Revealing Persistent Oil and Gas Impacts in Big Cypress National Preserve
Amidst the incredible expanse of wetlands and subtropical diversity of the Greater Everglades ecosystem, Big Cypress National Preserve stands as an enduring testament to nature’s resilience—a haven woven of lush, wild landscapes and stunning biodiversity. More than six years have elapsed since controversial seismic explorations for oil and gas reverberated through a vast remote area within Big Cypress, leaving unprecedented damage that persists today. As we approach the preserve’s 50th anniversary, this report illustrates the repercussions of that hunt for oil. This report casts a spotlight on the impact of prior oil exploration and marshals an urgent call to action to both restore those damages and oppose new industrial oil drilling ventures.
Industrial machinery tore through this wild landscape, razing hundreds of cypress trees and leaving miles of destroyed habitat in their wake.See more ›
Amidst the rustling foliage and murmuring waterways, Burnett Oil Company bulldozed through the trees to conduct seismic surveys in 2017 and 2018. What is a seismic survey? “Seismic surveys” in this case were the ultra-damaging activities carried out to hunt for oil deposits in the preserve. These seismic surveys used industrial heavyweight (up to 33 ton) vehicles driven through largely roadless areas in about 110 square miles of the preserve. Burnett’s machinery cut down hundreds of cypress trees and many state-listed endangered species, leaving miles of destroyed and disturbed habitat in their wake. If you unpacked those damaged seismic “lines” cut across the preserve and laid them end-to-end, they would reach across the entire southern peninsula of Florida from Naples to Miami; an alarmingly vast area inside Big Cypress was impacted. Since those damaging seismic surveys were carried out, independent ecologists, botanists, photographers, and advocates have borne witness to the aftermath.
This report reflects upon what has been learned about the previously pristine wetlands that were damaged by the oil and gas explorations of 2017 and 2018 and presents an overview of where Big Cypress stands today. This report is based upon an ensemble of documents and scientific surveys that spanned from 2016 to 2023—meticulous records that unfurl the tale of seismic activities, and field surveys that documented the scars etched upon landscapes and the intricate web of life in this vital area of the Greater Everglades ecosystem. Six years after those scars were made, we as park advocates find ourselves poised on the cusp of an important anniversary, a juncture that underlines our collective commitment to safeguarding Big Cypress’ integrity.
With the preserve’s 50th anniversary on the horizon, we must honestly and accurately tell the story of the enduring negative impacts this seismic activity had on Big Cypress. In this report, the state of the preserve today is compared to the conditions and assumptions outlined in the permits that authorized the seismic surveys. Standing at this juncture, the persisting damage caused by seismic exploration serves as a cautionary tale. It is a testament to the fragility of these vital Everglades wetlands. It is a rallying cry for park advocates to defend our nation’s first preserve.
One year prior to the preserve’s golden anniversary, this report articulates a twofold call to action: restore the seismic-damaged areas and prevent new oil development.