Spain erected Fort Matanzas in the 18th century to protect the Matanzas Inlet, the gateway to St. Augustine.
Today, it's part of a larger national monument in Florida that provides important protections for imperiled species like gopher tortoises, Anastasia Island beach mice and least terms.
Unfortunately, a new proposal by the National Park Service may change all that.
The plan, which guides management for the next 20 years, leaves open the possibility that vehicles could drive through the monument's precious wildlife habitat. The monument, which includes 300 acres of nearby Rattlesnake and Anastasia islands, has been a "vehicle-free zone" since 2010. We need to make sure those protections remain.
Please take action now to tell the park service that Fort Matanzas and its wildlife should remain safe from cars and trucks.
Subject: I Support Keeping Fort Matanzas' Beaches Vehicle Free
I am writing in support of keeping Fort Matanzas' beaches vehicle-free. In your "environmental impact statement," you claim that many visitors have indicated their preference for reinstating vehicle access to the beach. I am writing to let you know that many more people value keeping these areas vehicle-free: I support the park service's alternatives A and B. Alternative A, the no-action alternative, provides the best opportunity for the park service to fulfill the monument's purpose, maintain its significance and protect its natural resources for present and future residents to enjoy.
[Your comment will be added here]
Alternative B would allow development of new facilities or expansion of existing facilities while staying consistent with the purpose of the monument and maintaining its ecological value. This is also acceptable.
However, Alternative C would undermine those priorities.
Although this area was once managed for beach driving, the park service realized the ecological importance of keeping vehicles out and rightly moved to protect it. We should not revert to the poor management practices of the past. There is no question that off-road beach driving harms and harasses wildlife and degrades wildlife habitat.
Iconic species such as bald eagles, piping plovers and wood storks use the monument, and can only increase the place's beauty and prestige. Visitors can also experience spectacular marine wildlife like the blue, finback, humpback, right, sei and sperm whales free from off-road disturbances. Even the Florida manatee makes its way into the Matanzas Inlet. Five species of endangered sea turtles are also known to utilize this area, and, in addition to these federally listed species, the monument's land near shore, its beach and its dunes host dozens of species of special concern.
The Fort at Matanzas may have inspired the initial national monument status, but its current residents -- the wild and wonderful species of Florida -- deserve its ongoing protection to keep it a national, natural treasure. Please keep the Monument vehicle-free.