Rare Miami Forest Will Be Destroyed To Make Room For Walmart

The reputation of the Walmart corporation will additionally be destroyed as the company continues devastating natural habitats and sacred Native American sites to build their stores.

Walmart seems to always choose some of the most sensitive areas for construction, over the plenty of other properties for sale.

Miami Herald reported that a developer intends to tear down a rare rainforest in Florida, to be converted into a shopping center that would include a Walmart, an L.A. Fitness and an apartment complex.

The most recent project has been reported to be the work of a private developer, independent of Walmart, but regardless, the case will undoubtedly ruin the corporation’s already notorious reputation.

In 2013, the property was purchased by Peter Cummings, founder of Ram Realty Services, from the University of Miami for $22 million. The University of Miami received the land as a donation from the federal government in the 1980s and 90s.

This company claims that it has made a Habitat Conservation Plan, which plants to set aside about 55 acres inside the development area, and an additional 51 acres outside it, for conservation purposes.

Peter Cummings informed that Ram has collaborated with the Miami-Dade Department of Environmental Resource Management and members of the environmental community to construct it to be able to protect and maintain preserve areas on the property in perpetuity, including the present and future removal of invasive species.

Cummings also noted that the company will meet with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure the group’s concerns over the development are addressed.

Furthermore, Walmart rep Bill Wertz claimed that the company has actively worked for nearly a decade on conservation efforts to protect priority lands across the country. Therefore, they expect that Ram will continue working with the conservation community and regulatory agencies to ensure the nearly 50-acre nature preserve it has set aside protects South Florida wildlife.

However, environmentalists maintain that it is not an honest effort at conversation, as it will additionally fragment the ecosystem.

Activists tried to halt the development of the forest through the courts, but the lawyers of Walmart succeeded to maintain the rights to build on the property and activists lost a years-long fight to save the land.

The judge reportedly dismissed the lawsuit brought by a group of activists in 2017 by two activists, Belen Valladares, and Ross Hancock, who argued that the original 2013 rezoning hearing regarding the development failed to describe the huge commercial scope of the project.

They argued the layman’s description didn’t inform the public that the plans for the site — a 138-acre parcel off Coral Reef Drive — involved a large shopping area, let alone a Walmart, an LA Fitness and 900 apartments.

Kent Harrison Robbins, their attorney, said that the notice was far from adequate, and he wondered if the lack of critical information wasn’t an attempt to mislead the public about the project.

On the other hand, attorneys representing the developer of the project, Ram Realty, maintained that the activists didn’t have a standing on the issue as they resided outside of the areas affected by the project.

After the dismissal of the case, Robbins said his clients were considering an appeal, as they were “concerned that the court has placed too much emphasis on property ownership as a prerequisite to the enforcement of the right of notice to a public hearing.’’

Yet, Cummings said he was “pleased” with the legal outcome, and informed that his company would go on working on the development and added that he will be working to with local authorities to preserve small parts of the land.

The forest is the natural habitat of over 20 different endangered species of plants and animals. The development will destroy about 138 acres of Miami-Dade’s Pine Rockland Forest, which has already been drastically affected by deforestation.

The forest once covered most of the 55-mile-long rock ridge between Miami and Homestead, but today only about 2% survives due to development. The forest is expected to become even smaller after the finalization of this development project.

In December 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and South Florida Wildlands Association sued the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and urged the court to overturn the approval of the project.

According to Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director of the Center for Biological Diversity, this is one of the last places in the region where nature was able to flourish, and this mega-development will have disastrous effects that cannot be undone afterward.

Namely, she claimed that it will eradicate some of South Florida’s last ecological gems and reduce the quality of life for locals by worsening traffic and sprawl. It can also lead to irreversible tragedies like the loss of the Florida bonneted bat, the rare Florida leafwing butterfly, and the incredibly striking Miami tiger beetle.

Nevertheless, that case ended in a confidential settlement and Ram was allowed to start clearing the site last year.

Most of the forest that remains is protected by the Everglades National Park, and it has been attractive for developers since the area was settled, as its high elevation makes it relatively safe from flooding.

However, it has been reported that construction on the site has already begun, and the concrete foundation for the shopping center is already built, and the development is underway.