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.
email@example.com for further information or to get involved.
On April 9th 2014, South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) released it’s draft Permit approval for the modifications to the Florida Scripps Phase II/Briger project’s Environmental Resource Permit. THIS IS GO TIME. This is the moment, THE PERMIT we have anticipating for years. Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition is calling on all of the people who live within the vicinity of the Briger Tract to contact us immediately if you want to join us in our petition for administrative hearing challenging the approval of this permit. Below is the initial submission to the SFWMD.
REQUEST FOR ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING
To: South Florida Water Management District
Northern Palm Beach County Improvement District
359 Hiatt Drive
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Juanita Addie, Deputy Clerk
Christine Madsen Regulatory Specialist 3 Regulation Division (MSC 9610)
Phone: (561) 682-6696(561) 682-6696 EMail:firstname.lastname@example.orgFrom: Rachel Kijewski Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
To the concerned parties in the South Florida Water Management District,
I am writing to request a petition for administrative hearing regarding the above mentioned permits and applications. I received notice on April 10th that your agency was recommending approval of the permits mentioned above. You have failed to address the concerns brought up in the prior administrative hearing from Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition; have failed to provide documentation proving there will be no significant impact to water quality and refused to look at this on a cumulative impacts perspective which is irresponsible for the fate of the everglades bio-region. On behalf of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, I am requesting you revoke the permit, and move towards preservation measures of the whole 681.54 to move towards true Everglades restoration practices.
PBCEC has fought this issue for five years. We filed an initial administrative petition on June 3, 2010 (attached). This petition was filed by several members of the PBCEC. We have attended Palm Beach Gardens Commission meetings and made recommendations against the project moving forward. We have held several rallies near the site to voice our disapproval of the destruction of the Briger Forest. We held a rally in downtown WPB in May of 2013, in front of Kolter Industries. PBCEC has done extensive research into the wildlife impacts to the Briger Forest… please see our “Impact to Listed Species” (attached). We also filed a letter of intent to sue against the Fish and Wildlife and the Army Corps of Engineers, with the law firm of Myer Glitzenstein and Crystal on September 18th, 2013. Our interest has been demonstrated through the years of opposition to this project.
Still No Hazardous Waste Management Plan
Regarding the prior administrative hearing, you made adjustments to the previous permit ensuring a hazardous waste management plan must be provided in order to approve the permit. There is no such plan attached to the permit. 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. Furthermore, this sort of testing should rather be a cause to deny the permit, as accidents and improper handling of this hazardous waste is inevitable and will impact water/land/life quality. Enclosed is the document with the modifications requiring the hazardous waste plan to be a part of the application and below is the quote from the document on page 4 of the Special Conditions:
Special Condition # 31.
At the time of application for construction the permittee shall submit a Hazardous Waste Management Plan. In addition, the permittee shall obtain any necessary permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for treating, storing or disposing of hazardous waste.
~Signed and dated by Anita Bain and Anthony M. Waterhouse, P.E. On May 4th 2010.
Also who will be monitoring Scripps as to what chemicals or radioactive substances they use and where they are disposed of? Since it is not mentioned it is unclear which agency is responsible.
Suki deJong received 2 phone calls from a man named Scott who was an employee of Scripps Biotech at the time (about 3 years ago). The following is a statement from Suki:
“This man knew that the PBCEC was fighting the construction of Scripps and wanted to give some information that he thought would be helpful. He said that they were a pretty unscrupulous employer. During that first phone call, we were interrupted by someone coming into his office and he had to hang up. Continue reading
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.
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 email@example.com 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.
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.