Mine Expansion in PB could Kill rare Snakes

The expansion of a rock mine in southwestern Palm Beach County could kill up to a dozen federally protected eastern indigo snakes, the longest native snake in North America, according to a wildlife agency report.

The Star Ranch is seeking permission from the Army Corps of Engineers to expand its limestone mine by 1.4 square miles to produce construction materials for roads, Everglades restoration and other projects. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the work could “crush indigo snakes, their nests and eggs,” killing up to 12 of the 23 that may live there.

None of the snakes, which can reach a length of up to eight and a half feet, have been seen on the property, the wildlife service said. But the service said the site is the type of land they use, they have been seen around it and they’re difficult to find because they live primarily underground.

Noel Shapiro, a sugar cane farmer who owns the property, could not be reached for comment, despite a phone call to his office. Broward contractor Ron Bergeron, whose company has long had an agreement to mine the land, said he hadn’t seen the report. He noted the service admits not finding any snakes on the site.

“They’re just making an assumption that there’s 23, but nobody’s seen one,” said Bergeron, who is one of seven volunteer commissioners who run the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Bergeron said 90 percent of the mine’s materials will go toward public road-building and Everglades restoration projects – the reservoirs, levees and other structures that will conserve and clean water for the Everglades. Without a nearby mine, he said, the rock would have to be brought at much higher cost from western Miami-Dade County.

Indigo snakes, which have the rich black color of a grand piano, live in parts of Georgia and Florida, mostly from Central Florida down through the Keys. Non-venomous – and popular for that reason for wildlife shows – the snakes eat fish, snakes, frogs, young gopher tortoises, small mammals and small alligators.
Protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the snakes have declined mainly from loss of habitat to development, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. Other causes include capture for the pet trade and rattlesnake roundups, in which participants spray gasoline into gopher tortoise burrows, where indigo snakes and other animals live, to flush out rattlesnakes.

Environmentalists have long opposed the expansion of mining in western Palm Beach County, saying it ruins the landscape and leaves behind deep holes that drain water that should flow through the Everglades.

Drew Martin, conservation chair of the Sierra Club Loxahatchee Group, said other projects, such as the proposed development of the Briger tract in northern Palm Beach County, would kill indigo snakes.

“We have the snakes being threatened in a lot of places,” he said. “The more we reduce the number of indigo snakes, the more we run the risk that the snake could become extinct.”

The opinion letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not say the work should not go forward. Although it said the work would “adversely affect” the species, the letter said the mine would not “jeopardize” its existence, the trigger that could hold up a project. The letter said the mining work would have to comply with standard procedures published by the wildlife service for avoiding harm to indigo snakes.

dfleshler@tribune.com, 954-356-4535

For the Love of the Everlgades! Benefit for EF! Winter OC and Rondy

For the Love of the Everlgades! Benefit for EF! Winter OC and Rondy

Join us for another Full-Moon cafe benefit to help raise money for the Earth First! Winter Organizer’s Conference and Rendezvous happening Feb 19th-24th in Fisheating Creek, FL. At the Full Moon Cafe we will be serving dinner from 6-9PM, have open mic night for music and performances and also have a special date auction! Contact evergladesearthfirst@riseup.net for more info.

When: Friday Feb 14th
What time: Doors open at 5. Food served from 6-9PM. Sign up for performances till 7pm.
Where: 701 S. F St., Lake Worth, FL.

South FL Enviro-groups File Federal Challenge Over the Scripps/Briger Phase II Project

To help with the lawsuit, please  DONATE 

In the ongoing fight to save the Briger Forest, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC), The South Florida Wildlands Association, The Sierra Club of Florida led by its Loxahatchee Group, and the Palm Beach County Green Party have submitted a letter today notifying the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with the consultation process that the two agencies engaged in over the Scripps Briger Development of Regional Impact (DRI) Project in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The letter has been submitted by William S. Eubanks II of the Washington, D.C. public interest environmental law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal.

As one of the last remaining sizable tracts of contiguous forested land in Palm Beach County, the project site is critical for various wildlife species including the federally protected eastern indigo snake.  With major highways and heavy development on all sides, the site plays a key role in providing habitat for numerous species which, simply put, have nowhere else to go.

