HOMESTEAD, Fla. — On August 31, 2015, National Park Service (NPS) Southeast Regional Director Stan Austin signed the Record of Decision (ROD) for the General Management Plan (GMP) for Biscayne National Park. The plan is designed to restore the coral reef ecosystem and improve visitor experiences in the park.
“The need for this General Management Plan is clear,” said Stan Austin. “It is based on our mission to preserve and protect resources and provide for the enjoyment of visitors. Biscayne National Park is truly a national treasure, and it is important that we work to preserve its extraordinary coral reefs for current and future generations to enjoy.”
The NPS works with Congress and partners including the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to conserve natural resources, wildlife, scenery and history for visitors to enjoy. In addition to conserving such resources the work supports surrounding communities. In 2014 half a million visitors to Biscayne National Park spent $32 million in surrounding communities. That spending supported 459 jobs in the local area and had a cumulative benefit to the local economy of nearly $45 million.
“The signing of the ROD is the culmination of 15 years of effort,” said Superintendent Brian Carlstrom. “This effort involved extensive public meetings and workshops, eight different plan alternatives, 43,000 unique public comments, and collaboration with local, state, and federal agencies.”
The park released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in 2011, and a Supplemental DEIS in 2013. The GMP is a guide for perpetuating natural systems, preserving cultural resources, and providing opportunities for high-quality visitor experiences for the next twenty years.
One of the most effective tools the park will use to restore the coral reef ecosystem is a marine reserve zone. The zone will be approximately six percent of park waters and less than thirty percent of its coral reefs. The zone will allow the reefs a chance to recover, and provide visitors who snorkel, dive, and ride a glass-bottom boat the opportunity to experience a natural, healthy reef with more and bigger fish. Timing for implementation of the zone will be based on available funding and staffing, and the development of regulations that will address access within the zone.
For more information about the General Management Plan visit parkplanning.nps.gov/bisc_gmp. For more information about Biscayne National Park visit the park website at nps.gov/bisc or follow the park on Facebook facebook.com/biscaynenps, Twitter twitter.com/biscaynenps or Instagram instagram.com/biscaynenps.