I just wonder what they are going to do when no one goes hunting out there anymore and all the hogs take over, tearing up the land.
A federal judge ordered trails in part of Big Cypress National Preserve closed to swamp buggies and other off-road vehicles this week, in a victory for environmentalists who argued the vehicles damaged sensitive wetlands and disturbed Florida panthers.
U.S. District Judge John E. Steele overruled a 2007 decision by the National Park Service to reopen 25 miles of trails in the preserve's Bear Island region, a forested area along the north side of Interstate 75 popular with both hunters and panthers.
"The use of ORVs will necessarily affect the soil, vegetation, wildlife, wildlife habitat and resources of a particular area," he wrote.
He said the park service made the decision without the required environmental assessment and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revised its earlier, critical review of the plan at the park service's request, without any new information or analysis.
"The court ruled, correctly, that resource protection was the fundamental reason for Big Cypress National Preserve," said Matthew Schwartz, of the Sierra Club of Broward County, also executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association. "Recreation has to come second."
The decision is the latest in the long-running fight between hunters and environmentalists over the preserve, 729,000 acres of cypress swamp, wet prairie and pinelands that's home to a vast range of wildlife. Hunters say the vehicles — often homemade from tractor tires and auto parts — are essential for getting to remote camps and hauling out the deer and hogs they've killed.
Lyle McCandless, president of the Big Cypress Sportsmen's Alliance, said his organization had worked with the park service to get the trails reopened and he believes the "Park Service went through the proper process in doing so, including public input etc."
Filing the lawsuit were Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the National Park Conservation Association and several other groups.
Big Cypress Superintendent Pedro Ramos said he would be reviewing the ruling with his lawyers.