort to follow all of the rules. Questions about the off-road vehicle permit system, campground openings and other general information may be obtained by calling the Big Cypress National Preserve visitor center at 239-695-1201.

This conspiracy by Park Service and Florida Biodiversity will backfire and we all will suffer. Slowly fewer American families are taking their children to the Big Cypress to educate them in the necessity to preserve this area. If a poll was taken today in any high school in South Florida asking if a swamp with mosquitos, snakes and alligators should be preserved, the overwhelming majority will say no. They have not been taught how important this habitat is and they do not have any respect for the habitat or it's inhabitants. These are the future voters, they can change the laws, and all will be lost. Park Service and Florida Biodiversity are effectively using the old technique of divide and conquer. They are attacking the rights of the recreational riders and campers while practically leaving the hunters alone. Except for building the rock roads and restricting access for the first mile, the hunters have not been effected. However, they have eliminated 80-90 % of the American campers as evidenced by the nearly empty campground at peak times of the year. Beware, when the recreational riders and campers are gone, the hunters will be next. This will be the legacy of Park Service and Florida Biodiversity. Many of the arguments to exclude ATVs and people in general from the Big Cypress are based on protecting the endangered Florida panther. Any biology major would have learned that the viability of a population is measured by the number of breeding females in that population. When the number of breeding females gets too low then the population does not have a chance of survival. The Florida population has obviously dropped below that level and the effects are being seen as evidenced by the article below. In addition, the introduction of genetic material from Texas pumas, has further complicated the matter. In a few generations the Florida population will no longer be the subspecies coryi but a hybrid. Hybrids are not endangered species. By introducing the Texas pumas, the extinction of the coryi has been assured. The argument of saving the endangered Florida panther is not valid. I feel however, that we should protect the population, but not as an endangered species. Money is being spent to protect and study this population under the deception that it is still the original endangered species.
The consequences of demographic reduction and genetic depletion in the endangered Florida panther. Roelke M.E., Martenson J.S. and O'Brien S.J. Current Biology 3; 340-350. The Florida panther (Felis concolor coryi), a subspecies of puma, has suffered severe range and demographic contraction in recent years, resulting in high levels of inbreeding and extremely low levels of genetic diversity. There were fewer than thirty individuals surviving in the wild in southern Florida in 1976, when a number of field studies and genetic studies were initiated. In this study, Roelke et al found remarkably low levels of genetic variation in comparison to any other puma subspecies using mtDNA RFLPs, allozyme analyses and DNA fingerprinting. Also, fixation of rare morphological traits such as the possession of a cowlick or a kinked tail, features rarely seen among other pumas, were commonly observed. The cost of this inbreeding was dramatic, with Florida panthers having the worst sperm quality seen in any species, with approximately ninety-five percent of the sperm being malformed. Also, Florida panthers displayed an unusually high incidence (approximately fifty-six percent) of cryptorchidism, a rare heritable defect that causes one or two undescended testicles with progressive loss of spermatogenesis. In addition, the microbial parasite disease load was found to be enormous amongst these animals. All these findings made it quite clear that unless the numbers of Florida panthers were increased immediately, the probability of extinction for this species was almost certain. However, if breeding were left to the existing animals, the very high level of inbreeding was likely to impede population growth and survival. It was therefore recommended that immediate augmentation of the population should be carried out with Texas pumas (F. concolor stanleyana), found to be genetically similar to the Florida panther, and also a subspecies whose range was contiguous with that of the Florida panther about a century ago. Eight females from Texas were introduced into the area in 1995; since then, five have produced offspring with resident males and several F1 and F2 offspring have been produced. None of these offspring have been found to possess kinked tails and only one was seen to have a cowlick, a dramatic difference from the earlier figures (Hedrik, 2001). The frequency of detrimental traits therefore, already appears to have been significantly reduced by the introduction of Texas pumas. This is an example of a situation where hybridization has rescued a highly inbred population. Reference: Hedrik P.W. (2001). Conservation genetics: where are we now? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16; 629-636.

The selling out of the American People continues!!

Ruben P. Sauleda

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