For Immediate Release, May 30, 2014

Contact:  Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190,
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club, (727) 824-8813 x 302,
Matthew Schwartz, South Florida Wildlands Association, (954) 993-5351, 
Brian Scherf,

Lawsuit to Stop Massive Expansion of Off-road Vehicle Trails in
Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve Moves Forward

FORT MEYERS, Fla.— A federal judge has denied the National Park Service’s request to dismiss a case brought by conservation groups to reduce damaging off-road vehicle use in Big Cypress National Preserve. The suit asserts the Park Service violated the Endangered Species Act, its own off-road vehicle management plan, the National Environmental Policy Act and other laws by designating hundreds of miles of new trails for off-road vehicle use in the preserve without first assessing potentially destructive impacts on endangered Florida panthers and other rare and vanishing Florida species, as well as other sensitive water, soil and vegetative resources.

This week’s ruling denied the government’s request to dismiss or delay the case, finding that the Park Service had not yet complied with the law. The court admonished the Park Service for making a “determination about opening the . . . trails before performing any NEPA analysis and now offer[ing] to follow [with] NEPA after the fact,” and found that “NPS left the Preserve open to potential damaging impact[s]” by failing to adhere to its legal duties.

“This ruling should be the death knell for the Park Service’s mismanagement of this public resource,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Park Service’s mission is to manage these wild areas for wildlife and plants as well as people.”

“The National Park Service should heed Judge Chappell’s ruling by sticking to its mandate to preserve the natural landscape at Big Cypress and the endangered wildlife it shelters,” said Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club’s senior organizing manager.

“The endangered Florida panther, a symbol of Florida’s original wildness, has an enormous number of threats to navigate in South Florida. This decision, hopefully, will ensure that national park mismanagement of off-road vehicle recreation isn’t one of those threats,” said Sarah Peters, a program attorney with WildEarth Guardians.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, South Florida Wildlands Association and WildEarth Guardians are represented by the Washington, D.C. public-interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places.

South Florida Wildlands Association is a Florida nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of habitat and wilderness in the Greater Everglades.

WildEarth Guardians, with more than 43,000 members and supporters across the country, works to protect and restore wildlife, wild places, and wild rivers.

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