PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL—The Scripps Research Institute, a biomedical company based in La Jolla, CA, with joint operations in Jupiter, FL, was the target of a protest on Saturday, September 6, at 10:00 AM. Everglades Earth First!, a local environmental group, protested the company’s plan to expand their Jupiter campus into the Briger Forest—a 681-acre area in Palm Beach Gardens that is one of the last remaining unprotected forests of its size in the southern region of the state. The protest also called for opposition to the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), a law that labels animal rights and environmental activists as terrorists.
Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition have been fighting to protect the Briger Forest since 2009, and their campaign against Scripps has included legal challenges at the state, county and federal levels; hundreds of signatures in support of protecting the forest; speaking events all over the state; countless rallies; and three treesits in the Briger itself. The group is concerned about the lack of adequate conservation plans for the threatened gopher tortoise and the endangered Eastern indigo snakes in the area, as well as the 11 other state and federally listed animal and plant species for whom the Briger Forest is suitable habitat.
John Waters, an atmospheric scientist and research ecologist who has been tracking global climate change since the 1970s, believes the expansion will have severe impacts on the climate: “Ecosystem destruction of any kind anywhere is and always has been a climate issue. Destruction of the Briger Forest for yet more corporate commercial development in Florida serves no purpose whatsoever other than to make a relative handful of the very rich even richer. There is no sensible reason for anybody else in Florida to stand for it.”
Saturday’s protest was also a part of the National Weekend of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, three days of protests and events educating the public about the AETA and its implications on first amendment rights and the politically-motivated targeting of animal rights and environmental activists by corporations and law enforcement. Scripps’ plans for expansion include the construction of more animal testing laboratories, meaning that any opposition to the plan could fall under the label of terrorism under the AETA. Everglades Earth First! held the protest during this weekend to express their opposition to the law, and to demonstrate solidarity with Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff, two activists currently being charged under the AETA for allegedly freeing animals from fur farms in Illinois. Because the AETA could label them as “terrorists,” the two activists could serve up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Join us in the heat to put the heat on Scripps!!!
On Saturday, September 6, Everglades Earth First! will be gathering to protest the destruction of the Briger Forest and the creation of animal testing laboratories.
This protest is being held during the National Weekend of Action Against the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) [https://www.facebook.com/events/803468656341400], a nationwide weekend of workshops, protests and educational events intended to bring attention to the AETA. The AETA is a piece of corrupt legislation that essentially redefines all action and speech in defense of animals “terrorism.” The AETA threatens the free speech rights of every US citizen, and the ability for activists to create real change in defense of animals and the earth.
The Briger Forest is a 681-acre mix of freshwater marshes, hardwood forest and prairie that’s slated to become a commercial/residential offshoot of the Scripps biomedical research campus. It is home to the gopher tortoise, wood stork, the snowy egret and…
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PALM BEACH GARDENS —
Bobby C. Billie, 69, an independent Seminole, visited Palm Beach Gardens on June 5 to speak against developing the Briger property, a 681-acre forest slated as a commercial and residential offshoot of the Scripps biomedical research campus.
Ruddy cheeks, gray ponytail down his back and heart on his sleeve, he used his allotted three minutes to urge the City Council to scrap the development and save the forest. They voted 5-0 to approve the initial 360 houses and townhomes.
What about the Briger site troubled you?
It’s not only that particular area but all the natural environment is disappearing. We have to acknowledge the creator’s gift to the survival of the future generations. We can’t pass it on as concrete. We’re not going to survive.
I’m trying to make them acknowledge the importance of nature. That’s what our ancestors have been doing from the beginning of creation. Nature is important. Water is important. The air is important. Especially that some of those sacred sites, archaeology, digging up all those things. It’s important to acknowledge that. That’s why I go different places to speak.
After Palm Beach Gardens, you traveled to Naples?
It was a similar situation. It took us all day to wait to speak just for two minutes. But it’s important to us to make them understand what’s important besides dollars.
