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 endangered habitat. are now banding together to oppose the kill permits. The deadline for “Public Comments” to stop them comes 60 days following the notice, which was published on March 24th.
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.”
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.
Jacki Lopez, Florida’s Director of the Center for Biodiversity, along with a coalition of other concerned environmentalists, is now urging 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.”
Will a Public Hearing Help “Save the Pine Rocklands?”
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.
Environmentalists are now urging the Federal Government to schedule a Public Hearing in Miami on the proposed “Kill Permits” to give the Public a chance to be heard.
Those requests should be addressed to:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Atlanta Regional Office, Ecological Services
1875 Century Blvd.
Atlanta, GA 30345
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
South Florida Ecological Services
1339 20th St.
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Here’s a copy of a recent letter you can print out or email to demand the Public’s Voice be heard on this critical environmental issue: