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To Drill Or Not To Drill For Oil Beneath Big Cypress National Preserve, That Is The Question


Is there oil beneath this abandoned jetport in Big Cypress National Preserve? Historical Museum of Southern Florida photo.

If there weren't enough controversial issues swirling about Big Cypress National Preserve, a cash-strapped Miami-Dade County has been mulling the possibility of drilling for oil beneath the preserve.

Why? To help pay for the expansion of Miami-Dade International Airport.

According to the Broward Group of the Sierra Club, the county owns 23,840 acres within Big Cypress that once upon a time was viewed as the footprint for a new airport. The bulk of the mineral rights beneath that property belong to Collier Resources, Inc. In return for letting the company drill for oil, the county would get royalties of approximately 8 percent, according to the chapter.

"The oil is of small quantity and of low grade - on an annual basis the money would not be significant. But with its location on the boundary between the Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, the consequences of this industrial operation could be enormous," chapter officials say.

"Blasting which occurs during oil exploration, the dredge and fill operations which would be needed to create a stable pad for the pumps, the road building necessary to service the operation, and the always present danger of spills of petroleum and other chemicals are completely incompatible with the years of effort being exerted to restore Florida's Everglades. It is also contrary to the conditions necessary to sustaining habitat for a countless variety of increasingly rare plants and animals."

The Miami Herald editorialized against the drilling proposal on Tuesday.

In search of money to help pay off Miami International Airport's expansion, officials want the county to consider drilling for oil and gas at an old jet port that's now part of the Big Cypress National Wildlife Preserve as one potential way to get money.

Other options on the table: rock mining at the 23,840-acre site between Miami and Naples or allow a park for off-road vehicles that tear up the terrain.

As desperation moves go, these options are the mother of all dunderhead schemes.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez pulled the jet port option proposal from the county commission's Tuesday calendar, according to his spokeswoman, Victoria Mallette, because the ``mayor is not comfortable with it.''

Wise call, Mr. Mayor.

While the matter has been put off indefinitely, you can still voice your opposition to it by contacting members of the Miami-Dade County Commission: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]


The amended enabling legislation for Big Cypress National Preserve called for a management plan for oil and gas drilling inside preserve boundaries within 9 months of its enactment. Let's see. The Amended Act was signed into law in 1988 which means that the rules and regulations described below are about 20 years late. And counting.

The Sierra Club as a whole was delighted with Mayor Alvarez's decision to curtail drilling on Miami-Dade's property inside the borders of Big Cypress. But NPS needs to get on the stick and write the required plan to govern this activity. There are privately owned oil and gas mineral claims throughout the preserve, and exploration and extraction on those owned by Collier Enterprises are currently on the table.

Matt Schwartz
Everglades Chair
Broward Group of the Sierra Club

Sec. 12. (a) Within nine months from the date of the enactment of the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Act the Secretary shall promulgate, subject to the requirements of subsections (b)-(e) of the section, such rules and regulations governing the exploration for and development and production of non-Federal interests in oil and gas located within the boundaries of the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Addition, including but not limited to access on, across, or through all lands within the boundaries of the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Addition for the purpose of conducting such exploration or development and production, as are necessary and appropriate to provide reasonable use end enjoyment of privately owned oil and gas interests, and consistent with the purposes for which the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Addition were established. Rules and regulations promulgated pursuant to the authority of this section may be made by appropriate amendment to or in substitution of the rules and regulations respecting non-Federal oil and gas rights (currently codified at 36 CFR 9.30, et seq.. (1986)),

I recently visited the area, there is a full blown oil drilling operation now.

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