Oil Companies Eye Fracking in Florida Panther Habitat Refuge
Wildlife stewards are already busy defending Florida panther habitat against condo developments, off-road vehicles and other hazards. Yet another threat has surfaced, and its scope and breadth are only now becoming clear.
The Dan A. Hughes Co. of Beeville, Texas, has leased about 115,000 acres of mineral rights from Collier Resources, which owns 800,000-plus acres of mineral rights in southwest Florida, according to Matthew Schwartz, head of the South Florida Wildlands Association. The association was founded in 2010 to help protect wildlife habitat and public lands in the state’s southern portion, which includes the Everglades as well as Big Cypress National Preserve and other areas.
“For over 10,000 years the home of diverse groups of native Americans including the Calusa, Tequesta, Mayaimi and later the Seminole and Miccosukee in south Florida has seen waves of newcomers come and go. Spain, England, the United States, and the Confederate States, have all staked claims here,” the Wildlands Association says on its website. “In the modern era massive migrations from all directions have created a cultural melting pot of incredible richness and vitality.”
That richness and vitality are threatened by the specter of fracking, which various oil companies are proposing to do right at the edge of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. According to the Broward Palm Beach New Times, Schwartz has analyzed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection permits issued to the companies and mapped out just what they plan to do, and where. What he found was that not only is drilling imminent at the edge of the panther refuge but also that the overarching lease held by Hughes includes “large portions of the Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge, Picayune Strand State Forest, Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW Lands), and even the famous Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, with some of the last old-growth cypress in our state,” the Broward Palm Beach New Times reported. “The lease runs for five years and can be extended.”
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