Tree-Huggers and Gun-Toters Trade Barbs in Meeting on Proposed Everglades Hunting

deer-big-cypress.jpg
Flickr: artur.pedziwilk
Ready, aim, fire! Deer in Big Cypress.
A room at the Weston Hyatt was split down the middle last night between hunters and environmentalists who offered two-minute commentaries on what action the Park Service should take regarding deer hunting in the 146,000-acre Big Cypress Addition Lands.

If you had to ask this Pulp reporter to make a wager, it looks like the deer better find a new place to hide.

Giving the presentation was the URS Corp., "a leading provider of engineering, construction, and technical services for public agencies and private sector companies around the world." Big Cypress Superintendent Pedro Ramos, a federal employee, explained that the agency outsources projects like these "because on our own, we don't have the capacity."

The star of the evening was Ron Bergeron, a commissioner on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, who got quite a bit of deference from Ramos. "We're in his neighborhood," Ramos announced, asking the ten-gallon-hatted developer to stand up and be recognized. "I appreciate you tremendously," said Ramos.

Later, Bergeron stepped in during the middle of the public-comment session to offer more than two minutes of commentary before leaving for another meeting.

"Well, howdy, everybody," he said.

"Hello, Ronnie," the hunters said.

Bergeron said that modern Everglades preservation owes its history to "Florida cracker families, Glades men, people of the woods," of which he seems to consider himself an heir apparent, with family in the area for 170 years.

"Personally," he said, "I hunt more with my camera today," but he said he supported hunting, with a management plan and a quota.

Asked later about the apparent deference to Bergeron despite the fact that he came down on one side of the issue, Ramos said it "was out of respect for his position as a commissioner. That's an agency we partner with... That's how we run our meetings."

The enviro side of the room, with perhaps slightly more of a turnout than the hunters, argued that Florida's natural diversity depends on a few remaining parcels of unhunted land and that the off-road vehicles that hunters typically use make it hard for other users like hikers and birdwatchers to enjoy the area. Drew Martin of the Sierra Club, supporting a ban on hunting, said that his was "not an antihunting organization" but that the area should remain as a food resource for the severely endangered Florida Panther.

Two of the hunters who spoke said that "no species has ever gone extinct because of hunting." Lyle McCandless, president of the Big Cypress Sportsmen's Alliance, who wore a trimmed white beard and tucked-in shirt, as did many of the hunters present, said that the no-hunting alternative "should not be offered" because a congressional act in 1974 said that officials "shall permit hunting... within the preserve." He called the prohibition of hunting "illegal."

Matt Schwartz of South Florida Wildlands Association later read the second part of that clause, which said that officials "may designate zones... where no hunting... may be permitted."

The Pulp caught up with McCandless after the meeting, and he said that he was the person who posted a comment, under the name "A native Floridian," to our previous post on the subject. In that comment, he wrote, "There are thousands of deer and hundreds if not thousands of Panthers throughout the state of Florida. The State keeps the true Panther population at the lowest possible level so they can justify their budgets, protective and unneeded rules etc."

Asked about this theory about a government conspiracy to hide the true number of deer and panthers, he maintained that "they do that on a regular basis, in an effort to restrict us... There's very little data available today about animal populations." He also rejected the possibility of the involvement of U.S. Fish and Wildlife, because "frankly, we're not going to have a second federal agency" stand in the way of hunting.

Parks officials are going to compile the comments into a report, though it's unclear how much impact the public-comment session will have on the future of hunting in the preserve.

But the hunters are well-organized right now (at least if their matching shirts and official-sounding club names are to be believed), the powerful local official Ron Bergeron seems to be on their side, and the status quo for the rest of the preserve is to allow hunting. It's going to take a lot of pushback from antihunting advocates if they want to accomplish an outright hunting ban.

