South Florida Wildlands Association is deeply disappointed with the decision by the National Park Service (NPS) to allow seismic testing for oil on 70,000 acres of the magnificent Big Cypress National Preserve. The project will involve “vibroseis” trucks weighing more than 60,000 pounds each criss-crossing the preserve and sending out seismic vibrations in the search for oil deposits.
NPS has years of experience with off-road vehicles in the preserve. All of their own research indicates that this operation will likely lead to significant impacts to the preserve’s natural resources. Those include rutting and oxidation of fragile soils, hydrological changes due to compaction of soils, destruction of vegetation, and the spread of invasive plant species such as Brazilian pepper into parts of the preserve, which may never have seen motor vehicles. We also expect disturbances to federally listed wildlife such as the Florida panther and eastern indigo snake. Plus direct impacts to the use and enjoyment of this irreplaceable preserve by the public.
Much of the land in the target area is wetlands. A good percentage has also been proposed (or is eligible) for inclusion in the Federal Wilderness System. It is almost inconceivable that NPS believes it can go forward with a project of this magnitude without first preparing a full-blown Environmental Impact Statement to examine all possible impacts.
South Florida Wildlands is currently consulting with our environmental allies on a possible legal response under a number of federal statutes including the National Park Service Organic Act, the Wilderness Act, Endangered Species Act, and the preserve’s own enabling legislation which specifically allows the service to limit oil and gas activities so as to protect the resources of the preserve. We are surprised and very sad that after years of contentious management of one of the most biodiverse but fragile lands in our National Park System, the service has decided to move forward in this reckless manner.
The NPS press release can be found at www.nps.gov/bicy/learn/news/ea-decision-document.htm, and the full “Finding of No Significant Impact” can be downloaded at: www.parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=352&projectID=53498&documentID=72619.
For more information about the South Florida Wildlands Association visit them on Facebook or at www.southfloridawild.org.