Tuesday, December 30, 2014

King Mango Strut Parade: Sierra Club, best performance … by gimleteye

For best of show at last Sunday's King Mango Strut Parade, EOM tips its hat to Sierra Club for its "butterflies attack rapacious developers in Miami Dade pine rock lands".

The University of Miami and outgoing president Donna Shalala made an awful deal to "excess" 80 acres of the last remaining pine rockland habitat in the county, Sierra Club points out. Most people don't know that so far as the land is concerned: if it wasn't Everglades or coastal ridge and prairie, it was pine rockland. Ain't much left.

Want to protect your environment? Support your regulators: they work for you! So, congratulations to Sierra Club, the last remaining butterflies, and the rest of the last remaining environmentalists.

South Florida Wild Lands chief, Matt Schwartz, playing the role of a developer about to be snared by rare and endangered butterflies.

From its press statement: "The Richmond Pine Rocklands is a South Florida treasure. Once extending from downtown Miami to what is now Big Pine Key in Everglades National Park - pine rock lands are considered a "globally imperiled" habitat. With US 1 running along the spine of our rockland community and city after city built on top of them - only 2 percent of Miami-Dade's rock lands still exist. Outside the park, the Richmond Pine Rocklands - once a former blimp base used to protect shipping in the Atlantic during WWII - is the largest remaining parcel. But small as it is, the Richmond Pine Rocklands hosts an incredible array of species. Within the last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified the area as critical habitat for two endangered butterfly species and two species of endangered plants."

Florida to Bulldoze Endangered Forest for Walmart?
By Jenny Staletovich, The Miami Herald
13 July 14

One of the world’s rarest forests, a section of Miami-Dade County’s last
intact tracts of endangered pine rockland, is getting a new resident: a

About 88 acres of rockland, a globally imperiled habitat containing a
menagerie of plants, animals and insects found no place else, was sold this
month by the University of Miami to a Palm Beach County developer. To secure
permission for the 185,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness, a
Chik-fil-A, a Chili’s and about 900 apartments, the university and the
developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve. Ram also plans
to develop another 35 adjacent acres still owned by the school.

But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South
Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and
biologists scratching their heads.

“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad
policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a
board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly
Association, who wrote Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday
demanding an investigation.

The university said in a statement it is committed to protecting the forests
— only about 2,900 acres of rockland are left outside Everglades National
Park — and helped execute plans for the preserve, but would not respond to

Ram, which has built dozens of strip malls and dense residential projects
across Florida and the Southeast, chose the land at Coral Reef Drive and
Southwest 127th Avenue because it provided a “unique chance to create … a
place where people can easily walk from the neighborhood to shops and
elsewhere,” CEO Casey Cummings said in a written response to questions. The
site also provided easy access to highways and jobs and met a growing demand
for “high-quality rental housing, shopping, fitness and dining options.”

Cummings also pointed out that the company could have built even more
housing — 1,200 apartments — and added 2,000 square feet of retail to the
370,000 it has planned.

The land, originally part of the 2,100-acre Richmond Naval Air Station, has
remained largely undeveloped since UM opened its South Campus in 1946 in
buildings left standing after a 1945 hurricane battered the base and blew
down blimp hangars. The university built primate cages on about nine acres.
A half dozen buildings totaling about 70,000 square feet housed malaria
research, studies on food and sound and provided storage.

Over the years, the university floated plans to build offices and
apartments, but none ever materialized until 2003, when the school suggested
creating an academic village. By then, the county had recognized the
significance of the critical rockland that provides habitat for several
endangered species including the bald eagle and indigo snake, the Florida
bonneted bat, which was given federal protection last year, and two rare
butterflies expected to be protected this summer. A 1984 ordinance required
preserving at least 80 percent of rockland for an owner to build on land.

When the university proposed the academic village plan, county biologist
John Tim Joyner said he was the only biologist working in the forest
division. The UM tract, totaling 138 acres, was far more than he could
manage, so the county signed off on a private survey ordered by UM.

“I agree more could have been preserved. But what they preserved complied
with the code,” Joyner said. “And that was a big selling point. [UM was] not
managing the land and we had no way to get them to manage the land.”

