Posts tagged “endangered

Miami tiger beetle “endangered” status takes effect

Yesterday, November 4th 2016, endangered species status for the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana) became effective. This diminutive species is only found in pine rocklands, once ubiquitous in south Florida. However, due to extensive  urbanization and agricultural development a majority of this habitat has been destroyed. Today a fraction – only 1.8% -of the pine rocklands in metro Miami-Dade county are left.IMG_8703The remaining pine rocklands have survived comparatively unscathed throughout the extensive agricultural and urban developments in south Florida. But the largest contiguous tract of pine rocklands in Miami-Dade, site of the Miami tiger beetle rediscovery, is in immediate danger of further development in the form of Coral Reef Commons, a private mixed-use development, and Miami Wilds, a sprawling theme park.

Any further development will seriously jeopardize the rocklands and their inhabitants by severely fragmenting the habitat and stifling the cycle of bush fires key to the maintenance and survival of pine rocklands.

There are numerous, prime locations for a new Walmart or a massive theme park in the county, outside of these last remaining pine rocklands.  Let’s restore and preserve the undeveloped and neglected pine rocklands of Miami-Dade; this habitat and its occupants are a unique and valuable part of Florida’s natural history and character.IMG_5854


One Year and Seven Days

On December 18th 2015, over a full year and seven days after a listing petition to protect the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindela floridana) was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, advocacy groups, and several individuals (including myself),the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their proposal for the listing of the Miami tiger beetle as endangered.

In a press release Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center for Biological Diversity said:

Watching the Miami tiger beetle forage, with its shiny, iridescent body and lightning-quick legs, is mesmerizing. Endangered Species Act protection will help ensure the beetle’s rare pine rockland hunting grounds remain intact in the face of ever-pressing development.

The USFWS proposed listing could have significant impacts on the potential developments in the Richmond Heights pine rocklands, home of this beetle.

With the USFWS’s announcement a public comment period is open until February 22 and a public hearing is scheduled on January 13th at Miami-Dade College, Kendall Campus.

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A March and Misinformation

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On January 17th hundreds of people marched along Coral Reef Drive, outside Zoo Miami, to support the preservation of the Richmond Heights pine rocklands, the habitat of numerous endemic species including the rare Miami tiger beetle. The Miami Herald reports the group of demonstrators stretched out “at least four blocks” in and around Zoo Miami, near the sites of proposed developments threatening the habitat.

Large portions of these pine rocklands are the sites for Coral Reef Commons, a WalMart-anchored shopping center and apartment complex proposed by Ram Realty, and Miami Wilds, a major amusement park which has been pushed through by Commissioner Dennis Moss and backed by 20th Century Fox.

These pine rocklands have survived comparatively unscathed since the since early logging and military developments on the site in the 1940s and these lands represent a quarter of the 1.8% of the habitat left outside the Everglades National Park. Any further development seriously jeopardizes the rocklands and their inhabitants, principally by further fragmenting the remaining rocklands and stifling brush fires, a necessary ecological cycle for survival of the habitat.

Ram Realty responded to the growing public disapproval in a statement and video tour of the site release the day before the march. I have reproduced their statement below along with my notes:

Efforts to “save” the rocklands are based on a misunderstanding of the true conditions on site

Editors Note: View and download a virtual tour of the Coral Reef Commons site:

http://vimeo.com/116977752

Miami, FL – January 16, 2015

Ram Realty Services is dedicated to the restoration of a significant portion of the land that we own.

It should be noted that the Richmond Pine Rockland complex encompasses more than four square miles, of which 74 percent is under public ownership, with an additional 20 percent long ago developed by others.

Purposely deceptive. The former Richmond Naval Air Station covered 2,107 acres (3.29 square miles). Today this area is the site of Zoo Miami, the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, the University of Miami south campus, a U.S. Coast Guard base, and several smaller developments. There is only about one square mile of pine rocklands remaining in the whole site.

Environmentalists opposing the development of the site have continuously misunderstood the facts and the current condition of the property.

I’ve spent significant time conducting research in the Richmond Heights pine rocklands and Ram’s claims are not an honest representation of the site. Presently 47% of the Coral Reef Common (CRC) site is pine rocklands and a further 19% is other, largely hardwood, forest. About 22% of the site is green space, minimally modified from their original state, and a final 12% is heavily modified or developed (buildings, major roads, and parking lots). This is not the heavily developed, hopeless situation the Ram paints.

Ram Site pie chart web

The Coral Reef Commons development site represents less than three percent of the Richmond Pine Rockland complex, and even less of the total pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County.

Again purposely deceptive. Their figure of 3% is calculated from the total area of the site, not from the area of pine rocklands on the site. There are a total of 585 acres of rocklands on the former Richmond Naval air station out of which 65 acres (11%) sits on the CRC site.

The notion that the Coral Reef Commons site is a pristine forest is erroneous.

The Coral Reef Commons site is primarily (47%) pine rocklands. While not in pristine condition these rocklands have been minimally altered and represent a last chance to preserve this habitat. Out of the original pine rocklands only 1.8% is still standing outside of the Everglades National Park.

RAM site 1952 vs 2014

On the left is an aerial photograph from 1952 and on the right is a 2014 satellite image (from Google Earth). Notice how little of the overall CRC site, outlined in red, has actually been significantly altered.

