From Matthew Schwartz one of our best environmentalists - South Florida Wildlands Association. I left a comment, so leave a damn comment too. It takes a few seconds. It takes longer to read this blog from Matthew. Big Cypress is going to get a lot smaller. We can start calling it Small Cypress if all these wacky people get their way. Here is what they want to do: I am more concise than Matthew:
by introducing an energy source to the subsurface and recording and analyzing the returning sound waves. Stratigraphic anomalies detected by this technique may become future targets for oil and gas exploration drilling.
Sorry for the last minute notice - lots on the plate of this little organization right now. But if you have a few minutes, the National Park Service is currently taking comments on an application by Burnett Oil of Ft. Worth, Texas, to conduct seismic testing across approximately 110 square miles or 70,000 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The official website for comments is here
You will be commenting on the "NOBLES GRADE 3-D SEISMIC SURVEY PLAN OF OPERATIONS."
The above website will close at 2 AM on Monday morning (EST). So if this issue moves you - please act quickly. Individual comments that address the specifics of the operation under review and the anticipated impacts - no matter how brief - are the way to go here. The National Park Service's stated policy is to treat all form letters as a single response.
South Florida Wildlands is asking our supporters to say NO to this extremely risky adventure in the heart of one of the most biodiverse pieces of public land in our nation. Although the enabling legislation for the preserve does allow for oil drilling and related operations, it is certainly not an "anything goes" policy. And nothing of this type or scale has ever been carried out in the preserve before. As one colleague put it - Burnett and the National Park Service will be partnering on a "70,000 acre experiment."
Here's the story in the nutshell. If their project is approved, Burnett plans to lay a grid of source and receiver lines across the center of the preserve. Massive "vibroseis" trucks weighing tens of thousands of pounds each will drive along the source lines, stopping frequently to drop a heavy plate onto the ground to send seismic waves deep into the earth. These "thumper trucks" will be preceded by crews driving lighter off-road vehicles to clear vegetation and check for obstacles (or the presence of endangered and threatened wildlife). Low flying helicopters will be dropping off and picking up "geophones" throughout the survey area along the receiver lines. When the survey is completed, the thumper trucks will have produced approximately 33,000 energy source points that will have been picked up by over 37,000 receiver points in an attempt to obtain a detailed three-dimensional picture of the deep geology of the preserve.
But this is NOT academic research. Burnett is an oil company - and should oil be located in what the company believes to be commercially viable quantities, it will bring in new roads, oil pads, drill rigs, pipes, water wells, diesel generators, drilling chemicals (possibly including fracking fluids) to conduct exploratory oil drilling and and/or production. And all of this in the middle of the most important habitat in Florida for the endangered Florida panther and the hundreds (likely thousands) of native Florida plants and animals which share its extremely fragile habitat.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here's a video of a vibroseis truck in action. Watch this machine operating in a desert and try to imagine it driving through the dense vegetation and wetland soils of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
Burnett's entire Plan of Operations can be found here.
Here are just some of the negative impacts we anticipate from Burnett's operation that you can add to your comment (you don't even have to include your name):
1. Of the 70,000 acres to be researched, over 58,000 acres or 83 percent is comprised of wetland habitats. Years of extensive research on motorized recreation in the Big Cypress has identified wetlands as the soil type most likely to be degraded by the passage of vehicles. The fragile and thin soils are easily compacted and rutted and these disturbed soils are readily colonized by invasive plant species. Once compacted, restoration of the natural soil structure is extremely difficult - and likely impossible.
