Project Threatens Species Found Nowhere Else on Earth
The Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and South Florida Wildlands Association sued the Trump administration today for approving Coral Reef Commons, a mega-development slated for the largest privately owned tract of critically endangered pine rocklands habitat in Miami-Dade County.
The development approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service threatens 20 endangered plants and animals, including the eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Florida brickell-bush and two butterflies, the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing. Several of these species are limited to the last few tracts of pine rocklands in South Florida, meaning the mega-development represents an imminent threat to their survival.
“This mega-development will wipe out some of South Florida’s last ecological gems and diminish quality of life for nearby residents by worsening traffic and sprawl,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Losing the Florida bonneted bat, the rare Florida leafwing butterfly or the incredibly striking Miami tiger beetle is a tragedy that can’t be undone.”
The massive Coral Reef Commons development, which will include 42 acres of “big box” stores, chain restaurants and 900 apartment units, will destroy a total of 83 acres in the center of one of the largest tracts of pine rockland habitat outside of Everglades National Park. Less than 1 percent of the once-extensive pine rocklands habitat remains.
“With the approval of this habitat conservation plan, the Fish and Wildlife Service is effectively rewarding the University of Miami for what amounts to willful neglect of the property which they received free of charge from the federal government,” said Erin Clancy, director of conservation for Tropical Audubon Society. “The Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with protecting endangered species and their critical habitats like the imperiled pine rocklands, and we feel the Service’s approval of this plan is a dereliction of duty.”
Today’s lawsuit urges the court to overturn the Service’s approval of Coral Reef Commons because of the devastating and unlawful consequences it will have to endangered and threatened species and their habitat.
The developers obtained a permit to harm endangered species by developing what is known as a “habitat conservation plan,” in which they promise to restore and maintain roughly 51 acres in four separate onsite preserves. Given that pine rocklands habitat is maintained by periodic fire, maintaining these areas as habitat for endangered species will be a difficult and potentially impossible task in the presence of such large-scale development.
The developer also pledged to protect 51 acres offsite. With several of the species occurring in few other areas, these protections fall well short of what is needed to ensure their survival. This includes the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly, Florida leafwing butterfly, Miami tiger beetle and three plants — Carter’s small-flowered flax, deltoid spurge and Florida brickell-bush.
“We are disappointed in the Service’s disregard of thousands of concerned taxpayers raising serious questions and opposing this horribly misguided project,” said Al Sunshine, president of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition. “We will continue to vigorously oppose it and give a voice to the dozens of rare and endangered plants and animals facing the loss of this globally imperiled pine rocklands forest.”
“Outside of Everglades National Park, pine rocklands habitat in our region is down to only one percent of its former extent — but what little remains still provides habitat for many species now federally listed as endangered or threatened with extinction,” said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlands Association. “This project and its impact on extremely rare habitat require far more evaluation than they have received so far from the Service.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.5 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Founded in 1915, the Tropical Audubon Society works to conserve and restore natural South Florida ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats through advocacy and education. Learn more at www.tropicalaudubon.org.
The Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition is committed to the preservation and restoration of the globally imperiled pine rocklands of south Florida.
Founded in 2010, South Florida Wildlands Association works to protect wildlife and habitat in the Greater Everglades. Learn more at www.facebook.com/ southfloridawild.