As published in The Floridian. 

A bipartisan coalition of Florida lawmakers have coauthored legislation preventing the Biden Administration from designating Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve as a wilderness area.

The initiative is being led in the US House of Representatives by Representative Scott Franklin (R-FL).

The legislators’ move responds to a National Park Service (NPS) initiative to convert parts of Big Cypress into a wilderness area, which would alter permitted activities on the park and environmental management.

Namely, wilderness designation would prevent human activities traditionally executed in Big Cypress, such as hunting, riding off-road vehicles, or air-boat rides.

“In Florida, we know no one is better at preserving our state’s natural beauty than the locals who have lived on the land for generations,” Franklin told The Floridian.

Various groups frequenting Big Cypress have publicly opposed the proposed wilderness designation, including the Miccosukee Tribe, hunters, airboaters, swamp buggy owners, and both Florida senators.

Franklin called the proposed designation “unnecessary,” adding that “it’s in vehement opposition to the will of the affected counties in my district, our state’s agencies, and local Tribal Nations.”

Wilderness designation would also prevent current routine environmental practices from occurring, such as prescribed burns.

”The proposed wilderness designation would unnecessarily impede effective management of invasive exotic species and the preservation of native fish and wildlife habitats, while also restricting access to the public and tribes,” allege the Senators.

Representatives Byron Donalds (R-FL), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), and several others also joined Franklin in his effort to counteract NPS’ proposal.

Representative Donalds heavily criticized the proposed designation, claiming executing it would counteract years of successful Floridian land-management efforts.

These lands are utilized by Floridians,” said Donalds. “We maintain these lands. We are actually doing our best to mitigate the invasive species that have been put on those lands in prior decades. All for the betterment of Florida overall.”

While the decision to designate Big Cypress as a wilderness area has not yet been taken, NPS has published an extensive report outlining the motivation behind the move.