However, in their Biological Opinion written for the project, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to account for the parcel’s value as habitat or refuge for wildlife.  In authorizing construction and operation of a massive facility that will eliminate habitat for snakes and other wildlife on the parcel – leading to the eventual elimination of all remaining eastern indigo snakes, a federally listed threatened species, from the property – alternative ways of conserving the project site were not even considered.  Indeed, by failing to minimize deaths and injuries of eastern indigo snakes at all – let alone analyzing various ways that the agency could have minimized such deaths and injuries – the Service has failed to comply with its duties under the Endangered Species Act.

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.”

Suki DeJong of the Palm Beach County Green Party echoed those remarks. “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.”

“As growth continues unabated in south Florida, the habitat available for wildlife shrinks at a steady rate”, said Matthew Schwartz of the South Florida Wildlands Association.  “This puts our biodiversity at extreme risk.  For many species, rigorous enforcement of the Endangered Species Act is the only lifeline they have.  The Fish and Wildlife Service had many options here – including requiring changes to the development plan.  It’s unfortunate that they gave a green light to complete destruction of habitat in this locale.”

If you want to support this fight, please donate now.

Full text of the notice letter.

Exibits ABCD.

Scripps should not make money on county-owned land, PBC commissioner says

Cross posted from Post on Politics

by Jennifer Sorentrue | August 27th, 2013

The Scripps Research Institute should not be allowed to make money on land it leases from Palm Beach County without approval from the county’s seven-member commission, Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said Tuesday.

The Palm Beach Post reported in April that Scripps Florida could collect as much as $170 million by subleasing the county-owned site to Tenet Healthcare, which has proposed an 80-bed research hospital on the property.

Scripps pays Palm Beach County $1 a year to lease vacant land at the southeast corner of Interstate 95 and Donald Ross Road in Palm Beach Gardens.

During a presentation on Scripps’ 2012 annual report on Tuesday, Taylor said that taxpayers footed the bill to purchase the property. The commission should have a say before Scripps is allowed to make money off the land, she said.

“We own land,” Taylor said. “Our taxpayers are paying for this land. Scripps is a business. We have taxpayers who are paying their dollars. How do we let them realize an income from land which the taxpayers have paid for?”

County administrators said the lease agreement with Scripps, which was approved before Taylor was elected to the commission, allows the biotech giant to sublease the property for biotech uses.

“The ground lease envisioned that Scripps would enter into third-party collaborations,” Assistant County Administrator Shannon LaRocque said. “They are allowed to sub lease that property if it fits into a confined use.”

In June, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration denied Scripps and Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s bid to build the hospital.

LaRocque said the sublease agreement was never drafted, but would have been placed on the commission’s agenda and discussed at a public meeting.

Direct Action Training this Saturday!

Direct Action Training Flyer 2013 EEF! Some of the things we will review:

  • What is direct action and what you need to pull off your own.

  • Overview about occupations-blockades-lockdowns-treesits etc.

  • Practicing useful tactics in direct action scenarios

  • Your rights in various scenarios presented by the National Lawyers Guild

  • Consensus decision making

  • Puppet show on security culture by the Autonomous Playhouse

Please RSVP at evergladesearthfirst@gmail.com

 

Major Setback for Those Hoping to Develop Briger Forest!

A major component of the Scripps biotech plan, the research hospital backed by Tenet Healthcare, may not be feasible after a recent ruling by a Florida State Judge.

In an article released yesterday from the Palm Beach Post, Staff Writer Stacy Singer reported that State Administrative Judge James H. Peterson, III strongly recommended the denial of the hospital’s application with Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA) based on legal grounds. The Document in question is the Certificate of Need (CON) which is intended to justify that the new hospital is needed. Based on the judge’s decision, the construction of the new hospital is not necessary.

The appeal against the CON of the Tenet hospital was filed by Jupiter Medical Center and West Palm Hospital who made claims that they would suffer severe economic loss with the construction of this new facility. As justification for the appeal, Jupiter Medical Center claimed to expect over $11 million in losses in the first year if the new hospital were built. The two hospitals in opposition to the project are within a few miles of the proposed Tenet hospital, and they can’t even keep hospital beds full. In fact, South Florida Business Journal reported that only 54% percent of the beds are occupied and about 657 beds are empty every day. Furthermore, Tenet, one of the largest for profit hospital organizations in the country, already owns 60% of the hospitals in the northern Palm Beach County area and the addition of this new hospital would essentially provide them a monopoly over Palm Beach County’s healthcare prices. It was the judge’s opinion that this would likely increase insurance rates for customers in the area.

The judge also claimed that the Tenet hospital offered little to Scripps in its research and clinical trials beyond what other hospitals could provide. The CON claimed one of the hospital’s primary functions would be to facilitate research from the Scripps lab being used in clinical trials. However, the Tenet hospital had prepared to have only one staff position dedicated to this task. According to the judges report, this was not the only claim made by Tenet Healthcare that was highly inflated. Although it was stated in the CON that this facility would become a world class medical research facility, the judge found that there was no evidence of this being the case. It is for these reasons that the judge issued the order that essentially denies the construction of the hospital.

Florida’s Health Care Administration has 45 days from issuance of the recommendation to come to a decision on whether they will challenge the judge’s official order. Though there is precedent for such action, it is unlikely. Especially since FAHCA’s Secretary Liz Dudek didn’t officially recommend the project’s approval the first time around. Normally when a project is proposed it is recommended for approval or denial, but this one wasn’t. In Dudek’s own written words:

“There is no need for an additional small community hospital that offers basic services.”

Tenet, Scripps, and the PBG government will likely have to appeal the judge’s ruling in a Florida State Court of Appeals if they hope to see this decision overturned.

So, what does this mean for the Scripps Phase II project? Scripps wanted Tenet bad. A previous PBP article reported that the land that Tenet would be building on is owned by the county, but Scripps leases it from the county for $1 a year. A letter of Intent signed in 2011 between Tenet and Scripps would have Tenet lease the land from Scripps for $5 million dollars a year, profiting big off the benevolence of the county. Over the course of a 34 year lease, Scripps would have profited nearly $170 million from the proposed hospital. Scripps would also have had Tenet employees count towards their employee total, which is important for Scripps when demonstrating their job creation ability.  With the $310 million state grant for the Scripps Phase II/Briger project expiring this year, Scripps is likely to run into financial difficulties and the loss of revenue from this hospital could be disastrous for them. The CEO of Scripps, Michael Marletta, is quite disappointed in the decision, but says they will still try to get a hospital built on the county property.

Even Shannon Laroque, the Assistant County Administrator and Scripps Program Manager, is pretty upset about this. She pushed hard for this hospital to get approved and found it an integral part of Scripps Phase II. In a 2011 article she made it clear by saying,

“Every other successful biotech/biomedical industry cluster is ‘anchored’ with large non-profit research facilities, a major university, and a teaching/research hospital. We cannot realize a return on the very large investment made by the Board of County Commissioners and the State of Florida without it.”

Additionally, The Kolter Group, the development firm looking to buy the portions of the Briger Forest not zoned for biotech, may not be as interested in becoming involved in light of the project’s recent difficulties.

As upset as all these profiteers are, we in the fight to protect the Briger are thrilled! Councilman David Levy said this decision could set back development of the Briger property two or three years. If we have anything to say about it, those few years will turn into the permanent preservation of the land. We’re still here to make sure they never break ground on this project. Keep it wild!

Voice your opinion. Tell Secretary Liz Dudek to respect the judicial order of Judge James H. Peterson, III and deny the Certificate of Need for the Tenet Healthcare Hospital by contacting her Chief of Staff:

Jenn Ungru, Chief of Staff- FAHCA
(850) 412-3606

Reference CON Application No. 10130

Extra sources:

The Sun Sentinel, Jupiter Medical Center, HCA Oppose Tenet/Scripps Medical Hospital

Palm Beach Post Blog, http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/npbc/2013/05/03/gardens-council-react-to-tenet-hospital-rejection/

Sunshin State News, http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/scripps-jupiter-facility-falling-short-job-creation, Rockwell, L.

JMC Tenet Judge Order

Full Moon Performance Night and Monkey Wrench Cafe to Benefit EEF! for the Briger Forest!

 EEF MWC April 2013 (click on the flier for a larger version)

When: Thursday April 25th from 5 – 11 pm

                                           Where: South 7th and F Street, Lake Worth

 Why: A benefit for Everglades Earth First!

Join us for April’s Full Moon Performance night and Monkey Wrench Cafe!

The night will begin with a delicious dinner and drinks being served starting at 5 pm and running until 9 pm or till we run out of food. At 7 pm we will move into the Full Moon Performances and as the full moon rises in the sky we will reclaim the true spirit of a traditional Monkey Wrench Cafe by sharing inspiring stories of direct action around a camp fire.

  This event will benefit Everglades Earth First – your local no compromise environmental group that is working to defend the Briger Forest in Palm Beach Gardens from being “developed” into a biotech facility with accompanying suburban sprawl. EFF! is determined not to let this happen to the largest undeveloped tract of land from Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade and east of I-95.

 The cafe menu will include vegan lasagna, Matt’s famous quinoa dish, vegan cheesecake, and more + Earth First! themed drinks! (Want to make a dish for the event? Contact us!)

Meals: – $5 – $10
Drinks: $1 – $5 suggested donation
Performances of all kinds are welcome!

Home Demo against Primate Products’ John Resuta gets under his skin!

On Sunday, April 14th, folks from Everglades Earth First! joined South FL Smash Huntington Life Sciences’ (Smash HLS) demonstration outside of John Resuta’s empty suburban home. John is the Operations Manager at Primate Products in the Live Animal Division located in Doral. As a higher up who profits off of the selling of primates, he is not well liked. The protest, scheduled from 6-8, ended as it usually would…with a chant: You don’t know when, but we’ll be back!

And back they were, sooner than expected. After the cops had loong gone, John and Joan his wife, thought they could sneek home without notice. Coming from the far end of the street, John and Joan’s car’s were greeted with chants, frustration, anger and questions. “How can you sleep at night?!”, one of them demanded to know. He was accused of nothing less than the cruelty of transporting primates to a future of long torture and ultimate death.
 
What is the connection between Scripps Research Institute and Primate Products?
Primate Products is a distributor of Primates based in South Florida. According to the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Scripps is the largest private research Institution in the U.S., and in Florida is one of the largest animal research facilities in the state. In their facility in Lajolla, CA they test on primates, and have a record of mistreatment including forced drug abuse and malnourishment. Visit ARFF to read more.
 
As far as we know, the Scripps Phase I facility is not set up to test on primates, but they have full intention of doing vivisection on primates if Phase II opens up in the Briger Forest. And Primate Products will be their closest primate distributor. Animals, should not be vivisected, tortured for the use of scientific experimentation that almost always end in their death, and the science behind it does not equate to human studies anyways. Scripps: Drop the vivisection! And Primate Products; may you go out of business.

Activists crank up the pressure on Kolter!

Cross posted from the Earth First Newswire    EEF! celebrates the Spring Equinox in the streets!EEF! celebrates the Spring Equinox in the streets!

by Panagioti, EF! Journal

Last month, Everglades Earth First! (EEF!) announced that it would be putting land developer Kolter in the cross-hairs of its campaign against Scripps Biotech and the destruction of Briger forest in northern Palm Beach County. Yesterday, they followed up with a bold office demo and theatrical hell-raising. [Check out the local news coverage here.]

Even the devil came out to shame Kolter

Even the devil came out to shame Kolter

EEF! was joined by members of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and Smash HLS, a South Florida-based anti-vivisection group. The demonstration, which included a menacing presence at the windows of Kolter employees, also entered the offices of Kolter and Kast (Kolter’s associated construction company) as well as their neighboring business, to let them know what is at stake if the Briger forest is lost.

A Kolter bulldozer aims for a young gopher tortoise

A Kolter bulldozer aims for a young gopher tortoise

Though Palm Beach County politicians have declared the Scripps plan a done deal, Kolter has not yet closed on the deal to develop Briger. Likewise the South Florida Water Management District has not approved the needed Construction and Operation Permit (which requires presenting plans for protecting listed species such as hands ferns and gopher tortoises, as well as a hazardous waste management plan). The Scripps-Briger “Phase II” plan was slated to have begun construction years ago.

This costume came back out to the streets after having been created in the fight against Scripps back in 2005

This condo costume came back out to the streets after having been created in the fight against Scripps back in 2005

This campaign against Kolter is only the latest stage of an anti-Scripps effort going on nearly nine years of organized opposition, when Jeb Bush first tried to ram through a scheme of biotech venture capitalism in Florida (funded by near $1 billion in corporate welfare hand-outs.)

Scripps Biotech was defeated in 2006 by a combination of protest and environmental lawsuits, after all the permits were approved and the developers (which at the time was Catalfumo famed domestic abuser and financial failure) had already poured concrete at Mecca Farms.

Joanne Davis of 1000 Friends on her trip with the New Times journalist who exposed Jeb's Scripps plan.

Joanne Davis of 1000 Friends on her trip with the New Times journalist who exposed Jeb’s original Scripps plan.

Over the next five years, a majority of the PBC County Commissioners who approved Scripps (four out of seven) were forced out of office for exposed corruption, with three of ‘em being sent to prison after pleading guilty to “Honest Services Fraud.”  This County even landed itself a headline in Time magazine

From the perspective of having personally been there most every step of the way, I guess I would say “done deal” my fucking ass.