2. In their "Plan of Operations", Burnett has identified numerous federally protected animal species which utilize (or potentially utilize) the survey area. Those include the Eastern indigo snake, wood stork, and Audubon's crested caracara (Threatened); Everglades snail kite, Red-cockaded woodpecker, Florida panther (73 collared Florida panthers have been known to use the survey area), and Florida bonneted bat (Endangered); and the gopher tortoise (Candidate species). State-listed or protected species include the Everglades mink, Big Cypress fox squirrel, Florida black bear, Florida sandhill crane, limpkin, little blue heron, roseate spoonbill, reddish egret, snowy egret, tri-colored heron, white ibis, Florida tree snail, and the Florida burrowing owl. All of these species will be impacted in some way by Burnett's industrial scale operation. We believe Burnett's analysis of likely and potential impacts - limited in their application to "avoidance" - is woefully inadequate to the size and scale of their operations and the vast variety of wildlife utilizing this habitat.
3. Burnett's application also lists 96 species of native plants known to exist in the survey area that are listed as threatened or endangered by the State of Florida (many hundreds more native plants in the area are non-listed). Two other plant species, Florida prairie clover and Florida pineland crabgrass, are Candidate species for federal listing. The botanical richness of the Big Cypress National Preserve is legendary. Similar to their research on rutting and compaction of wetland soil due to vehicles, the National Park Service is well aware that motor vehicles in the Big Cypress facilitate the spread of invasive plant species through disturbance of fragile soils and mechanized transport of seeds (e.g. Brazilian pepper, Lygodium). With the near impossibility of completely eradicating these species once established, and the majority of driving being conducted completely off established roads and trails, this is likely to become a permanent impairment to the preserve's delicate ecosystem. Due to this real threat of permanent impairment to the basic ecology of the Big Cypress National Preserve, Burnett's current plan should NEVER be allowed to take place by the National Park Service.
4. The area of operations covers northern sections of the Florida Scenic Trail (including two designated campgrounds south of I-75) as well as numerous recreational trails which access the Big Cypress backcountry. Noise, gasoline and diesel exhaust (during peak operations, Burnett will be using over 1,000 gallons per day of gasoline and diesel fuel), cut landscapes, truck traffic and low flying helicopters are hardly the reason people come to the Big Cypress National Preserve. In addition, staging areas for a massive amount of equipment used in this operation will be constructed on wetlands adjacent to all four of the preserve's current recreational access points off Interstate-75. Visitors to the first National Preserve in our nation's history - established "to assure the preservation, conservation, and protection of the natural, scenic, hydrologic, floral and faunal, and recreational values of the Big Cypress Watershed in the State of Florida and to provide for the enhancement and public enjoyment thereof" - should never be subjected to an operation of this scale and magnitude.
Sorry again for a long message. What a close friend refers to as my "War and Peace" emails. But this is a complex topic with complex (and serious) anticipated impacts - we want to get all the information out. We will give more lead time in the rounds which will follow (if our current efforts at putting an end to this project are unsuccessful). But to those who can get some comments in by early Monday morning - no matter how brief - thanks! And if you can help South Florida Wildlands with a tax-deductible contribution - that is certainly another way to help out. Nothing fancy about this environmental organization - just years of hard work and success in protecting wildlife and habitat in the Greater Everglades. Link goes to just some of the recent coverage our work has received.
Also - this Thursday, August 20th, South Florida Wildlands and the City of Pembroke Pines are hosting a Town Hall Meeting on the current attempt to drill for oil in the Everglades of Broward County (related but different issue). All are invited.
From the National Park Website:
Burnett Oil Company Nobles Grade 3-D Seismic Survey
Texas-based Burnett Oil Company has submitted to the National Park Service for review a Plan of Operations that is a formal request to conduct a seismic survey of 110 square miles (70,454 acres) in the Preserve. A seismic survey is a preliminary research technique used to determine the presence of potential oil-bearing structures by introducing an energy source to the subsurface and recording and analyzing the returning sound waves. Stratigraphic anomalies detected by this technique may become future targets for oil and gas exploration drilling.
You will find on this website a copy of the plan, which gives details concerning Burnett's proposal. You are invited to submit your comments to the plan on this website. Comments will be accepted through August 16, 2015. Your comments will help inform us in the plan approval process.
We look forward to receiving your input to this project.
Don Hargrove, 239-695-1150
Ron Clark, 239-695-1106