Troubling that no one seems to listen?
We’ve been dealing with that almost 500 years. So it doesn’t bother us. But we have great concern what’s going to happen, the end of that life. That’s why we never give up our teaching in the right way to people.
Who is ‘we’?
Animals, trees, the winds and rains, the rivers and all of those things. It’s all connected with the gift of life. That’s why, connected with that, we say ‘we’ all the time. A lot of other indigenous people have no voice.
What tribe or clan are you part of?
We’re not enrolled in a recognized tribe. The reason we’re not enrolled is because it doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t make the value of the life we have. What we have is who we are. When we enrolled in government, it changed the value of our way of life. We lose the land, the food, the natural way. It’s not like that anymore. We are who we are.
Where are you from?
We grew up in the woods, the one they call Everglades, the one they call Big Cypress. But now the people give them names, phrases, Big Cypress and Everglades. It didn’t used to be like that. I was born in the swamp, not in a hospital.
Do you have children and do they live your natural way?
I have six kids. They don’t live like me. Technology’s got a hold of them. I feel sad. But we have to try to be the best we can to survive.
Committee will assess future of biotech giant with location in Jupiter
Palm Beach Gardens city leaders greenlighted the bulldozers early this month, cheering on the clearing of Briger Forest, the last major tract of undeveloped land along I-95 in Palm Beach County. Jobs! Progress! Townhomes!
But as night follows day, local environmental activists soon replied with a renewed assault on the developers’ plans, pressing on with a challenge to the South Florida Water Management District’s permits for the project.
Briger Forest, while not virgin, is relatively unspoiled. Straddling I-95 north of Palm Beach Gardens, covering almost 700 acres of land, it is a mix of hardwood forest, freshwater marshes, and prairie, an important locale for migrating birds. In addition to the Eastern Indigo Snake, an endangered species, it is home to the gopher tortoise, wood stork, snowy egret, and hand fern.
The developers’ plans are tied to the local establishment’s Ahab-like quest for the White Whale of bioscience dollars, the idea that public investment in projects like the Scripps Research Institute will ultimately bring a flood of money and jobs to the area. (Meh.) Instead of wildlife, the suits see about 5 million square feet of biotech and office space on part of the Briger Tract, thousands of homes, a 300-room hotel, and assorted retail space.
The petition to the SFWMD, brought by three representatives of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, charges that the district has failed to assure (1) adequate measures to protect the Eastern Indigo Snake and other Briger species and (2) a hazardous waste management plan sufficient to protect residents of the proposed housing, as well as to prevent pollution of the Intracoastal Waterway. The petition charges:
the current permits applied for cannot be approved without the submission of a hazardous waste plan at this part of the application process. The Scripps Research Institute of Florida across from the Briger Tract already tests on dangerous viruses and bacterias, uses radioactive substances, tests on countless mice and flies, and will be testing on dogs, cats, and even primates if Phase II opens its doors. With families within the planned development and families/individuals already living around the development, it is irresponsible to not provide this as public information and require it before approval of your permit.
The SFWMD’s position — as stated in an order of May 20 in which the enviros’ original petition was denied, with leave to amend — is that the petitioners lack standing to challenge the permits and that the objections to the permits have already been adjudicated.
The enviros’ latest filing mirrors charges brought in a notice of violation filed last fall with the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. While neither agency has filed a formal response, FWS spokesman Ken Warren emailed this to New Times:
We’re standing by the decision outlined in our biological opinion issued on this project on March 23, 2011. We have no plans to amend or update that opinion. The bottom line: We don’t believe this individual, specific project jeopardizes the continued existence of the federally listed eastern indigo snake.
Do we really need more housing in Palm Beach County, so much so that Briger Forest must go? In the grandiose imaginations of local and state officials, the Scripps Briger project is part of a global war for economic primacy in which the “So-Flo mega-region” is up against high-tech mega regions in China, India, and Brazil. Briger Forest may simply end up as collateral damage.
