Drilling in Big Cypress National Preserve

Post Office
Post Office

Yesterday, NPR aired a story on the possibility of fracking in Big Cypress National Preserve. This is not a new story, but that’s when they got to it. And I’m grateful.

It turns out that drilling for oil in the preserve, a refuge for endangered panthers, wood storks and other disappearing wildlife, has been going on for decades. When the preserve was created in 1974, the park service agreed to let the Collier family, which owned much of the land, continue operating existing drilling leases north of Alligator Alley, and east of what is now the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. As we know by now, previous owners can set conditions and the government has to decide if it wants to accept these conditions.

Here’s the concern. To quote the NPR piece:
Oil drilling isn’t allowed in the 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park, but the ecosystem extends far beyond the park’s boundaries — and drilling is allowed in Big Cypress National Preserve, an adjacent protected area about half the size of the park.

Glades Lobelia
Glades Lobelia

In other words, a preserve isn’t a traditional national park and lots of activities are permitted in preserves. Besides drilling, a preserve usually allows hunting. In the Southeast, we have several other preserves: Little River Canyon in Tennessee, Timucuan in Florida and Jean Lafitte in Louisiana. I guess drilling could happen there, if there was anything to drill for.

Big Cypress also has a working post office and an art gallery. Off-road vehicles are allowed. So names are important. But of course alligators and panthers don’t know about the boundaries between a park, where they don’t have to worry about big trucks and noise, and a preserve.

The National Park Service is accepting public comments for another ten days. The public comments are all on the website, but not well advertised. See
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=352&projectID=53498&documentID=69396

You don’t have to live near the park to comment. It’s a national park, so anyone in the United States that cares can make a comment. A comment by a Florida local doesn’t have any more weight than someone living in Alaska. But the 210-page report is daunting.

For the whole NPR piece, see
http://www.npr.org/2015/12/09/459099471/environmentalists-sound-alarm-on-proposed-drilling-near-florida-everglades

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