Tortoise May Be on Fast Track for Endangered Listing

by Chad Gillis / News-Press.com

(Photo: SARAH COWARD/THE NEWS-PRESS)

(Photo: SARAH COWARD/THE NEWS-PRESS)

The scaly but somehow cute gopher tortoise may be on the fast track for the endangered species list.

The gopher tortoise is one of nearly 150 animal and plant species proposed for the next round of Endangered Species Act additions, which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“The biggest threat is habitat fragmentation, and also degradation,” said Chuck Underwood with the FWS office in Jacksonville. “Gopher tortoises like high, dry, sandy areas. Guess where we like to build? That’s part of the problem.”

Twenty-three new species have been added for FWS consideration: a honey-eating bird found on two islands in the Samoa region of the Pacific Ocean, 18 flowering plants in Hawaii and four species of fern, also found in Hawaii.

Continue reading

Protest Calls Attention to Clearing of the Briger Forest, Despite Police Interference

by Everglades Earth First!

10801517_10152816896280928_3136914036456463746_nOn Friday, December 5, over 50 activists gathered for a rally outside of the Briger Forest in Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens. The group was protesting the Scripps Phase II project, which is currently clearing the 681-acre forest for the construction of a bio-tech city, complete with animal testing labs and shopping malls.

The Briger Forest is a unique mosaic of scrub, flatwoods and wetlands. Florida has more endangered and threatened species than any other continental state, and the habitat found in the Briger Forest is increasingly rare, as so much of Florida’s southeastern corridor has been paved over for development. There are at least 13 species of plants and animals listed for protection likely present in Briger.

Altering the rush hour traffic and neighboring communities to the destruction happening right behind the treeline, Friday’s crowd sang chants, flew flags, swung banners, and displayed signs in solidarity with the wildlife inside. The two-hour protest was completely peaceful, with the exception of one element: the police. Despite the fact that this was a legal gathering of families, students, activists and children engaging in free speech activities, Palm Beach Gardens police—many undercover—surrounded the protest, blocked traffic, followed vehicles, covertly filmed protesters, prohibited participants from accessing public roads, and used loudspeakers to shout their opinions and drown out the chants of the crowd. Continue reading

Demonstrators Call for Saving Gardens’ Briger Forest from Development

About 35 demonstrators, some belonging to the Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, gather peacefully along Donald Ross Road near Central Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens to protest the development of the Briger forest on Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo by Bill Ingram)

About 35 demonstrators, some belonging to the Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, gather peacefully along Donald Ross Road near Central Boulevard in Palm Beach Gardens to protest the development of the Briger forest on Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo by Bill Ingram)

by Julius Whigham II / Palm Beach Post

Holding signs urging others to “Stop The Cutting” and “Protect Our Forest,” dozens gathered Friday afternoon to voice their opposition to construction at a 681-acre forest that is one of the last undeveloped stretches along Interstate 95 in Palm Beach County.

About 35 people gathered at the Briger tract site, at the corner of Donald Ross Road and Central Boulevard, for a protest organized by the activist environmental group Everglades Earth First! The group contends that the Briger tract is home several endangered and threatened species, including the gopher tortoise and the Eastern Indigo snake. The land should be kept wild, protesters said Friday.

“Briger Forest is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall destruction that we’re wreaking on this planet,” said Lake Park resident John Pope. “But it happens to be a destruction that’s happening in our back yards.”

Lake Worth resident Ryan Hartman, a volunteer with Everglades Earth First!, said the group hoped Friday’s protest would raise awareness about the forest, across Donald Ross Road from the Scripps Florida campus.

Palm Beach County assembled the tract several years ago to meet the residential and commercial needs created by Scripps’ arrival, including new biomedical companies or spinoffs the institute attracted. Palm Beach Gardens officials already have approved a Kolter Group plan to build 360 houses and townhomes there, and a development arm of the Florida Crystals sugar company has proposed building 361 luxury apartments and townhomes at the site.

“There’s a lot of endangered species that are living in that forest and there hasn’t been a satisfactory plan about what’s going to happen to them,” Hartman said. “Florida has enough mini-malls and houses and complexes.”