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If you value these stories from the frontlines of ecological resistance, help keep us around by subscribing or donating to the Earth First! Journal.

Kids get revenge for the tortoise friend

Kids get revenge for the tortoise friend.

Join Activists to March on Kolter Group Co. HQ

Tell Kolter to Drop the purchase of the Briger Forest!

Come out tomorrow ready to hoot, holler and have a good time at the expense of Kolter’s comfort! Rally at 3:30PM at 701 S. Olive St., West Palm Beach, FL. For more info, contact evergladesearthfirst@gmail.com

Various groups released a press release declaring their commitment to descend upon the HQ of Kolter Group Co. tomorrow. Press are already covering the event, below are excerpts of their press release:

From Everglades Earth First! “Are these developers actually insane, or just heartless? Will they not stop their crusade of pillage and plunder until every last patch of land is covered by concrete and strip malls– until the value of every single thing is measured by how much money it can stuff into the pockets of the already too rich? We can’t help but think what Palm Beach County used to look like before concrete was laid in the name of “progress”– before these developers got their greedy hands on this once beautiful place. When will it stop? How far will we allow this to go?”

From the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition:

Sara Henry from PBCEC says: “If preserved, restored, and made accessible tothe public, the Briger Forest has the potential to become a community resource of limitless value. I want Kolter to walk away from this deal. It’s not much to ask. The Briger Forest is an extremely unique cultural resource now that development has made this forest the last surviving ecosystem of its kind in Florida’s Eastern Corridor.”

 

Below is a post from the Fire Ant highlighting tomorrow’s protest against Kolter Group Co.

Earth First! Activists With Puppets and Costumes Marching on Kolter Group to Protect Briger Forest

Spring this year begins with a multifront burst of activity by local lefties — on the environment, on GE foods labeling, and against the moral corruption of academia by the GEO Group private prison corporation.
See also
 

The environment is the focus of a West Palm Beach protest tomorrow, the second day of spring, courtesy of activists from the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and Everglades Earth First! They’re concerned for the fate of Briger Forest, at 700 acres the largest bloc of undeveloped land in north-central Palm Beach County and one of the region’s last remaining stands of coastal pine flatwoods.

Arbor Day Protest-1.jpg

Briger has been in the sights of developers and the county’s business establishment ever since Jeb Bush birthed the idea of bioscience as the Holy Grail of local economic growth. Jeb’s brainstorm fizzled out. There’s still money to be made on the hustle, though, and now the Kolter Group is looking to cash in, with a scheme including housing, office space, and… more bioscience!

Advocating, among other things, a full environmental impact review of the proposed development, the protestors will assemble at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the Hibiscus Parking Garage by CityPlace. Garbed for street theater — face paint, costumes, puppets — they plan to march on Kolter’s WPB offices and “throw down for Briger.” [Info here and at (520) 250-0153.]
In other activism news…
Regarding genetically engineered foods, a “virtual lobby” campaign in support of legislation mandating its labeling runs through March 23. The legislation has been introduced in the Florida Senate by Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach). A companion bill in the House is co-sponsored by Mark Pafford (D-WPB).
Organized by groups including Food and Water Watch, the campaign is targeting local state representatives like Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton) and Patrick Rooney (R-Palm Beach Gardens), who sit on the Florida House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. [Info here and here.]
Resistance to FAU’s sale of naming rights to the school’s football stadium to global private gulag operator GEO Group centers this week on the school’s faculty senate, which meets Friday at 2 p.m. on the school’s Boca Raton campus to consider a resolution expressing opposition to the deal. Here’s how it reads:
Whereas, faculty are concerned about the GEO Group’s management of its institutions in the U.S. and abroad; and

 Whereas, faculty oppose important administrative decisions being made without participation or input from faculty, staff, or other FAU stakeholders; and

Whereas, the GEO Group’s business practices do not align with the missions of the university; and

Whereas, faculty think that the stadium naming has hurt the reputation of the university;

Be it resolved, that the faculty oppose naming the FAU football stadium the GEO Group Stadium.

Tepid as it is — and notable for its absence of any proposed response should the school stand by its complicity with the notorious human rights abuser — the resolution represents one small step for academic integrity.

Failure to pass the measure would expose the faculty as mere careerists and moral cretins. The French call it la trahison des clercs. Faculty, one hopes, know what it means. You can look it up.

Fire Ant — an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal bite — covers Palm Beach County. Got feedback or a tip? Contact Fire.Ant@BrowardPalmBeach.com.