Fire Ant — an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting — covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.
On June 9, 2014 the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) filed a Petition for an Administrative Hearing with South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) challenging the construction permit approved on April 9, 2014. After nearly five years of fighting the proposed Scripps Development of the Briger Forest, the Coalition continues move forward in their efforts to save the 682+ acre forest in Palm Beach Gardens. Rachel Kijewski states:
We have attended Palm Beach Gardens commission meetings, filed an initial administrative petition in 2010, held several rallies against the project, done extensive research into the wildlife impacts to the Briger Forest, and filed a letter of intent to sue the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers. We are seeking a denial of permit modifications and refusal of construction/operation activities.
The Briger forest is one of the last remaining sizable tracts of unprotected forested land in the eastern corridor of 1-95 as far south as Miami. It is a mixed public and privately owned site currently used for horse-riding and recreation. In its current state it is an uncommonly large and valuable piece of habitat in the eastern corridor of sprawling south Florida. The proposed project site is critical for various wildlife species including the federally protected eastern indigo snake. Christian Minaya of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition said his group has had longstanding opposition to the development of this tract:
Our vision for the future of the Briger Tract is one of preservation. A vital link to old Florida, a preserved Briger Tract will undoubtedly prove to be a precious resource for the continuation of biological diversity in the area, as well as a great boon for education and recreation for local residents.
Starting on February 14, 2011, Everglades Earth First!, affiliated with the international Earth First! movement, declared intent to maintain an occupation of the Briger Forest to assist in its defense from the Scripps Phase II proposal by staging a six-week tree sit.
The Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resource Management (ERM) had previously recognized Briger as a property worthy of protection and listed it as a priority for acquisition into the County’s Natural Areas program. The County is now partial owner of 70 acres on the property, directly across from the FAU Jupiter Honors College campus. A small portion of this area could be used as a public pedestrian entrance to the forest as an educational area for environmental study of the this endangered species habitat, allowing the partnership with FAU and the County to continue where the Scripps plan is left off. The private land, which may likely be beyond the County’s budget to purchase, could be offered Conservation Easements to ensure its protection in perpetuity. This would also allow the horse stalls on the south end to continue using the existing trails and providing a source of revenue for the landowners.
Suki DeJong of the Sierra Club of Florida, Loxahatchee Group explains what the group is fighting for:
In the future we see the land being acquired through private and public funds, invasive species removed, the ecosystem restored to a natural state, and ultimately the whole area managed and kept for passive recreation. A living laboratory, the Briger Tract holds unfathomable potential as a teaching tool for the community as well as being a treasure trove for diverse science disciplines. We believe it is time that Palm Beach County treasure and preserve its natural resources – not facilitate their destruction.
below is the letter of intent to sue addressed to Fish and Wildlife Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers)
SFWMD Draft aproval notices:
contact person: Rachel Kijewski (707) 902-3262
Where: Palm Beach Gardens City Hall-Council Chambers 10500 N. Military Trail
When: June 5th 7pm
What: Palm Beach Gardens decides on Briger Housing Development!!
Please join us tonight to oppose the first phase in developing the Briger
Forest. Palm Beach Gardens city council will be holding quasi-judicial
hearings regarding the first phases of development which regards the
approval of 360 new dwellings set to be in the heart of the eastern portion
Please come out and show your support to save the forest! We are asking
people not just to come out, but be prepared to speak to the city council.
Public comment on this usually is 2-3 minutes unless special provisions
Come out and say NO to resolution 30!
For ride info or more information contact us at:
Click the link below for more info:
Here is the link to the pic of the site:
This summer, The Bunny Alliance, Resistance Ecology, and the Earth First! Journal present the Fight or Flight Tour, a collaborative nationwide tour with three distinct objectives: 1) to intensify The Bunny Alliance’s campaign against Delta Air Lines and the broader Gateway to Hell campaign to end the transport of animals to labs, 2) to share skills and build connections within the grassroots animal and ecological activist movements, and 3) to promote coalition building and solidarity with a diversity of movements and communities.
