- The Bush Administration has approved extensive gas drilling
in a national park that is the main U.S. nesting beach for the most endangered
sea turtle in the world.
- The National Park Service under President Bush has given
the green light to "an aggressive drilling campaign" that could
involve drilling 20 or more natural gas wells on Padre Island National
Seashore in Texas. And it did so without formally consulting with the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, as required by the Endangered Species Act. 
- "It's a case of -- perhaps literally -- running
over a critically endangered species on the way to pocketing profits on
public lands," George Frampton, chairman of the White House Council
on Environmental Quality and assistant secretary of the interior for fish,
wildlife and parks under President Clinton, told BushGreenwatch.
- "It is disturbing that the Interior Department would
fail to get a formal opinion from their own biologists before allowing
- In 2002, BNP Petroleum of Texas began drilling its first
well in the park, the longest undeveloped barrier beach in the world. Park
Service approval for a third drilling permit is likely soon, despite the
use of the island by the Kemp's ridley sea turtle every spring for nesting.
- Each drilling operation involves plowing an access road
through the dunes, allowing hundreds of trips by tractor-trailer trucks
up and down the beach, bulldozing a square-mile site or more for each well
pad, and installing a 100-foot-tall rig, according to Fred Richardson,
a Texas volunteer with the Sierra Club who has monitored the issue.
- The drilling puts in jeopardy 25 years of work by the
Park Service to bring back the Kemp's ridley sea turtle in the U.S.
They are the smallest and most critically endangered species of sea turtle
in the world, with only about 3,000 to 5,000 adults remaining. Padre
Island is also the only U.S. location where all five protected species
of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico have nested.
- The main risk to turtles is the heavy trucks on the beach.
The trucks could crush nests or pack down the sand so that hatchlings are
unable to emerge from nests. Even the vibrations from rumbling trucks can
increase the likelihood of embryonic damage or mortality, according to
the species' official "Sea Turtle Recovery Plan."
- When Padre Island was named a national seashore in 1962,
the rights to minerals underneath the island remained in private hands.
Over the years, limited gas exploration has taken place, but after 1973,
production fell off.
- "When the Bush Administration came into power, the
oil companies decided to launch an aggressive drilling campaign,"
said Sanjay Narayan, a Sierra Club attorney who unsuccessfully sued to
stop the drilling.
- Richardson said another serious impact of the noise,
traffic and sight of the drilling is on the recreational experience for
park visitors. And on that, the National Park Service has refused to conduct
a survey of visitor opinions.
- "The Bush Administration doesn't want to hear what
visitors have to say," Richardson said. "Their agenda is that
all public lands are open for business."
-  Sierra Club press release, http://texas.sierraclub.org/press/newsreleases/padre0503.html
-  National Park Service, http://www2.nature.nps.gov/parksci/vol19/vol19(2)/11-1shaver.htm
-  Ibid.
-  National Park Service biologist Darrell Echols, Endangered
Species Bulletin, Jan/Feb 2002, http://www.nature.nps.gov/2002_01-02.pdf
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