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Anglers may be motorless in portion of Florida Everglades

December 1, 2009 | 11:35 am

A great egret in Everglades National Park.

Anglers may be prohibited from using outboard boat motors along a portion of the Florida Everglades in an attempt to save native seagrass.

Everglades National Park has proposed banning the use of outboard motors in the Snake Bight section of Florida Bay, restricting anglers and other visitors to using push poles, paddles or trolling motors to move vessels.

At least 325 miles of the bay's bottom and seagrass -- which provides food for area fish, sea turtles and manatees -- has been damaged.

Matthew Schwartz, Everglades chairman of the Sierra Club Broward Group, believes that the program will help the area recover from harm done by boat propellers.

"This is really a historic step for the National Park Service," Schwartz told the Sun-Sentinel. "It would actually be the first time in their history they took a piece of marine environment and made it off-limits to motorized recreation."

Dan Kimball, the park's superintendent, concurs. "My staff and I visited several pole and troll zones in Florida to learn first-hand about implementation and management options," he said. "The value of these zones for protecting shallow-water resources and providing better visitor use opportunities has been demonstrated."

Initial recommendations would have covered a larger area, but complaints from boaters led the park to propose a smaller portion be used for the pilot program. If successful, the motor ban may be introduced to greater swaths of the Everglades.

Fishing guides, initially doubtful of the plan, generally support the regulation.

"It's got a whole bunch of motor scars," said fishing guide Richard Grathwohl. "Every effort we put into this is going to help us in the long run."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A great egret in Everglades National Park. Credit: Rodney Cammauf / National Park Service