Here's the menu of choices for the Addition Lands:
  1. They can remain without hunting, as they have been since their designation as part of the Big Cypress Preserve in 1988.
  2. They can allow hunting like the rest of the Big Cypress Preserve.
  3. They can allow hunting under a plan that can be modified going forward. This one rankles the hunters because it would include the involvement of another federal agency, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Hunters, as we have seen, think government is bad.
The park service will issue a draft plan early next year. Comments can be submitted online here.


Follow The Pulp on Facebook and on Twitter: @ThePulpBPB. Follow Stefan Kamph on Twitter: @stefankamph, and Facebook.


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9 comments
fake trees
fake trees

Any hunter is a homicidal psychopath barely concealed. They are the ones who must put the safety of all.

feedbacktime
feedbacktime

Any hunter is a thinly disguised homicidal psychopath. They are the ones that should be put down for everyone's safety.

Swflsportsman
Swflsportsman

The West AdditionLands should be open for hunting immediately. Bear IslandGrade should be open to ORV travel immediately. The "no hunting" banin the West Addition Lands in Deep Lake is clearly notenforced. Neither is the "no camping along the side of the road" ban. The North East Addition Lands shouldremain closed to ORV access and hunting as hunters are apparently not capableof following the rules as evidenced by reviewing the rules, then driving down Wagon Wheel Rd or Turner River Rd.  How can they possibly enforce any huntingregulations on the NE Addition Lands. Hunters would be killing deer by the dozens and running over pantherswith their ORV’s on the regular.  Governmentagencies won't have to spend any additional funds building access points orfacilities. No bathrooms needed. Actually, if we could put one handicapbathroom facility right in the middle, complete with a/c I would really appreciateit.  Seriously though, if the NE is opento hunting in the future it should be walk in only with NO new access points orfacilities.

Gladesman
Gladesman

Some  of the info being touted as being facts need to be corrected so that nobody falls prey to misinformation.

Now the So Fl Wildlands Association (the anti-hunting group) is run by a fellow that knows better than to be stating as he has in some info he is spreading to anyone that will listen that hunters can kill as many deer as they want in these areas. That is not true and he acknowledged that to me last night and complained me mentioning it at the podium caused him to lose speaking time addressing he issue.. This group also claims erroneously that the only uplands (pines, palmettos, oaks etc.) in the Addition are North of I-75. That is not correct either since all one has to drive from Ft Laud to Naples and look South to see the TRUTH.It is very disappointing to me witnessing such desperate tactics from someone I had thought more of. It was also very sad to see the very well intentioned followers of this group stand up one after another and repeat similar hog wash they have been lead to believe is the truth.If they only knew how foolish they look to professionals and knowledgeable folks observing their acts of desperation. On top of everything else I spoke to their leader Mr Schwartz on the phone prior to the meeting and he again assured me he and his group were not against hunting but yet they all publicly supported a hunting ban (Alternative 2) throughout the entire Big Cypress National Preserve including the Addition not just the Addition. Now as intelligent as I know this person is I feel safe believing he knows exactly what would happen should Alternative 2 be chosen and has developed a habit of NOT shooting straight with the public or his own supporters. He is actually trying to convince folks it is raining as he pees in their boot.

Hopefully all the well informed outdoorspersons will choose to comment regarding this plan to offset the well intentioned but misinformed folks that will comment to ban hunting.

Folks on both sides of this debate should be able to listen to one another but it is impossible when nothing but a steady stream of BS is flowing like the Mighty Mississippi River from one side of the debate.

Gladesman
Gladesman

Hey Stefan, you're damn right the shirts and organization names are to be believed. If you or Matt from the enviro clubs had lived here for long you would know many of our organizations are over 50 years old just like our Gladesmen Culture that So Fl Wildlands Association and others are trying to destroy with their propaganda tactics akin to the tactics Mother Russia used on their sheep for many years until even they caught on. 

Lifelong Dem
Lifelong Dem

Allow limited hunting. Ban all forms of ATVs in the sector. Make them walk.

nanook5
nanook5

plaid shirts and cowboy hats can be very convincing.

Jl
Jl

Your ignorance is appalling.

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