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Fighting to Protect Miccosukee Tribal Rights in the Everglades, Florida, US

Miccosukee tribal lands and sovereignty are threatened by water pollution. The Miccosukee Tribe relies on the integrity of the Everglades ecosystem to support their religion, culture and economic propserity.


Since the 1800s, the Miccosukee Tribe has lived in the Florida Everglades - first seeking refuge from colonizing forces, but in the process, forming a deep connection with the land and water of the area [1]. Today, the cultural traditions of the tribe remain connected to the health of the Everglades ecosystem. However, Miccosukee lands now face pollution from agriculture, urban development, and industrialism, with specific concerns about water pollution [1; 2]. The Miccosukee people continue to fight forces that seek to threaten their cultural practices, through protest but also judicial activism to battle lax water quality standards. Throughout the last three decades, the Miccosukee Tribe has fought for environmental justice by preventing co-optation of their land and water rights and protesting the maldistribution of polluted water into their community.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Fighting to Protect Miccosukee Tribal Rights in the Everglades, Florida, US
Country:United States of America
State or province:Florida
Location of conflict:Everglades
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Water access rights and entitlements
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

•Miccosukee lands face pollution from agriculture, urban development, and industrialism, with specific concerns about water pollution

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Project area:109,596
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:>550
Start of the conflict:2004
Company names or state enterprises:Burnett Oil Company from United States of America - Potential sponsor of future oil drilling operations
Relevant government actors:•Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
•Florida Department of Environmental Protection
•Army Corps of Engineers
•National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:•The Everglades Coalition:
•Betty Osceola and allies
•The Miccosukee Tribe
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Miccosukee Tribe
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:In 2017, the Miccosukee Tribe released a report detailing their plan to manage non-point source pollution in their tribal lands [1]. The report contains best management practices for the management of the ecosystem in a way that respects the cultural significance of the area, and preserves tribal rights. By producing their own report of management practices, the Miccosukee Tribe has produced and promoted knowledge that values both the natural and cultural ecosystem.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The Miccosukee Tribe was able to require the South Florida Water Management District to acquire a NPDES permit, but the tribe continues to face threats to its wetlands from prospective oil drilling to the transfer of control of wetlands regulation from federal to state.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[9] Clean Water Act
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[2]Carden, Kristin. "South florida water management district V. Miccosukee tribe of indians." Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 28 (2004): 549.
[click to view]

[4]Prior, Charles. "Permitting Problems: Environmental Justice and the Miccosukee Indian Tribe." Envtl. & Earth LJ 3 (2013): 163.
[click to view]

[5]Delaney, Casey Tippens. "Everglades, Dirty Water, and the Miccosukee Tribe: Will the Supreme Court Say Enough is Enough?." American Indian Law Review 28, no. 2 (2003): 349-371.
[click to view]

[8]Carpenter, Hayley. " Miccosukee v. United States": The Continuing Unwieldiness of Equal Protection in Environmental Justice." Ecology Law Quarterly 41, no. 2 (2014): 597-603
[click to view]

[1]Douglas, Julian. “Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program Plan,” 2017.
[click to view]

[3]Schulman, Sandra Hale. “Florida Tribes ‘Deeply Appalled’ by Wetlands Deal.” Indian Country Today, December 24, 2020.
[click to view]

[6]Elsken, Katrina. “Miccosukee Tribe Representative Protests Plan to Let State of Florida Rule on Wetlands Permits.” South Central Florida Life, December 21, 2020.
[click to view]

[7]Lowenstein, Jack, and Rachel Cox-Rosen. “Miccosukee Tribe Protests Big Oil Company Drilling at Big Cypress.” Wink News, April 12, 2021.
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Arielle Landau, BOLD Fellow at the EJAtlas
Last update06/10/2021
Conflict ID:5643
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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