Have you ever gone to Zoo Miami (formerly known as Metro Zoo) and thought that the Richmond Pine Rocklands next to it were a blighted area that needed to be revitalized with the help of government and commercial investment? Some people in Miami-Dade County think so.
Last year, the University of Miami sold a parcel of pine rockland which serves as a habitat for at least 14 endangered species to Ram Realty, which plans to build a strip mall as well as residences and a school. Despite being home to federally endangered plants and animals such as Kirtland’s warbler, the Miami tiger beetle, and the Florida brickellbush, this intact area of pine rocklands (which the federal government gave UM as a gift decades ago in hopes that it would be used as a research center) is at risk of being torn apart piece by piece at the hands of local authorities giving out permits to whomever offers the best sweetheart deal.
Outside of Miami-Dade County, pine rocklands only exist in Cuba, the Bahamas, and parts of the Florida Keys. Less than two percent of the pine rocklands that were originally in Miami-Dade still remain today. The Richmond Pine Rocklands area is a unique feature of our local landscape; should it really be torn down in favor of a Wal-Mart and a Chili’s? Although Ram Realty claims that they’re going to set aside 40 acres as a nature preserve, forested pine rocklands require controlled burns that would be extremely difficult to perform if surrounded by development.
In an astounding act of hypocrisy, the folks at Zoo Miami who constantly talk about conservation and caring for the environment also want to build a wildlife theme park called Miami Wilds on the nearby Coast Guard property, which is also pine rockland. Basically, they’re going to risk eradicating real species like Carter’s small-flowered flax and the Florida leafwing butterfly in order to create Disney’s Animal Kingdom-style fake nature. Believe it or not, a developer hired by 20th Century Fox has already been approved for a $13.5 million county grant, which largely comes out of your tax dollars!
The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) was intended to help low- and middle-income people by encouraging businesses to move into an underserved area, but is that really what’s needed in this particular location? Think about it.
On March 3rd at 9:30 AM, the Miami-Dade Commission will vote to decide whether the Richmond Pine Rocklands should be considered to be a “slum.” If the commissioners vote yes, developers will receive CRA funding and the ability to fast-track development of this endangered area. Commissioner Dennis C. Moss (who represents the 9th District that encompasses this land) has previously endorsed this proposal; contact him and speak your mind by emailing DennisMoss@miamidade.gov or calling 305-375-4832.
In addition, the Tropical Audubon Society recently released an open letter to outgoing UM president Donna Shalala regarding the handling of the university’s sale of its land.
For more info, contact the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition at email@example.com or check them out their Facebook Group.