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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.

Environmentalists Ask For Intervention To Preserve Rare Pine Rockland Forest In Southern Miami-Dade

Environmental activists and concerned citizens expressed outrage Thursday night over a planned development they say endangers a tract of rare pine rockland near Zoo Miami.

The critics say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should intervene because the developer’s habitat conservation plan does not offer adequate protection to endangered and threatened species.

“The mitigation offered in the plan is woefully inadequate,” said Erin Clancy, conservation director for Tropical Audubon. “What’s really missing is more land.”

Pine rockland forest grows only in South Florida and parts of the Caribbean. In South Florida, it’s home to a number of rare and endangered plant, insect and animal species, including the Florida bonneted bat and the Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly.

The development, called the Coral Reef Commons, would span 138 acres immediately south of Southwest 152nd Street and divided by  124th Avenue. It would include 289,000 square feet of retail space, 900 apartments, a school and parking.

The habitat conservation plan includes 55 acres of land set aside for conservation within the development and 51 acres outside of it. Critics say that’s not enough, especially since development and damage from Hurricane Andrew had already fragmented most of the original pine rockland, also known as pineland. 

“Wildlife doesn’t know about boundaries,” said Al Sunshine, president of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition, which organized the meeting. “All you’re doing is further fragmenting a globally imperiled habitat, making it harder and harder for plants and animals to survive.”

Less than 2 percent of Miami-Dade County's original pine rockland remains outside of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Ram Realty Services did not respond to a phone call early Thursday afternoon requesting comment.

A public comment period on Ram's habitat conservation plan ends at 11:59 p.m. May 22. After that, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the plan and decide whether to issue permits that would allow the development to go forward or request modifications.