Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve


Support Your Park

National Park areas are special places set aside by the American people so that all may experience our heritage. Supporting this idea can be as simple as learning more about these special areas, or as complex as volunteering or getting involved with organizations that work directly with the National Park Service.

Whatever you may do to get involved helps to insure these special places will exist for generations to come.

Fire Regime

Big Cypress National Preserve is an area born of fire. During the transition between winter’s dry season and the summer’s rainy season frequent lighting strikes would often start natural fires. These fires have encouraged growth, over time, of many plant communities adapted to fire. Recognizing the value of fire in the ecosystem, preserve managers now use prescribed burning to maintain these fire dependent communities.

At one time the National Park Service (NPS) put out all fires. This policy reflected the public sentiment that all fire was bad. That was before we discovered the beneficial attributes of the natural fire regime. Once we gained a true appreciation of the role of fire in forest ecology, the NPS modified our fire policies.

According to the new policies NPS fire crews would suppress, or put out, all structural and arson fires, or those fires that caused a direct threat to life and property. However, lightning caused fires would be allowed burn if the weather conditions were right – a prescribed natural fire. If weather conditions did not allow for a controllable situation the fire crews would suppress the fire – a “wildfire”. Fire crews also start fires under the correct weather conditions to assist with the natural cycle – a prescribed fire.

The Big Cypress Fire Management Plan identifies objectives of the prescribed fire management program (management ignited and natural) as:

·     Reduce hazard fuel accumulations in the backcountry, around improvements, and along major roadside corridors.
·     Manage wildlife habitat for game, non-game, protected, and rare species.
·     Research the ecological role of fire in the Preserve’s varied ecosystem.
·     Control exotic plant species.
·     Protect selected cultural and natural resources that are fire intolerant.
·     Meet operation needs such as vista clearing and debris removal.

What is prescribed burning?
It is the process of using lightning started fire, or a fire ignited on purpose, as a tool for vegetation management. When humidity levels, air temperatures, and fuel conditions are ideal, fire managers set a slow burning, low to moderate intensity fire to remove selected vegetation. Likewise, if a lightning fire starts and specific conditions exist, the fire will be monitored but may not be aggressively fought. Big Cypress National Preserve has the largest prescribed burning program in the National Park Service, typically burning more than 20,000 acres annually.

Why do prescribed burning?
Natural lightning fires were a regular feature of the land before development of roads and human settlements. Now, when lightning fires start, they can threaten human life and homes. Prescribed fire allows us to manage the natural process under a more controlled situation than a wild fire would permit. Vegetation has evolved with fire. If allowed to accumulate, excessive fuel buildup results in extremely hot, catastrophic fire that may damage soil and prevent native plants from regenerating. Prescribed fire reduces fuel buildup. Its effects are selective and predictable, releasing nutrients back into the ecosystem.

What habitats benefit from prescribed burning?
Sawgrass prairies/marshes and pinelands benefit from burning. Many pine, flower and grass seeds flourish best just after a relatively moderate fire has swept through, releasing nutrients that allow these fire adapted plants to grow. Many plant species flower prolifically after fire. Additionally, many animals benefit from areas that have burned. Some species, such as the red-cockaded woodpecker, thrive in forests that depend on fire.

Centennial Initiative 2016

Centennial Vision

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016, America invites the world to discover the connection national parks have to their lives and encourages everyone to experience and become devoted to these special places.

On August 25, 2006 - the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service - Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, launched the National Park Centennial Initiative to prepare national parks for another century of conservation, preservation and enjoyment. Since then the National Park Service asked citizens, park partners, experts and other stakeholders what they envisioned for a second century of national parks.

A nationwide series of more than 40 listening sessions produced more than 6,000 comments that helped to shape five centennial goals. The goals and vision were presented to President Bush and to the American people on May 31st in a report called The Future of America's National Parks.

Staff from every national park area took their lead from this report and created local centennial strategies to describe their vision and desired accomplishments by 2016. This is just the first year, and there are many great things to come as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate 100 years!


The Everglades Association operates sales outlets located throughout south Florida and offers high quality publications and educational sales items. These materials directly relate to the various stories surrounding the parks and to ways of planning for, and enhancing, the visitor's experience.

Sales profits are returned to the parks to support educational, scientific, historical and visitor service programs that would not otherwise be available through federally funded sources. The Association also uses a portion of the proceeds to produce additional new educational materials about the parks; often based on new information that becomes available about the wonders of the South Florida ecosystem.

Discover more about South Florida's National Parks and help foster the continuation of the parks' educational efforts by supporting the Everglades Association. Become an association member and you will receive a 15% discount on all purchases.

Visit the association at

Giving Back to Get Ahead - Volunteer Follows Conservation Ethic to Big Cypress National Preserve

The Great Outdoors has always lured people for a variety of reasons. But more and more young people are heading back to places like Big Cypress because it's the right thing to do. They want to give back to the environment while exploring possible careers in conservation.

Ben Watkins, an intern with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), recently arrived from Bend, Oregon to work with the SWAMP Education and Outreach programs.

As needs outpace budgets on America's public lands, the efforts of SCA volunteers have become essential. Some 45,000 young people have volunteered through SCA since 1957, and former National Park Service Director Fran Mainella recently stated "we can't do without SCA." Watkins, 26, hopes to make a meaningful contribution to the Big Cypress Swamp environment.

"As I come in contact with area sixth graders through our program," said Watkins, "I want to instill three things in them. What Big Cypress is, why it's important, and why it's important to them."

SCA members learn a 'conservation ethic' through their hands-on service, and it benefits both the land and the individual. The experience leads many of them to become lifelong stewards of the land, and 60% of SCA interns go on to successful careers in many areas of conservation.

The Student Conservation Association is dedicated to encouraging a new generation of conservation leaders, advancing the land ethic, and helping to conserve our nation's natural and cultural resources. The organization places nearly 3,000 high school, college and graduate student members in the field each year, and they provide more than 1.5 million hours of conservation service in national parks, forests, and other public lands.

For more information, contact Kevin Hamilton at 603-543-1700, extension 185, or at [email protected], or visit the website:

Cooperating Association

The Everglades Association operates under Congressional authorities as the official private, non-profit partner supporting educational, interpretive, historical and scientific research responsibilities of Biscayne, Dry Tortugas and Everglades National Parks and Big Cypress National Preserve.

These areas comprise more than 2.5 million acres and form a vital network in preserving the South Florida ecosystem. By supporting increased public understanding of these world renowned natural and cultural areas, the Everglades Association also tangibly assists in raising public support for their long term preservation and care.

The Association's mission is to assist visitors and support the parks in their efforts to increase public understanding of the outstanding natural and cultural values of the parks. The Association is an important link in connecting people with their parks.

By becoming a member of the Everglades Association, you can be directly involved in helping preserve these parks as irreplaceable parts of South Florida's heritage. You can join others who care and are motivated to do their part for South Florida; and the nation. Membership also entitles you to discounts on purchases locally and at participating sales outlets nation-wide.

Visit for information on the Association, how to become a member, and to review a sales catalogue.

Nature & Science

The National Park Service South Florida Natural Resources Center

The South Florida Natural Resources Center (SFNRC) is a division of Everglades National Park that provides scientific information and environmental assessments to the National Park Service units of South Florida and to the Department of the Interior. SFNRC scientists seek to conserve and, where necessary, restore the normal suite of interactions between the biological and physical elements of the environment in order to ensure a functional ecosystem and its associated biological diversity. Reflecting the holistic nature of the ecosystem, the center works to integrate applied science with management actions toward the preservation of resources for the enjoyment of future generations.