OCHOPEE-Calumet Florida Inc. is one company particularly affected by a federal action to develop general-land and mineral-management plans for the 147,000 acres added in 1996 to the Big Cypress National Preserve, a 729,000-acre park that covers parts of Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Each day the subsidiary of Houston-based Plains Resources Inc. pumps from 3,000 barrels to 3,500 barrels of crude oil from two wells in the preserve under a lease with Naples, FL-based Collier Resources Inc. The privately owned Naples company deeded 85,000 acres to the 147,000-acre park addition but retained the mineral rights.

As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the park service has scheduled several public meetings beginning on July 11 prior to developing a general-management plan and an oil-and-natural gas management plan for the 147,000-acre addition.

“We really have no proposals at this point,” Sandy Snell, a park service spokesperson, tells GlobeSt.com. “This is starting from scratch.”

Under the land-management plan, Snell says, the park service would probably look at two major issues. One is whether to formally accept a 33,000-acre donation from the state of Florida. The other would consider an acquisition strategy on about 2,000 acres of privately owned land–mostly single-family properties in the preserve.

“It’s a willing-seller basis, though,” Snell says. It’s the oil-and-gas management plan, however, that is likely to elicit the greatest public input.

All minerals extraction within the 147,000-acre addition must adhere to strict guidelines enacted by Congress in the National Environmental Policy Act, Ron Clark, the preserve’s chief of resource management, tells GlobeSt.com. But the preserve also must adhere to congressional mandates that also allow minerals extraction in the Big Cypress.

That has a direct impact on Collier Resources, which owns about 80% of the mineral rights in Big Cypress, and its lease with Calumet Florida, which produces roughly $28 million a year in oil based on international crude oil prices of $25.72 a barrel on June 27.

“Those wells are pretty remote,” Clark says. “One is on the eastern boundary and the other one is on the western boundary. Most people who visit the preserve don’t even know they’re there.”

It’s even possible Collier Resources and Calumet Florida could benefit from the outcome of these public-scoping meetings. One of the subjects the park service will look at is the increased use of three-dimensional seismic surveys. In some circumstances, new drilling technologies enables companies to drill horizontally to reach prospective oil reserves rather than just drilling vertically.

“The mineral owners may decide to deploy new technology to enhance their yield,” Clark says. “So we need to revisit our existing plans on allow redeployment. This could increase the number of wells. But with this new technology, drilling doesn’t have to be immediately over the top of the well, any more. It can be some distance away.”

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