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New Biscayne National Park plan seeks balance

A new National Park Service plan for Biscayne National Park seeks to balance the need for public access while addressing resource concerns.

The park’s new supplemental General Management Plan addresses concerns from the recreational boating and fishing industries that were in the original 2011 proposals, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The new preferred alternative eliminates a 10,000-acre marine reserve that was a significant point of contention for the boating and fishing communities. The new preferred plan instead establishes a 14,585-acre special recreation zone along a portion of the park’s reef tract in which fishing would be allowed year-round with a special permit. The plan also includes a long-term research and monitoring program to inform adaptive management of the zone. Recreational fishing and boating are still permitted in nearly all of the remainder of the park under state and federal rules and regulations.

Previous proposals also would have established significant non-combustion engine zones along the coastline that would have unnecessarily restricted boating access. The preferred plan removes those zones and instead includes slow-speed and no-wake zones.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the American Sportfishing Association and the broader boating and fishing communities have worked to bolster awareness surrounding the Park Service’s proposed management plan, which initially set out to close as much as 20 percent of boating and fishing access in Biscayne National Park.

The boating and fishing communities were joined last year by Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, who signed a joint letter expressing concern to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. NMMA and ASA will participate in the public comment period for the supplemental management plan.

“NMMA is optimistic that this plan properly balances the need for resource conservation and robust boating and angling access,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich said in a statement. “We look forward to working with NPS to protect the access granted to boaters and anglers and are pleased to see progress. NMMA will remain an active participant in this ongoing discussion and will be vigilant in ensuring that the steps we’ve taken forward are not lost as the plan continues to take shape.”

A copy of Biscayne National Park's General Management Plan/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement is available here. A series of public hearings are planned in December.

Located adjacent to Miami, Fla., Biscayne National Park is the largest marine park in the National Park system and is one of the country's largest urban recreational fishing areas. The park’s updated plan is the result of lengthy discussions among the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with significant comment from the boating and fishing communities.