About the Pine Rocklands
Florida’s pine rocklands are some of the most imperiled lands in the world. They are characterized by limestone rock outcroppings with a low understory of tropical and temperate shrubs, palms, vines, grasses and herbaceous wildflowers — as well as a single species of overstory tree, the slash pine. With very little soil substrate and a dependence on fire, these ecosystems are among the world’s rarest forests, occurring only in South Florida and the Bahamas. They once spanned 185,000 acres of Miami-Dade County, but now — thanks to rampant development — just 2 percent of those lands remain outside Everglades National Park. Florida’s pine rocklands are now regarded as critically imperiled globally, and the plants and animals that rely on them are extremely rare.
The Richmond pine rockland tract, the largest privately owned tract, is slated for development. The University of Miami acquired the tract for free as military surplus land in 1981 and 1997; then, in 2014, the university sold 88 acres of it to a development company called RAM for $22 million. RAM intends to construct a mega-development called “Coral Reef Commons,” which would include a 158,000-square- foot Walmart, an LA Fitness facility, Chick-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants, and about 900 apartments — while setting aside 40 acres as a preserve, which would be difficult to manage with prescribed burns if surrounded by development. The developer is aware that the land is home to several species found few other places on Earth, but it’s moving forward with development plans despite that.
Adjacent property owned by Miami-Dade County, also prime pine rockland, is slated for development. The county has already approved a $13.5 million gift to 20th Century Fox to construct a theme park, ironically named "Miami Wilds."
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What's At Stake
Florida is the second-largest state in the country in terms of Walmart’s presence. The corporate giant operates 335 stores in Florida, 43 of which are in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miami-Dade is home to two of Walmart’s largest-volume stores in the United States at its Doral and Hialeah locations.
Florida already hosts countless theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Discovery Cove, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, to name a few. Each in some way seeks to emulate the natural environment, while in fact sadly destroying it.
Florida is also home to hundreds of endangered and threatened plants and animals, a handful of which only occur in pine rocklands.
It has been confirmed that the endangered Bartram’s scrub hairstreak, Florida bonneted bat, Florida brickell-bush, Deltoid spurge and tiny polygala occur on the property. The endangered Florida leafwing butterfly historically occurred on the property as well and enjoys federally designated critical habitat there. No one knows whether the Carter’s small-flowered flax presently occurs on the property, but the habitat there is suitable to support it.
Another rare insect, the Miami tiger beetle, also calls this land home. The beetle was thought to be extinct, having not been observed for 50 years, but it was rediscovered in 2011. This highly imperiled beetle is regarded as a potential candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.
Florida's largest bats, these unique creatures get their common name from the broad ears that extend over their foreheads like bonnets. They were once thought extinct but now are known to use the pine rocklands for foraging.
About an inch long, the Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly is gray, which helps it blend in with its pine rockland surroundings in South Florida and on Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys. Once abundant throughout South Florida's Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the Bartram's scrub-hairstreak's habitat is now quite limited.
A perennial herb, the Florida brickell-bush (Brickellia mosieri) is found exclusively in South Florida's pine rockland territory. Its biggest foes are commercial and agricultural development that alter its habitat, causing its numbers to dwindle in past decades.
The Carter's small-flowered flax was discovered in the early 20th century in the Miami area, in pine rockland habitat. The primary threats to this species include improper fire management and nonnative species invasion — though the biggest threat of all is destruction of its prime habitat by development, both urban and agricultural.
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