Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Victory for Panther Habitat as Oil Driller Leaves Florida

Environmentalists working with the Sierra Club’s Florida Panther campaign won a year-long battle Friday to stop oil drilling in southwest Florida after a Texas-based oil drilling company announced it will terminate its lease holdings on 115,000 acres.

DAH leases in yellow
Numerous environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Stonecrab Alliance, Preserve our Paradise, and South Florida Wildlands Association, led the fight against drilling in the environmentally sensitive areas of the Everglades and Big Cypress Watersheds. 

The fight began in April 2013 when the Dan Hughes oil company mailed a letter informing residents of a Naples suburb they were living in a "hydrogen sulfide evacuation zone" for an exploratory well. The well, which would be 1,000 feet from residences and less than one mile from the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, sparked public protests, meetings with elected officials, and hearings to assess the environmental impacts from the company’s oil wells in the western Everglades. The county was so concerned about the impacts it challenged a consent order between the drilling company and the state.

Earlier this year, the US Environmental Protection Agency held a public forum to address the public's concerns. Sierra Club generated over 167,000 comments calling for the exploratory permit to be revoked. Also, in March, the Big Cypress Swamp Advisory Committee, meeting for the first time in five years, reversed their initial decision to allow the permit after hearing public testimony. In a 4-1 vote, they recommended denial of the permit.

The concerns with drilling in the western Everglades are numerous - ranging from water quality and hydrology to habitat fragmentation and increased panther mortality. For Florida panthers, whose numbers range from 100 to 180, these wells would have destroyed primary habitat and fragmented areas that are used for hunting, denning, and traveling. Increased traffic on the roads in Golden Gate Estates (large trucks on isolated, small roads) would have increased the chances of a panther being hit - the leading cause of panther deaths. Perhaps most importantly, there have been no studies conducted that show how oil drilling impacts panthers or other wildlife. 

The tide turned several weeks ago when the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which had supported drilling, issued a press release that the driller had used illegal extraction techniques that mirrored fracking. 

Senator Bill Nelson has also been keeping a close eye on the drilling developments in southwest Florida. "We've spent billions of dollars to restore the Everglades... I want to make sure what goes on does not mess that up," Nelson said at a press conference with Sierra Club and others on Monday. Nelson has expressed concerns over public safety, water quality, and impacts to Everglades restoration.

On Tuesday, the oil company announced it was stopping work on another well in the area minutes before the Florida DEP announced it would file suit.

This is a great victory for all the dedicated activists and citizens of southwest Florida. While we have won this battle, the war on oil drilling is far from over. Two other companies, Tocala and Burnett, are proposing to do seismic testing (a precursor to exploratory drilling) on over 200,000 acres in the Big Cypress area. With millions of dollars invested in the restoration of the Everglades, these companies pose a salient threat that could undermine the efforts of so many to protect one of the most unique ecosystems in the world.


Anonymous said...

Great job guys !!!!!!!!!!!!! :D

sister sandy said...

Thanks to all of you who are working to save Fla's wildlife and wild places!

jose cruz said...


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mama dragon said...

Hurray!! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

This is fantastic! When I first moved here, I knew immediately that I wanted a "Protect Florida's Panther" license plate. I hope that some of the money actually does go to this great cause, and even if it doesn't, it's so wonderful to see people like you fighting for this beautiful creature.

Anonymous said...

Heartfelt congratulations to all the people who worked so hard for this victory. It's encouraging to know there are such great people in this state, despite the ones we're stuck with (for now) in Tallahassee. Thanks to all.

Anonymous said...

Super job!

Anonymous said...

Makes me glad I a member as they are only endangered but my spiritual power animal

Anonymous said...

op typo I meant not only are they endangered but my spiritual power animal

Anonymous said...

bravo! so important! never give up!

Anonymous said...

Great work. The fight to protect our lands and wildlife must continue......by all of us.

Vanessa said...

Love it!! The Sierra Club, its allies and supporters (including myself :-) ), we rock!! And the Florida panther rocks, too!!

alaina66 said...

