Countdown to the End of Imperiled Pine Rocklands?
A federal “Kill Permit” allowing developers to bulldoze and pave over the largest, privately held Pine Rocklands Habitat in the country could be issued possibly as early as the end of May, according to a recent Federal Register Publication and Press Release from the U-S Fish & Wildlife Service.
This is expected to be the first formal request to the Trump Administrations’ Dept. of Interior to bulldoze and pave over a massive tract of Florida’s dwindling endangered habitat.
Local, State and National Environmental groups are now banding together to oppose the kill permits and the deadline for “Public Comments” to stop them comes 60 days following the notice, which was published on March 24th.
The deadline for comments opposing this project is May 22nd.
But according to a recent Press Release by the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service, it looks like “Public Comments” opposing the project may not even be considered.
The FWS says ”The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comments on a developer’s plan to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to eight threatened, endangered, and at-risk species in Miami-Dade County.”
By Federal Regulations, the decision is supposed to made AFTER the Public has had the right to testify in opposition of the project, based in the former University of Miami’s South Campus in the heart of the Globally Imperiled Richmond Pine Rocklands.
According to the FWS , “The plan is part of a process to clear the way for construction to begin on a 137-acre residential and commercial project in south Miami.”
But does the agency already plan to issue so-called “Kill Permits” even though the Public has not had a voice in this decision and there’s no Pubic Hearing scheduled to solicit opposition?
The FWS adds, “ A final decision to issue incidental take permit (ITP) to the applicants will follow.”
What's an ITP?
It's the technical term for an “Incidental Take Permit” : Essentially a Federal “License to kill" endangered species there including “Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly, Florida leafwing butterfly, Florida bonneted bat, eastern indigo snake, rim rock crowned snake, gopher tortoise, Miami tiger beetle, and white-crowned pigeon”, according to the FWS.
The Feds have already approved a preliminary plan to develop some 137 acres of “mixed use property” including a proposed Strip Mall, Walmart and 900 unit high density apartment complex.
As part of the formal Federal Permitting Process, it's now formally released for Public Comment.
Developers’ plans including the original property owner, the University of Miami, include “Commitments to avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts, including on-site habitat management to maintain the covered species, as well as protection and management of off-site restoration lands to benefit the covered species” according to federal filings.
But a collation of Local, State and National Environmental Groups are fighting hard to stop the project, which seeks to develop the largest parcel of Privately-Held Pine Rocklands in the country.
What’s at stake here?
Pine Rocklands are only found in the U-S in South Florida.
Recent Development has claimed about 98.5% of the globally imperiled Pine Rockland Forests which are now down to their last 1.5% according to a recent Federal Survey.
Jackie Lopez, Florida’’ Director of the Center for Biodiversity, along with a coalition of other concerned environmentalists, is now urging environment the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service to hold a formal Public Hearing into the project.
She adds, “As you are aware, native habitats in Florida are rapidly disappearing. Perennially rare communities, such as the pine rocklands that would be impacted by Coral Reef Commons, are among the native habitats in Florida that have been drastically reduced in area. Pine Rockland is a globally endangered plant community with more than 98 percent decline in its pre-settlement area due to significant ecological degradation, conversion to other land uses, and outright destruction. This important community provides vital habitat for many endangered species, including those at issue in this permit application.”
But the agency has reportedly told opponents a Public Hearing is not cost effective and instead has scheduled a teleconference and call-in before the May 22nd deadline.
It's now scheduled for April 27th between 6:30 and 8:30 PM.
According to the agency “The dial-in number by telephone will be 888-324-6912 and the participant passcode will be 2938997.
To participate in the webinar via the internet:
Conference number: PW3668902
Audience passcode: 2938997
Participants can join the event directly at:
I'd recommend that participants log into the webinar on their computers at least 15 minutes before start time to ensure sufficient time to get into the system.”
According to the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service, the Public has just a 60 day window, starting March 24th, to formally comment on the proposed “Kill Permits”.
But the developers have had almost 3 full years to work on it behind closed doors with Federal Officials and out of public view.
Dozens of concerned residents packed a Public Hearing recently asking for Federal Protection of the “Miami Tiger Beetle”. It’s a critically endangered beetle once thought extinct, but only recently found in the Richmond Pine Rocklands and one other nearby Rockland Habitat.
Following public outcry, the “Miami Tiger Beetle” was finally given Federal Endangered Species Status.
But its’ Pine Rocklands home, including the site of the proposed “Coral Reef Commons” Strip Mall, have yet to be designated “Endangered Habitat” by the FWS.
So for now it has limited protection.
What can you do to help Save the Pine Rocklands?
During the Public Comment Period, running thru May, supporters of protecting this endangered habitat can contact the U-S Fish and Wildlife Service by Email or Regular Mail.
A Community workshop organizing opposition is now scheduled for April 25th at South Miami-Dade’s Deering Estate.
It‘s located at 16701 SW 72nd Avenue and runs from 6-8PM.
Here's more information:
The proposed “Habitat Conservation Plan” drafted to allow development in the largest Privately Owned Pine Rocklands in the country can be found at:
Comments opposing the issuance of the Federal Permits should be sent to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Atlanta Regional Office
1875 Century Blvd
Atlanta, GA 30345
U-S Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida Ecological Services
Vero Beach, FL 32960
President, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition
99% of Florida’s Pine Rocklands outside of Everglades National Park have been developed and fragmented according to the U-S Fish & Wildlife Service.
And the biggest habitat outside of the park, the Richmond Pine Rocklands, are now Ground Zero for more than $1 Billion Dollars worth of proposed developments.
At the former University of Miami South Campus, plans include a 900 unit Residential Rental Complex, Walmart and a mix of Retail/Public /Commercial projects under the name "Coral Reef Commons".
In the same habitat further east, “Miami Wilds” developers want to build a Theme Park, Hotel and Tourist Destination as part of their proposed expansion for “Zoo Miami”.
Developers say it’ll bring a badly-needed economic shot in the arm to the area and provided dozens of new job opportunities.
Standing in the way?
The Richmond Pine Rocklands are considered globally imperiled habitat and much of it is protected under the U-S Endangered Species Act as home to dozens of rare and endangered plants and animals.
In fact, one Pine Rockland resident, the Miami Tiger Beetle, is found nowhere else in the world except for the Richmond Pine Rocklands.
It’s also home to the most critically-endangered mammal in the country, the Florida Bonneted Bat.
The Richmond Rocklands remain a critical “Lifeboat Habitat” for the largest remaining native Pine Rocklands in South Miami-Dade County for many of the Miami’s animals and plants.
Wipe out their habitat, bulldoze and pave over their trees and plants, and sentence them as a species to extinction.
It’s that’s simple.
The Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition is working to prevent that from happening and has already held a series of Rallies and Protests to let the public know what's at stake here.
We believe this lifeboat needs to be preserved, and the Richmond Pine Rocklands need to be protected for future generations to enjoy.
Or we can turn our back on them, bulldoze and pave it over and wonder why Global warming is accelerating as more “Green Space” is paved over.
We can also wonder why there are fewer birds in the skies over South Florida and why there are no longer any butterflies fluttering around our yards.
This cannot be allowed.
President, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition