Home to Florida panthers, eastern indigo snakes, and alligators, the Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida is a national park, a seemingly superficial designation, because below the surface, Collier Resources Company holds private mineral rights to the reserve. According to Matt Schwartz, the Executive Director of South Florida Wildlands Association, “Collier owns over 800,000 acres of mineral rights in the Everglades” and already has two oil operations in within Big Cypress – one at Bear Island and another at Raccoon Point.
Burnett Oil Co. has applied for a seismic survey permit in Big Cypress, which will allow Burnett Oil to send vibrations into the ground in order to find the most lucrative areas for oil drilling. Schwartz believes that the survey will almost certainly spot oil, but the question is simply where the most promising areas are specifically located. Once these areas are determined, exploratory oil drilling can occur. Drilling will not necessarily happen immediately after the surveying, however. “Seismic testing is a commodity,” Schwartz explains, “and the data collected during the testing can be sold to other companies.” In an area as large as the Big Cypress National Preserve (over 700,000 acres), knowing the precise location of oil is very valuable to companies interested in purchasing mineral rights. “If I were an oil company, I would want this [information] too,” says Schwartz, “but [Big Cypress] is one of the most biodiverse places in the U.S., and it is very sensitive.” Big Cypress is home to about 30 listed species, which the seismic testing process could place in jeopardy. Continue reading Big Cypress: Searching for Oil in a Nature Preserve