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The Everglades Are in Danger of Oil Drilling

This lush freshwater oasis is the Big Cypress National Preserve in the Florida Everglades. It was the first national preserve to be created in the United States.

Verdant tropical swamp and wetlands below a blue sky with white clouds in Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida.
Frank Mirbach / Getty Images

This is an oil drilling operation.

Oil pumpjacks in front of a flue that are billowing out emissions near Fellows, California, in Kern County.
Gary Kavanagh / Getty Images

In Florida, an oil drilling company wants to superimpose photo 2 onto photo 1. And the wildest part is, state officials might actually let it happen.

At the tail end of 2020, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) handed Florida the power to grant permits to projects that could damage the state’s wetlands. Now, we’re seeing why this was a terrible idea: an oil drilling proposal in the Everglades is on track to move forward.

Here are some obvious reasons this shouldn’t happen:

  • The Big Cypress National Preserve, located north of Everglades National Park, is an important freshwater swamp ecosystem. It nurtures a diversity of wildlife, including alligators, orchids, and the critically endangered Florida panther, and its waters replenish the Everglades. Drilling here would devastate this ecosystem and wreak havoc on endangered species.
  • Oil drilling would also harm the nearby lands of the Miccosukee Tribe, who have lived on these lands for generations. This development is a continuation of the destructive practices of the past which have harmed the Miccosukee Tribe’s homeland, cultural resources, and way of life.
  • We can’t afford more fossil fuels when urgent action is needed to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. The Biden administration’s climate plan recognizes that conserving lands and waters is a critical part of the solution. Wetlands in particular store carbon, mitigate floods, and recharge aquifers used for drinking water. So, sacrificing one of the largest wetland ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere would be a step in the wrong direction.

Florida developers are rushing into the Everglades because the government opened the door.

  • On its way out in December, the Trump administration gave Florida unprecedented power to greenlight projects in the state’s sensitive wetlands — a power that the federal government controlled until now. It did this despite the state’s consistent track record of rubberstamping wetland destruction.
  • The state has shown its inability to run the environmental programs already under its control, and its takeover of the wetlands program will be no different. The administration has given the state — and any developers it grants permits to — carte blanche to harm as many endangered species as they want, forever, without any guidelines or limitations. This is a blatant violation of the Endangered Species Act.

Florida politicians are too chummy with developers to be trusted to protect this priceless ecosystem. Earthjustice is suing the EPA and other federal agencies for abdicating their responsibility to safeguard Florida’s wetlands.

  • We’re representing conservation groups who are challenging the Trump administration’s rushed transfer of the federal wetlands permit program to Florida.
  • This isn’t our first time defending Florida’s precious wetlands. For decades, Earthjustice has taken on Big Ag and the federal government to protect this essential ecosystem. These fights are part of our work to strengthen biodiversity and stave off an extinction crisis.
  • We have persevered when political winds changed over time and will continue to make sure that federal and state governments keep their commitments to protect Florida’s wetlands.
Great Egret (Ardea alba) along Sweetwater Strand in Big Cypress Preserve, Florida.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) along Sweetwater Strand in Big Cypress Preserve, Florida.

Ken Canning / Getty Images