I am INCREDIBLY happy of this victory! When I moved to Florida 12 years ago, I was all interested and excited to see these beautiful, majestic felines. They DESERVE to have this and MORE! I can't WAIT to get my Florida Panther license plate! >^..^<

Anonymous said...

Terrific job -- now complete the rescue by throwing out Gov. Scott in the November elections.

Marci said...

Huge victory for nature!

Anonymous said...

Great. However we haven't been heard enough yet if these companies even think about messing with this area. WHAT PART OF "NO" do they not understand. These filings should not even be ACCEPTED.

Anonymous said...

Too little, too late, but Sierra certainly likes to take top credits! This is disengenuous of Sierra to say the least, and this is why: It was only the courts who stopped this drilling. Were it not for the court case, drilling could have begun as early as November 1, 2013. That is the fact. Citizens all over this country need to realize this fact and act accordingly when being faced with oil drilling in their communities.
Where was Sierra in the court case to defend the Panther?...Sierra never supported the Panther court case. Only Preserve Our Paradise, Inc brought lawyers to the defense of the Panther in the court case, and PoP embraced the Panther COMPLETELY.

Protests are wonderful and important, but protests did not stop Hughes Oil from drilling. I wish they had, but in this day and age, to stop oil drilling it is important--it is CRITICAL-- for citizens in towns and counties all over this country to KNOW that you must go to court. This is the only way to get in the face of big oil. Exxon's CEO, Rex Tillerson went to court to stop fracking on his Texas ranch...because he knows that is the only way to stop an oil company. Stop taking credit, Sierra, for that which you contributed little to nothing. Get real and be truthful to the citizens. Citizens need to know the truth, all the truth--not HALF the truth.

Anonymous said...

The above poster is sadly correct in that only judicial process can actually alter the plans of greed by corporate American shareholders. BUT.... we must give credit to ALL organizations who champion "the cause", whatever it may be.

It is ONLY after such public outcry, that the courts appear to rule favorably.

Gandhi said " We may never know the results of our actions,
but if we do nothing , there can be no result !!"

Anonymous said...

Thankyou to all who precipated in this victory

Anonymous said...

Thanks For Getting It Done !!!

Anonymous said...

Great job ! This is a huge victory for all of us who appreciate the natural beauty of our precious Mother Earth !

Janet said...

Thank you all who did this!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Laura G.
Let us all support one another, and remember we are stronger unified. I support ALL environmental groups and vote for the earth. Learn who is eco-friendly through the league of conservation voters. They publish the voting records so you know what is real, and what is NOT.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we MUST stop drilling wherever, and whenever it comes up for discussion. It is tearing apart our ecosystem in every way possible...land, wildlife, the core of our planet...our cougars are in perilous danger, their species are soon to be akin to dinosaurs if such dangerous self obsessed people are allowed to keep tearing apart our state, planet, inch by inch. ALL of us need to step up in ANY way we can, be it protest, court, words in a flyer...
God help us if oil drilling happens anywhere in our state. It will be it's destruction, thus ours.

Anonymous said...

So sad when animals become more important than feeding starving babies. All that tax money now not available for the star ing kids in food stamps. Bu t hay, maybe you will take in a welfare mom am kids and feed them. Y I ul liberals are such hipocritical. But. I an sure there are lots of bazhing below. So read on and feel better about your selves on such a great wonderful job.

Christopher Jones said...

The posting on "when animals become more important than starving babies" reveals a poster that's dumb as dirt. These staunch conservatives (that conserve nothing but their own greed) normally are all but mentally insane. Reasoning, processing, spelling and insight all so flawed that it's not worth the effort to counter each point. Just annoyed that another lunatic came in here to throw their neural shortcomings onto this superb victory for wildlife. Need more such victories.

Anonymous said...

The taxpayers of Florida have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to protect and restore the Everglades ecosystem from just south of Orlando to Florida Bay and the Keys. That includes millions spent for studies and road underpasses for the Panther and other wildlife. Every taxpayer in Florida needs to be aware of these investments and work to protect the natural values on who's behalf they were made. Never stop becoming aware and acting!

Anonymous said...

Best news we could all ask for, thank you ALL for such a strong effort with a victory for all of us here in SW Florida but also the entire state!!


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