|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
|Date:||October 17, 2006|
Sara Fain, NPCA Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst, 305-546-6689
Federal Agencies Once Again Fail the Public and Our Federal Laws
Conservation Groups Challenge the Corps' and FWS' Decision to Give Developers a Free Pass
Miami, FL—The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Tropical Audubon Society (TAS) today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for violation of federal laws. The conservation groups are charging that the federal agencies granted developers a second extension of a permit originally issued for agricultural use despite the developer’s current efforts to develop the land directly between Everglades and Biscayne National Parks. The plaintiffs hope to stop this “bait and switch” misuse of federal wetlands laws.
“Our previous challenge to the short-term permit extension issued late last year was dismissed because the planned urban development could not have happened prior to the expiration of that extension,” said Robert Hartsell of the Everglades Law Center (ELC). “Yet, it was fully expected that the federal agencies would analyze the impacts of the planned urban development before issuing this second, five-year extension. Instead, they pretended that nothing has changed.”
The permittee, Atlantic Civil, Inc. applied for and received an extension for filling sensitive wetlands outside Miami-Dade’s Urban Development Boundary even after Atlantic Civil, in conjunction with mega-developer Lennar Homes, formally asked the state for permission to build a small city within these coastal Everglades that serve as critical habitat for the endangered Florida panther and other wildlife.
Atlantic Civil’s original fill application for agricultural purposes is belied by its recent actions. In January 2006, Atlantic Civil and Lennar Homes filed an application with the state of Florida for a Development of Regional Impact plan to build 5,500 residences and over 300,000 square feet of commercial space. The lands for this development have been recognized by state and local governments as ecologically sensitive.
“This is not the first blatant disregard for the intent of our federal environmental laws. The Corps and FWS continue to prioritize the interests of developers over the preservation and restoration of our beloved Everglades,” said Sara Fain, NPCA Biscayne Restoration Program Analyst. “This goes beyond disagreements over policy or legal interpretations, it transcends the laws that govern the protection of Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, including the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.”
NPCA, TAS, and ELC condemn the action of the Army Corps of Engineers and FWS for not upholding the public trust, and ensuring that environmental resources are adequately preserved and protected, unimpaired for future generations to enjoy.