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Advocacy Groups Say Florida Parks At Risk By Offshore Drilling

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Amy Green/WMFE
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Eleven national parks in Florida are threatened by White House proposals to open to oil drilling currently protected parts of the nation’s outer continental shelf and to revise the 2016 Well Control Rule, according to a report released Wednesday by environmental conservation groups. 

Nicholas Lund, co-author of the report issued by the National Parks Conservation Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council, told reporters that the proposed changes put more than 9,000 Florida jobs at risk.

The proposals could also cost Florida $876 million in annual economic output, according to Lund, a senior manager with parks association.

“The economic output from the national parks and monuments in Florida is a significant force in the coastal economy of the state,” the 38-page report states. “The economic output measure goes far beyond just visitors’ spending and includes the ripples of activity their visits generate: the spending of both the businesses they patronize and the communities their tourism supports. Many out-of-town visitors of coastal national parks identify a park as their primary reason for travelling to the area.”

The report focused on the potential impacts of oil and gas drilling on different sections of the nation.

The Florida parks that could be impacted are Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, De Soto National Memorial, Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, Fort Caroline National Memorial, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s congressional delegation have voiced opposition to the plan to open to drilling previously protected parts of the nation’s outer continental shelf --- a jurisdictional term describing submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida's West Coast and three nautical miles off the East Coast.

In January, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared briefly in Tallahassee to announce drilling would not occur off Florida’s coasts. But the White House’s position has not yet been formalized.