Planet Earth News: Natural Parks Government Owned Land vs Mineral Rights Owners

MOTHER EARTH NEWS environmental planet earth news briefs focuses on natural parks: while the government owns the land, private entities own the mineral rights and want profits regardless of the damage to the land.

| September/October 1988

  • Florida panther
    The big cypress is home to the endangered Florida panther and bald eagle.

  • Florida panther

Environmental planet earth news brief about national parks and mineral rights owners: while the government owns the land, private entities own the mineral rights and want their subterranean profits regardless of the damage to wildlife and the land. 

Environmental Planet Earth News

As REPORTED IN THIS COLUMN almost two years ago, many national wildlife refuges in this country are part of what's known as the "split estate": The government owns the surface; someone else owns what's underneath. This has led to some ugly and awkward situations where the owners of the subsurface insist they have a right to their minerals no matter what damage may be inflicted on the animals and plants that live on the surface. In some cases, that damage has been pretty horrendous.

We recently learned that nearly a hundred units of the national park system have the same problem: Privately owned mineral rights underlie 1.2 million acres of park.

At the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, a squabble over the right to explore the extent of reserved minerals recently led to one of the shortest environmental lawsuits on record. It also added impetus to a fledgling movement to split the National Park Service off from the Department of the Interior, for reasons we'll get to presently.

First, the facts.

Big Cypress was set aside as a national preserve in 1974, partly for its historic and environmental significance and partly to as-sure a supply of fresh, clean water to Everglades National Park, which it abuts on the south. It encompasses 570,000 acres, making it bigger than all but 10 other units of the national park system outside Alaska.

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