West Palm Beach resident Carmen Enze, 48, and her daughter, Iris, were among those joining the protest.

“I’ve lived in this area my whole life and I’ve seen the over-development and how it’s changed everything,” Enze said said. “This is one of the last wild areas that I can remember that’s been being developed.”

As the group held signs, waved flags and waved as drivers of some passing cars honked their horns, Palm Beach Gardens police officers kept close watch nearby. But the protest was held mostly without incident.

Hartman said that Everglades Earth First! group will hold another protest near the construction site next week, and may hold others later this month.

“The more people that see us and go to our website or come out and join us, then the more people we have sign petitions, go to City Council meetings or to protest,” he said.

Protest to Save the Briger Forest, December 5th and 12th

10801517_10152816896280928_3136914036456463746_n

The last remaining unprotected forest east of I-95 is being illegally cut right now. Activists and concerned citizens from all around will be gathering at 4:30 on Friday, Dec. 5th and 12th, at Donald Ross and Central Ave in Palm Beach Gardens to protest its destruction and help save it from the corporate interests who fail to see its value and beauty.

This 681 acres is currently home to several threatened and endangered species, including the gopher tortoise and snowy egret. It is slated to become home to more strips malls, more residential units and a biotech city complete with animal testing labs.

IF THE BRIGER IS DESTROYED HERE IS WHAT YOU CAN LOOK FORWARD TO IN YOUR BACKYARD:

  • Increased CO2 levels
  • A four-million-square-foot “Biotech City
  • Animal testing labs
  • Biohazardous waste
  • Destruction of threatened and endangered native animal habitat
  • More wasted tax dollars (on top of the $580 million already spent)
  • 500,000 sq. ft. of strip malls, urban sprawl, and 2,700 unnecessary residential units
  • More corruption – 3 of the 7 County Commissioners who voted in favor of Scripps Biotech have gone to federal prison for development-related charges!

DIRECTIONS/PARKING:

From I-95, go east.

Make a left (north) onto Central Blvd.

At the roundabout follow the signs to Main Street. Public parking is plentiful a little ways down.

If you have your car parked by 4:00-4:15, and we will be offering offer shuttles from your car to the protest.

(We do not recommend parking at the Walgreens or on private property. If you need more details, a ride, or aren’t seeing the shuttle please call Tuesday at 561-503-5743.)

TEXT “BRIGER” TO 84576 to find out more.

 

Clearing of Rare South Florida Forest Begins for Development of “Biotech City”

Activists Find Flaws in Permits and Plans for Land Clearing and Relocation of Endangered Plants and Animals

by an Earth First! Newswire office overrun by Everglades Earth First!ers

brigerclearing2

After ten years of opposition to state- and county-backed efforts to construct a biotech hub in Palm Beach County, Florida—where the rare Briger Forest currently stands—developers are now clearing land under suspicious circumstances. Since 2010, opponents of the “Scripps Phase II” project have cited the presence of gopher tortoises, rare native ferns, and other threatened and endangered species as reasons to stop the proposed development of the Briger Forest.

Despite these concerns, The Scripps Research Institute—a California-based biomedical company with a campus across the road from the threatened forest—are moving forward on their plans of expansion. Last week, members of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) and Everglades Earth First! (EEF!) discovered that Ranger Construction Industries had begun clearing a large segment of the southeastern portion of the Briger Forest.

The clearing of forest marks an unofficial groundbreaking for the construction of a proposed biotech city revolving around “Phase II” of the Scripps Florida laboratories. As with much of the planning surrounding Scripps, activists say that it appears plans for this access road were made behind closed doors.

As of November 9, an area approximately half a mile long and over 100 feet wide had been cleared out of the Briger Forest.

Before construction began only weeks ago, the dense forest of pine flatwoods and saw palmetto rarely saw any traffic aside from the occasional horse riders out of the Wandering Trails stable next door. The forest is home to bobcats, armadillos, raccoons, and ground likens, as well as threatened and endangered animal and plant species, including the gopher tortoise, hand fern, royal fern, and native species of bromeliad. It is also suitable habitat for the Eastern indigo snake—an endangered species at serious risk due to habitat loss.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 4.57.07 PM

On November 7, 2014, members of Everglades Earth First! responded to news of the work being done by locking themselves to a disabled van blocking the entrance to the construction zone. The blockade successfully kept out workers and excavation machinery for over four hours, while alerting local residents and the media to the destruction being carried out in the Briger.

