What is a National Preserve?

A brief explanation of the federal designation


High alpine tundra, Noatak National Preserve

A national preserve is an area protected by the government, which shares many similarities with a national park, but with fewer limitations on activities. Preserves often allow hunting, trapping, and oil and gas exploration and extraction, though laws vary at each preserve.

There are currently 18 national preserves in the U.S., 10 of which are in Alaska. Those in Alaska were established under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, which allows for regulated hunting, trapping and fishing in the designated areas.

The first national preserve was Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas and the second, established shortly after, was Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, both were recognized in 1974.

Big Thicket is known as the “biological crossroads of North America” for its diversity of plant and animal life in converging habitats. The National Park Service (NPS) best describes the nation’s first preserve.

Hiking trails and waterways meander through nine different ecosystems, from longleaf pine forests to cypress-lined bayous. It is a place of discovery, a place to wander and explore, a place to marvel at the richness of nature.

Big Cypress stretches over 729,000 acres and simultaneously protects plant communities, a wide array of wildlife and the freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp. Hiking, camping and off-roading are popular activities at the preserve.

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