Plans for the academic village ultimately fell through, but the 2004 survey
survived, becoming the basis for the conservation plan at Coral Reef
Commons, the Ram project proposed in 2011 that includes the Walmart. As part
of its forest preservation ordinance, the county requires land owners to
allow biologists and wildlife organizations to rescue plants before
construction. And that’s when concerns started circulating.

To their surprise, rescuers picking their way through the forest in June and
earlier this month found a trove of rare plants outside land staked off for
preservation, including the tiny endangered polygala smallii, a small
flowering herb. They also spotted rare butterflies, including the Bartram’s
hairstreak, one of the butterflies expected to be named to the endangered
species list this summer, and the Atala hairstreak, which nearly went
extinct in the middle of the 20th century.

“There was so much material there that we had to kind of prioritize. It was
acres and acres,” said Jennifer Possley, a field biologist with Fairchild
Tropical Garden, who has been allowed to collect as much as she can.

Federal officials say they are closely watching the project, given the
pending protection of the Bartram’s hairstreak butterflies, which need a
host plant, the pineland croton, that was found in the area. But officials
say they are limited in what they can do. Habitat for endangered wildlife
can be protected only if federal money or property is involved. And
sanctions can be issued only if endangered animals — say, the eggs of a
butterfly left on a croton — are killed.

“Our listed plants are very rare and a lot of that has to do with the fact
that so little habitat remains. So we certainly place a great value on these
species’ conservation,” said Craig W. Aubrey, South Florida Field Supervisor
for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The butterflies that we’re evaluating are very rare, so any kind of loss to
their population would certainly be concerning,” he said.

County officials say they, too, are hamstrung by an ordinance that allows
them to require forest protection only when the land is developed.

“That land, until development is triggered, simply sits there. The
designation [of protected forest] doesn’t automatically trigger any
management or maintenance of the land,” said Craig Grossenbacher, chief of
Miami-Dade County’s Natural Resources Planning Section.

And getting some land under management is better than none, he said. The
40-acre preserve is the largest since the county started the program, he

Grossenbacher also said large swaths of the Ram property no longer qualify
as forest. Over the years UM owned it, exotics invaded much of the land or
slash pines, allowed to flourish without the control of natural fires,
became too thick, blocking out sunlight needed for the fragile rockland
plants like the deltoid spurge, a tiny herb that grows in the crevices of
the forest’s limestone floor.

In Florida, native plants are under siege. The last 50 years were
particularly harsh, according to a 2002 study by the Institute for Regional
Conservation that found only 23 percent of native plants are now considered
safe. About 40 species grow only in the pine rocklands, which before
development gobbled them up ran from Homestead north to the Miami River.

The largest remaining stretch of rockland, about 19,000 acres, exists in
Everglades National Park. Outside park boundaries, the county’s
Environmentally Endangered Lands Program has bought about 630 acres since
1990 and about 40 small stands are preserved with the help of Fairchild and
the Institute for Regional Conservation.

Restoring more of the Walmart land would not be hard, said U.S. Fish and
Wildlife biologist Mark Salvato, who pointed to the success of nearby
forests maintained by Zoo Miami and the county.

“A goodly portion of that site could probably be restored given the
opportunity,” he said. “We’re going to have bona fide listed species there.
And if the project were taking place a few years from now, it would be open
and shut. We’ve got people photographing Bartram’s hairstreak on the very
terra firma they’re going to bulldoze.”


Anonymous said...

Walmart and its army of lobbyists are the worst. Walmart even hired disgraced ex-Mayor Manny Diaz to lobby elected officials. Diaz is already getting checks from billboard companies.

Ross said...

There will be a rally to oppose the destruction of this habitat (and as many as 15 threatened species that live there). Saturday, Jan. 17, 2 pm at the Zoo Miami parking lot. Dennis Moss has sponsored a move to declare the Richmond pine rocklands "a blighted area or slum" to expedite its development.

Anonymous said...

Marc Sarnoff is lobbying to divert over $200 Million in tax money to his traveling buddy Nitwin Motwani. Sarnoff is using Keon Hardemon and his clownish relatives.