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Judge Stops Walmart Shopping Center From Being Built on Endangered Florida Forest
Environmentalists cheered after a Miami district court judge issued an emergency injunction on Friday to stop bulldozers from razing a stretch of endangered pine rocklands—one of the world's rarest forests, and home to species found nowhere else on Earth—to make way for a Walmart shopping center near Zoo Miami and Everglades National Park.
Judge Ursula Ungaro's decision was made only hours after the Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and South Florida Wildlands Association sued the Trump administration for approving the proposed Coral Reef Commons.
"Plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable injury arising from the destruction of the pine rocklands, and the loss of threatened and endangered species that depend on such habitat for their survival absent issuance of this [temporary restraining order]," Ungaro's ruling stated, adding that "the public interest favors the entry of such an order."
The proposed development, which was approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just last week, would make way for a sprawl of big box stores, chain restaurants and 900 apartment units. Construction started a day after the department's green light and ceased Friday after the judge's order.
The Associated Press reported:
In approving the conservation plan, wildlife managers said the menagerie of plants and animals, some of which can be found only in pine rockland, have a better chance at surviving because the land had become overgrown and choked by invasive plants after the University of Miami, which was given the land by the U.S. government, failed to maintain it before selling it to [Developer Peter Cummings] for $22 million.
In their lawsuit filed Friday morning, environmentalists said the plan failed in a number of ways, starting with surveys of the disappearing species the plan is intended to protect.
The Fish and Wildlife Service also allowed Cummings' environmental consultants to develop their own formula for calculating the amount of damage that might occur. The untested method, the lawsuit said, had not been peer-reviewed and could set a precedent for use on other projects. About 3,000 people submitted comments on the plan, most opposing it.
The environmental groups also warned that the project threatens 20 endangered plants and animals, including the eastern indigo snake, gopher tortoise, Florida brickell-bush and two butterflies, the Bartram's scrub-hairstreak and Florida leafwing.
“This mega-development will wipe out some of South Florida's last ecological gems and diminish quality of life for nearby residents by worsening traffic and sprawl," said Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Losing the Florida bonneted bat, the rare Florida leafwing butterfly or the incredibly striking Miami tiger beetle is a tragedy that can't be undone."
In a Medium post, Miami-based columnist and radio broadcaster Grant Stern described how the construction workers stopped digging the site soon after Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition President Al Sunshine hand-delivered to them a copy of the judge's order.
"Residents have watched in horror and documented the carnage for the last two days [as] bulldozers flattened trees in the developer Ram Realty's rush to rip apart the pine rocklands," Stern wrote.
Florida's pine rocklands once spanned 185,000 acres of Miami-Dade County, but now, not much of the woodland remains due to rampant development.
“Outside of Everglades National Park, pine rocklands habitat in our region is down to only one percent of its former extent—but what little remains still provides habitat for many species now federally listed as endangered or threatened with extinction," said Matthew Schwartz, executive director of South Florida Wildlands Association. “This project and its impact on extremely rare habitat require far more evaluation than they have received so far from the Service."
Lopez said the environmental groups are "elated" by the judge's decision.
"The judge's order has given these plants and animals and the residents of this community an opportunity for their day in court, an opportunity to have justice upheld, and a fighting chance at survival," she told the AP.
The developers plan to fight the judge's decision. A hearing is set for Dec. 20.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.