Press Release Mar 11, 2020

Army Corps Finds Significant Damage in Big Cypress National Preserve After NPS Green Lights Oil and Gas Exploration

Heavy machinery left deep scars across more than one hundred miles of this priceless landscape, creating unnatural channels across iconic wetlands in America’s Greater Everglades ecosystem.

MIAMI, FL – In a letter to the Burnett Oil Company dated March 6, 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the company’s oil and gas exploration efforts had done considerable damage to Big Cypress National Preserve. The Army Corps advised Burnett that any future activities in the preserve would be regulated under the Clean Water Act, which protects Big Cypress wetlands.

The National Parks Conservation Association has opposed Burnett’s seismic testing for oil and gas in the preserve since it began in 2017, citing the severe impacts heavy machinery would have on the ecosystem. Big Cypress National Preserve is critical to sending fresh water south to Everglades National Park and surrounding communities, and contains many vulnerable and endangered flora and fauna.

Statement of Dr. Melissa Abdo, Sun Coast Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association:

“The Army Corps’ recent findings are exactly why NPCA cautioned against this new oil exploration in Big Cypress National Preserve that began in 2017. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection granted Burnett a permit for this project and the National Park Service, despite their mandate to protect Big Cypress, determined in 2016 that Burnett’s activities would have no significant impact on the preserve.

“Since then, Burnett Oil Company’s oil and gas exploration activities have dealt serious damage to Big Cypress. Their heavy machinery left deep scars across more than one hundred miles of this priceless landscape, creating unnatural channels across iconic wetlands in America’s Greater Everglades ecosystem. Burnett’s vehicles tore down endangered flora, including more than 400 trees, many of them old-growth dwarf cypress harboring endangered orchids and bromeliads. There is no telling exactly how much damage this hunt for oil has done to the endangered Florida panther’s last remaining habitats.

“The US Army Corps of Engineers’ recent letter acknowledges damages the seismic oil exploration has had, recognizes that these critical wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act, and ensures that any future exploration attempts must be regulated under federal law. NPCA applauds the Army Corps for their efforts to ensure proper protections for Big Cypress National Preserve, an integral wetland of the Greater Everglades.

“This letter is a wake-up call. It is high time for the National Park Service to use their authority to protect Big Cypress from future seismic oil exploration proposals that impair the preserve’s natural and ecological integrity.

“Big Cypress National Preserve is critical to the health of the Greater Everglades and our communities. The preserve recharges our aquifer, provides clean water to Everglades National Park and to Florida’s West Coast, and imparts resilience in the face of climate change. As our nation and the State of Florida invests in restoring America’s Everglades, it does not make economic sense to derail these restoration efforts by allowing Big Cypress’ ecosystem values to be impaired by destructive and large-scale oil and gas exploration.

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About National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.