Over the last 70 years the site has been used for military purposes, a medical research facility, commercial buildings, residential buildings, enclosures for animals, an incinerator and blimp bays.

This site does have a unique past (see Paul Freeman’s great webpage and this history of the Naval Air Station) but these developments only comprise 12% of the CRC site (the blimp bays were located just to the south and east of Ram’s property, largely where the Gold Coast Railroad Museum now stands). Today the greatest threat to the area is continued development and the encroachment of invasive species. The present poor condition of these CRC site is due to the lack of any habitat management by the University of Miami, not excessive development. The school even denied requests from myself and other researchers to this and their other properties around Zoo Miami for access to the habitat.

The best prospect for regaining the natural environment is a comprehensive restoration plan such as the one Ram Realty Services is developing with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under this plan, almost 40 percent of our property will be restored to its natural native state, set aside and maintained as a natural preserve in perpetuity – a standard never previously achieved in the region.

The Coral Reef Commons site is 137 acres but Ram’s planned preserves total just 43 acres (not all of it pine rockland) – just over 30% of the property. So, contrary to Ram’s claims, under a third of this property will be preserved.

The solution is not to develop over two-thirds of the site and its pine rocklands. Under one-eighth of the CRC site has been developed. Perhaps there is a more appropriate use for this rare habitat than yet another Walmart. Let’s restore and preserve the seven-eighths of the property that is undeveloped and constructively use or mitigate the fraction of the property that is already developed. Pine rocklands are a unique and valuable part of Florida’s natural history and are worth preserving.

Notes

Areas for which exact figures were not available were estimated with the polygon tool in Google Earth and the polygon area calculator on earthpoint.us.

References

 URS Corporation, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and Muller and Associates, Inc. 2007. Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Management Plan, Part II: Management of specific habitat types, Chapter 1: The pine rockland habitat. Submitted to Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Miami, Florida by URS Corporation. K.A. Bradley, G.D. Gann, M.J. Barry, contributors.


Emergency protection sought for Miami tiger beetle

Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed emergency petitions to protect the exceedingly rare Miami tiger beetle, Cicindela floridana, a South Florida pine rocklands endemic, as a protected species under Florida law and as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

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Pine rocklands once stretched from the Florida Keys up to the northern edge of Miami-Dade County, but widespread urbanization and agricultural development destroyed the majority of Floridian pine rockland. This fire-dependent community, found on limestone outcroppings, is comprised of a sparse canopy dominated by Florida slash pine, Pinus elliotti var. densa, and a varied understory. Today, only a fraction of the original Miami pine rockland habitat remains; by some estimates as little as 1.8%. Moreover, most of these remaining areas are quite small and often widely separated by miles of heavy development.

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The pine rockland habitats are home to many endemic species, many of which are listed as endangered including the Florida Bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), Bartram’s hairstreak (Strymon acis bartrami), Florida leafwing (Anaea troglodyta floridalis), Florida brickell-bush (Brickellia mosieri), deltoid spurge (Chamaesyce deltoidea deltoidea), Carter’s small-flowered flax (Linum carteri carteri), tiny polygala (Polygala smallii).

Today many of these remaining pine rocklands and their inhabitants now face another danger; due to the lack of fire, both native and non-native vegetation are taking over the habitats which incrementally transitioning to hardwood hammocks.

Of greatest concern is the Richmond Heights pine rocklands, where the Miami tiger beetle was rediscovered in 2007. In addition to vegetation encroachment, there are plans to develop significant portions of the pinelands. The first, and most immediate, is Ram Realty’s plan to develop and 88-acre parcel of rocklands purchased from the University of Miami.

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While Ram has set aside some of the land for nature preserves, any development seriously jeopardizes the rocklands by fragmenting the remaining habitat and stifling fires, a necessity for the continued health of the habitats. The second, and most expansive in scope, is the county’s plan to develop a major amusement park in and around the rocklands.

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This plan calls for major development including a four lane highway and major transportation corridor through the rocklands. This development will irrevocably damage all of the Richmond pine rocklands, through fragmentation, pollution, and stifling fires within the remaining habitat.

Both development pose real and immediate risks to endangered and rare species, including the Miami tiger beetle. These developments will results in the destruction and degradation of pine rocklands and will kill endangered and candidate species including the adults and larvae of the Miami tiger beetle.

Even before the current plans for development the Miami tiger beetle (Cicindela floridana) was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service species of concern. Additionally, Knisley et al (2014) assigned the Miami tiger beetle a 1+ grade, their “highest level of rarity and/or threats” in a comprehensive review of the conservation status of United States tiger beetles. With over 98% of the potential former habitat gone and direct threats to the only remaining habitat this species is in need of urgent action to prevent its extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity’s press release is available at their website.

References

Knisley, C., M. Kippenhan, and D. Brzoska. 2014. Conservation status of United States tiger beetles. Terrestrial Arthropod Reviews. 7: 93-145.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. South Florida Multi-Species Recovery Plan: Appendix C. Species of Concern and their Associated Community Types in South Florida.

URS Corporation, The Institute for Regional Conservation, and Muller and Associates, Inc. 2007. Miami Dade County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program Management Plan, Part II: Management of specific habitat types, Chapter 1: The pine rockland habitat. Submitted to Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Miami, Florida by URS Corporation. K.A. Bradley, G.D. Gann, M.J. Barry, contributors.