The national park system has grown substantially since the Organic Act was passed in 1916 and with this growth has come increased visitor use. As a result, conflicts have developed among various user groups regarding the Park Service’s management of national park lands and wildlife refuges. The Natural Resources Section has been responsible for defending numerous challenges to these management decisions. Some of the more notable issues that have been litigated involve snowmobile use in Yellowstone, off-road vehicle use in the Big Cypress Preserve, jet ski use on national park waters, motorized rafts in the Grand Canyon, cruise ships in Glacier Bay, the reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone, hunting in national parks, conflicting uses in wilderness areas, and management of wild and scenic rivers.
In addition, the Section has been centrally involved in the Division’s efforts to restore the Florida Everglades, including Everglades National Park. Runoff from farms in the 600,000 acre Everglades Agricultural Area was polluting the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge and Everglades National Park. In 1988, the United States brought suit against the State of Florida seeking to require the State to clean up the phosphorus-polluted surface water. An NRS team, in coordination with the Miami U.S. Attorney's office, engaged in three years of highly contentious litigation and negotiations, ultimately reaching a settlement prescribing a cleanup. The path-breaking settlement heralded a new partnership between the State and federal government on Everglades restoration.
In February 1996, then Vice President Gore visited the Florida Everglades to announce a new initiative to accelerate federal funding for restoration efforts in the amount of $1.5 billion over seven years. Later that spring, Congress appropriated $200 million for restoration activities. The Water Resources Development Act of 1996, Pub. L. 104-303, 110 Stat. 3658 (1996), provided the outline for a comprehensive plan to restore the Everglades. It required that a working group be established to formulate, recommend, coordinate, and implement the policies, strategies, plans, projects and priorities of a South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. The working group is required to develop an “integrated strategic plan for restoring and sustaining the South Florida ecosystem.” The working group included representatives from various federal, state and local agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice. Members of the Natural Resources Section have played a critical role in the efforts of this working group to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Florida Everglades, which culminated in 2000 with congressional approval of the $8 billion, 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Pub. L. No. 106-541 ("CERP"). The CERP, which is expected to be the largest ecosystem restoration effort in human history, will enhance water supply and distribution in the Everglades and inhabited areas of South Florida.