© 2022 WLRN
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
In South Florida, where the Everglades meet the bays, environmental challenges abound. Sea level rise threatens homes and real estate. Invasive species imperil native plants and animals. Pesticides reduce the risk of mosquito-borne diseases, but at what cost? WLRN's award-winning environment reporting strives to capture the color and complexity of human interaction with one of the most biodiverse areas of the planet.

Development Proposal Near Zoo Raises Concern For Miami-Dade's Rare Pine Rockland Forest

Jeff Wasielewski, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
via Miami Herald
Pine rockland once covered about 185,000 acres of Miami-Dade County but now grows in fragmented tracts on about 2,900 acres.

Pine rockland is a rare type of forest found only in South Florida and the Caribbean. In Miami-Dade County, a swath of pineland once stretched from Florida City to the Miami River. Over several decades, it's been fragmented because of construction. But the rockland that remains is home to federally designated endangered and threatened animals and plants, including the Florida bonneted bat and the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly.

Credit Jimi Sadle / National Parks Service
National Parks Service
A Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly. The species is one of several endangered insects, animals and plants that inhabit pine rockland forests.


That’s why there’s continued concern over plans for a development near Zoo Miami, in the Richmond Pine Rockland.

The project, called the Coral Reef Commons, would include retail space, 900 apartments, a school and parking on 138 acres near Southwest 152nd Street and  124th Avenue -- in the midst of the environmentally sensitive pine rockland.

Ram Realty Services has filed a Habitat Conservation Plan to protect animals and plants in the area. The plan sets aside about 55 acres within the development plus 51 acres outside of it.

But critics say that’s not enough, especially since the rocklands are already fragmented. Outside of Everglades National Park, only about 2 percent of the original pine rockland forest remains in Miami-Dade County. The area under consideration for development is the biggest privately owned parcel left.

A meeting of concerned citizens is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Tropical Audubon’s Doc Thomas House, 5530 Sunset Dr., Miami. A public comment period on the developer’s conservation plan ends Monday.

Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
A rally to protest development on Richmond Pine Rockland took place at the Zoo Miami parking lot on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015.