To increase the mounting pressure on Delta concerning the airline’s intimate relationship with Air France and the transport of animals to labs, the Fight or Flight Tour will hold protests at Delta airports, cargo offices, laboratories, and the houses of board members and executives. We will bring the campaign home to…
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Palm Beach Gardens, FL-Early this morning Everglades Earth First! activists hung a banner over I-95 reading “Save Briger Forest Now!” to demand that the Briger forest be saved in honor of Judi Bari Day.
Exactly 24 years Ago, Judi Bari, Earth First! Activist famous for defending the California Redwoods was bombed in her car while on tour promoting Redwood Summer, which called for people to occupy the woods to save them from being logged.
“For it is the working people who have their hands on the machinery. And only by stopping the machinery of destruction can we ever hope to stop this madness.” Judi Bari
Today, those in south Florida are faced with a similar threat, but it’s not for logging, its for the profit of development. In Florida, Pine flatwoods are practically a threatened ecosystem. The reason being it is much easier to develop than swamp, being naturally higher in elevation and dryer. Since 2009 the Briger Forest has been the top choice for Scripps Phase II Expansion. 682 acres which is predominately pine flatwoods is slated to be destroyed only to be replaced with a biotech city; where middle and upper class residents could work, live and eat all within it’s confines.
Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition are calling on people to attend the Palm Beach Gardens City Hall meeting June 5th at 7pm to voice their opposition to the destruction of the Briger Forest as they will be deciding on the first phase then.
Since Kolter bought the property under the name Cotleur & Hearing, Inc. in December the project has had a lot of traction and push back. On April 10th South Florida Water Management District released its draft permits approving the project, but Rachel Kijewski and Panagioti Tsolkas from the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition challenged the permit requesting an Administrative hearing. 4 days ago SFWMD updated their permit to reflect the need for a hazardous waste plan, but have ignored their other concerns regarding cumulative impacts, violating the Endangered Species Act regarding the Eastern Indigo snake, not providing sufficient evidence that it is in fact in compliance with the Florida Coastal Management Plan and more.
Everglades Earth First! is the same group that blockaded the construction of the West County Energy Center in 2008, now the 2nd dirtiest CO2 power plant in the state, and has done direct actions since then to highlight the major threats to the Everglades ecosystem. In 2009 EEF!ers occupied the Barley Barber Swamp to highlight the killing of an old growth Bald Cypress swamp surrounded by Martin Power Plant’s many mile cooling Pond. In 2011, many EEF! protesters lived in the Briger Forest, and some sat in trees along I-95 to gain public awareness about the destruction posed for Briger. In 2012 during the Republican National Convention, EEF!ers blockaded the entrance to the TECO coal fire power plant the dirtiest power plant in the state according to a report called America’s Dirtiest Power Plants released in September 2013 (ranking adjusted due to Crystal River plant being offline). Now two EEF!ers await trial for blockading the entrance to the headquarters of Florida Power and Light, who is poised to build one of the largest fossil fuel power plant in the country right next to the Seminole Big Cypress reservation.
“We are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of corporate greed, non-profit compromise and government misconduct. If those of us that live here don’t take eco-defense into our own hands, there won’t be anything left and when there is nothing left to defend there will be no way that people can survive here. Judi Bari knew that 30 years ago when she knew how vital the redwoods were to her survival and because of her, I know that now as well.” Rachel Kijewski
Everglades Earth First! is not the only group in opposition to the project, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, the Loxahatchee Sierra Club, Palm Beach Green Party and South Florida Wildlands have also been working to fight it through litigation and public awareness campaigns.
firstname.lastname@example.org for further information or to get involved.