If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more Walmarts and Chick-fil-a restaurants. The University of Miami sold about 88 acres of Pine Rockland, a globally-endangered habitat containing plants, animals, and insects found nowhere else, to Ram, a Palm Beach County developer in order to build a Walmart, a Chick-fil-a, LA Fitness center, Chili’s, and some apartments–because progress.
While only 2,900 acres of Rockland exist outside Everglades National Park, the developer plans to follow through with construction. It has agreed to set aside just under half of that, 40 acres, as a preserve.
While some may consider this generous according to Miami-Dade County, more than 20% of the plant species found in the habitat are found nowhere else in the world–five of them are federally listed as threatened or endangered. The Rockland provides a habitat for many endangered species, including the bald eagle, indigo snake, the Florida bonneted bat, and two butterflies expected to be named as endangered this summer–the Bartram’s hairstreak and the Atala hairstreak, the latter of which is still clawing its way back from a near-extinction in the middle of the twentieth century.
“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association.
Ram CEO Casey Cummings argues that the destruction of this dwindling and beautiful habitat does not matter because this represents “unique chance to create . . . a place where people can easily walk from the neighborhood to shops and elsewhere” and meets a demand for “high-quality rental housing, shopping, fitness and dining options.”