Save Big Cypress National Preserve

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Action: Please sign this petition in opposition to the exploration and production of oil and gas resources, and the installation of facilities for the extraction, storage or distribution of these resources, including facilities related to the process known as fracking, within the Big Cypress National Preserve.

In the Big Cypress National Preserve Establishment Act of 1974, Congress charges the National Park Service (NPS) to administer the Preserve “in a manner which will assure their natural and ecological integrity in perpetuity.” Ecological integrity refers to the natural dynamics and complexity which have developed within the Preserve, and which are critical to the sustenance of habitat, biodiversity, water quality, and other important contributors to the Preserve’s stability. In perpetuity means forever. Anything that disrupts this dynamic over which our society has control therefore is in violation of the Act’s Directive. The NPS in their Environmental Assessment of proposed seismic exploration as described by Burnett Oil, and their subsequent issuance of FONSI, Finding of No Significant Impact, failed to clearly identify the nature of the ecological integrity of the Preserve or demonstrate how the exploration activities would ensure this integrity was to be sustained in perpetuity. It is difficult to imagine that the critical features of the Preserve would be protected from extensive permanent disruption and degradation from activities which crisscross many miles of wetlands and important ecotones thus generating ruts, habitat destruction, and excessive noise as never experienced within the Preserve, and yet sustain the ecological integrity in perpetuity. The assumption by the NPS that the ecological integrity would recover following such exploration is not adequately supported scientifically. Rather this assumption is based more upon subjectivity and an eagerness to accommodate the rights associated with extraction of minerals within the Preserve. 

In today’s science it is known that when natural systems are pushed far from a state in which energy and material flows are near equilibrium, that a great deal of uncertainty will be attendant with the system response. The NPS has failed to recognize this uncertainty, and may very well have placed the ecological integrity of the Preserve in jeopardy. We are deeply concerned about the impact this large-scale seismic survey is having on the wildlife, wetlands, and recreation, as well as South Florida’s fresh water resources. Texas Company Burnett Oil has not provided assurances that the project is not and will not impact the wetlands, along with other important habitats and wildlife. Over 83% of the exploration site is located in critical wetlands, including multiple staging areas.

Wildlife: These areas are home to imperiled species such as Roseate Spoonbill, Wood Stork, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, American Alligator, Bears, Mink, Florida Panther, and Eastern Indigo Snake, as well as a number of rare and unique plant species. Wildlife impact includes noise from vibreosis buggies, clearing, destruction of vegetation, and an increase in traffic. Once these surveys are complete they likely will be followed by extraction of oil and gas. This will involve large infrastructure build-outs, pipelines, fuel trucks, chemical storage, road building, oil pads, and much more. All of this will create additional stress and disturbance to wildlife in the area, impacting nesting, mating, and foraging, putting Burnett Oil, and the National Park Service in violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Present Day: Burnett Oil Company is conducting exploration for oil and gas through seismic testing over 70,454 acres in the Big Cypress National Preserve. The National Park Services granted approval for the Texas Company to begin this exploration in 2017. Burnett Oil Company has proposed a four Phased program, which could eventually encompass 234,510 acres. Following these surveys, it is likely that oil and gas extraction will expand in the area. Such a large-scale project will result in substantial impact across the Preserve.

The present type of geophysical exploration in progress by Burnett involves the use of more than one vibreosis buggy (weighing up to 30 tons). Each buggy vibrates large plates against the ground to generate a seismic signal, which is then measured to model local geology. Impacts from this activity can include removal of trees and other vegetation; building of access roads; subsurface, surface and sheet flow disturbance from vehicles; cut lines that can extend up to fifty feet in width; clearing for equipment staging areas; and extensive noise from vehicles, helicopters, and generators.

Indigenous Concerns: The Big Cypress, as well as the Everglades and many other natural features of this country are culturally and spiritually vital to the Aboriginal Indigenous People—people often called Native Americans or American Indians. Their belief in the natural laws which connect all life and make each dependent on the other, often in subtle but important ways, is central to their religious beliefs. The U.S. Constitution imposes a moral obligation to respect these beliefs.
A critical element of the religion of the Aboriginal Indigenous People is an obligation to future generations—what is called posterity in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The abuses to the Big Cypress Preserve which NPS has permitted is disrespectful to the land which is held sacred by the Aboriginal Indigenous People; to their culture which has sustained a healthy relationship with their environment for over 10,000 years; and to the welfare of future lives. The disregard for future generations can be argued as not only a violation of the beliefs of the Aboriginal Indigenous People, but also of the U.S. Constitutional mandate to administer our governing equally “for ourselves and our posterity”.
In addition, reliable sources familiar with the Big Cypress and the history of the area related to Aboriginal Indigenous Peoples, such as the group often called Miccosukee, have noted that this region was not only important in the warfare known as the “second and third Seminole Wars” but also has served for burial ceremonies and burial sites. According to Florida law (Ch 872.05 F.S.) no one shall disturb any such burial sites. Considering this, it is the obligation of the NPS to identify to the extent practical the location of such sites, including historical sites such as battlegrounds, prior to permitting any disturbance, such as the mentioned exploration program.

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