The same day, PBCEC members visited Palm Beach Gardens City Hall to request permits for the clearing of the forest, but city staff were unable to locate a land clearing permit for the construction taking place. The following business day, when PBCEC members returned to City Hall, city staff were suddenly able to locate the permits, which—though dated 10/22/2014—seemed to have been hastily filled out the night before. Information missing from the permits included: Project Name, Project Address, APN, Subdivision, and Development. Not to mention that the “Total Square Footage” of the land clearing permit is listed as 0, despite the fact that hundreds of feet of forest have already been cleared.

missing info briger permit

Read the full permit here.

The weekend after the blockade, a clandestine monitoring team surveyed and documented the impacts of work in preparation for ongoing legal challenges to the clearing operations. PBCEC has been engaged in a legal battle over the destruction of the Briger Forest for the past four years, and the group believes the current work is being conducted in violation of state, federal and local laws intended to protect threatened and endangered species.

In past months, activists have used game cameras to document gopher tortoise activity in the Briger Forest. The gopher tortoise is classified by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) as a threatened species. The permit map from EW Consultants, Inc.—a natural resource management, wetland, and environmental permitting services group—lists 75 known gopher tortoise burrows in an area that constitutes approximately 25% of the land slated for construction (Map A). Additionally, PBCEC and EEF! have documented gopher tortoise locations in the area that has already been cleared by Ranger Construction Industries (Map B). Each burrow that is removed is a nail in the coffin of the federally endangered Eastern indigo snakes that are expected to be living on the property. Eastern indigo snakes are known to cohabitate with gopher tortoises, and FWS has documented that they expect there to be six such snakes living on the property. The future of threatened species on the property seems to have been disregarded by Scripps and the city of Palm Beach Gardens, who are moving forward with their plans to build strip malls and biotech labs in this critical and rare habitat—with inadequate and questionable permits backing them up.

 

Map A—EW Consultants, Inc., lists 75 known gopher tortoise burrows in an area that constitutes approximately 25% of the Briger Forest.

Map B: Volunteer surveyors have documented hand fern and gopher tortoise burrow locations in the area of the Briger that was recently cleared for development.

Members of PBCEC and EEF! have also joined together to conduct an extensive study of the resident population of endangered hand ferns in the Briger (Map B). Where the developers’ consultants only located two ferns on the entire site, volunteer surveyors located and documented the presence of over 50 cabbage palms hosting hand fern colonies. This research revealed the Briger to contain one of the largest concentrations of hand ferns in the entire continental United States.

EEF! and PBCEC have been fighting to protect the Briger Forest since 2009. The campaign has included legal challenges, petitions, public outreach, public comments, protests, and civil disobedience—including treesits and last week’s blockade. The groups will continue to challenge the destruction of the Briger Forest, which has only just begun. But time is running out.

Get involved:

– Call Palm Beach Gardens Code Compliance and tell them to stop clearing the forest: (561) 799-4245

– Email Palm Beach Gardens City Officials:

Mayor Bert Premuroso <rpremuroso@pbgfl.com>
Vice Mayor Eric Jablin <ejablin@pbgfl.com>
Council Member Joe Russo <jrusso@pbgfl.com>
Council Member Marcie Tinsley <mtinsley@pbgfl.com>
Council Member David Levy <dlevy@pbgfl.com>
City Manager Ron Ferris <rferris@pbgfl.com>

Join Everglades Earth First! in protest this December

Donate to Everglades Earth First!’s action and legal fund

PROTEST AT SCRIPPS LABS HIGHLIGHTS ANIMAL TESTING, FOREST DESTRUCTION AND AETA

 

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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.

March against the AETA and Expanding Biotech Infrastructure

palmbeachscripps:

Join us in the heat to put the heat on Scripps!!!

Originally posted on :

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…

View original 155 more words

Bobby C. Billie speaks for nature, against projects like Briger

By Tony Doris – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

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.