Looking at Miami’s bustling communities and general overcrowding, it is hard to believe that south Florida was once almost entirely made up of swamplands.
There is under two percent remaining of the 185,000 acres of pine rockland habitat that used to characterize the region, and this lack of regard for the environment is a common theme in south Florida.
Last July, a vast tract of rockland in southwest Miami-Dade was sold by the University of Miami to a developer. Forty of the 88 acres were allotted to remain untouched, but the developer’s plans for the rest include restaurants, apartments, and a Walmart.
However, this development is still being petitioned against, considering the land is home to a variety of endangered organisms.
As of now, the land remains untouched as protestors fight to protect the pine rocklands. The Miami Rocklands Preservation Coalition organized a march in January called Rally for the Rocklands, which hundreds of people participated in.
Recently, federal officials named two butterflies that inhabit the land, the Florida Leafwing and Bartram’s Hairstreak, as endangered. This does not mean that development must cease, but necessary precautions must be taken.
With the naming of a species as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must also allot sums of land as critical habitat, which must be protected for the organism.
As a result of these butterflies being named endangered, the developer is required to attain permits for any development of the land, and potential construction must be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service beforehand.
The transformation of this land would only worsen the problem in Miami of a lack of green space.
Recent movements have developed to correct this issue, such as The Underline, a project that seeks to turn unused land beneath the Metrorail track into a park area, including a bicycle path and walkway.
This project would create a safer space for cyclists and pedestrians and reestablish natural habitats that have been lost, while also generating hundreds of acres of green space. The Underline would stretch from the Dadeland South Station up to Brickell Station.
South Florida’s proximity to natural treasures has not necessarily been appreciated, but it appears that with groups such as the Miami Rocklands Preservation Coalition and projects like The Underline, there are movements to correct past mistakes.