We recently celebrated a “big” environmental win – finally seeing the environmentally sensitive lands of the once-proposed Keri Road Sand Mine being publicly acquired as part of the Florida Forever program. After over 10 years, it is nice to finally put the matter ‘to bed’ and breathe a sigh of relief.
Although the following three issues perhaps still are not fully resolved and may have some future battles yet to fight, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida welcomes a respite from these damaging proposals.
The owners of the proposed Troyer Mine in Southeast Lee County, which is shoe-horned between several conservation preserves, have withdrawn their state Clean Water Act Section 404 permit application from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP).
This 404 permit, if issued, would clear the way for a mining operation that would impact both wetlands and listed species. Read more about this project.
This withdrawal follows objections from the Conservancy, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), other organizations, businesses, and individuals who point to concerns such as environmental impacts, traffic, and incompatibility with adjacent land uses.
While the owners have stated they intend to reapply, this application withdrawal serves to hit the “pause” button, and the wetlands and listed species on the property are enjoying at least temporary amnesty. Troyer Mine has indicated its intention to reapply in the future.
Burnett Oil Company withdrew its applications with FDEP for state Section 404 permits, as well as their proposed state Environmental Resource Permits (ERPs). These permits, should be they be awarded, would facilitate new oil drilling operations at two sites in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
While we welcome this withdraw, it appears to be light of an upcoming project review by the National Park Service, after which we may expect Burnett to reapply for these permits.
The proposed roads and oil well pads would be located in a vital wetland ecosystem that provides habitat for dozens of rare and protected plants and listed species. Yet the company has not even fully restored and mitigated the 2017 and 2018 damage caused by their seismic survey, in which over 100 miles of impacts resulted. The Conservancy, along with our partners, will continue to monitor these applications and other required permit applications.
Florida panther remains wild – for now
In a blow to the recovery of the endangered Florida panther, news of the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to remove one of only 120-230 panthers left in the wild surprised the environmental community.
By law and by policy, such removal is only allowed in cases where the panther poses a demonstrable threat to human safety. No information that the agency has shared, nor any in the public records we have seen, demonstrates that this panther poses a threat to human safety.
Human safety is a paramount concern; however, biologists working closest with this individual have stated time and time again that removal from the wild is not warranted because FP260 is not a threat. With such a limited and endangered population, removing this panther can add up to big problems for the panther’s future.
Thus, the Conservancy and our partners have submitted a notice of violation to the USFWS and FWC for their decision to remove this panther from the wild. Removal of the panther would set a dangerous precedent, particularly at a time when unacceptable levels of panther habitat are at risk of encroachment by human development, especially in eastern Collier County.
Notably, the agency recently stated that their plans to carry out their decision to remove FP260 from the wild are “paused.” We will remain vigilant on this issue, and continue to provide assistance to property owners through our long-standing compensation program.