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E#nergy and the Environment: Environmentalists Sound Alarm On Proposed Drilling Near Florida Everglades - by Greg Allen

Florida's Everglades has an ecosystem known for its sawgrass, cypress trees, alligators — and perhaps soon, oil wells.

Oil drilling isn't allowed in the 1.5 million-acre Everglades National Park, but the ecosystem extends far beyond the park's boundaries — and drilling is allowed in Big Cypress National Preserve, an adjacent protected area about half the size of the park.

Environmental groups are concerned that the testing may harm endangered plants and animals, and that it may open sensitive areas to drilling and fracking.

Betty Osceola, a member of the Miccosukee tribe, has lived her whole life in the Everglades. During the Seminole Wars of the 19th century, her ancestors hid from federal troops in the Everglades swamps and cypress forests.

"This land, the Everglades, they protected us in our time of need — she provided us shelter, she provided us food, she provided us water," Osceola says. "As indigenous people, it's our turn to take up and speak for her."

Osceola is part of a group protesting plans for seismic testing on 70,000 acres in a key part of the ecosystem inside Big Cypress National Preserve.

Don Hargrove, the preserve's minerals management specialist, says there's nothing new about the efforts to drill there.

"Oil drilling and oil fields were here when Big Cypress was created; as a condition of the establishment of the preserve, oil and gas was to continue," he says.

Read more: Environmentalists Sound Alarm On Proposed Drilling Near Florida Everglades : NPR

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