Scripps Project at Briger Forest: Enviros File Second Legal Challenge

Reposted from the Fire Ant

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.

See also: Scripps Florida Expansion Faces New Legal Roadblock, Environmental Challenge

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.

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PBCEC Challenges SFWMD’s Approval of a Construction Permit for Development in Briger Forest

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.

SFWMD amended request for administrative hearing 6-9-14

below is the letter of intent to sue addressed to Fish and Wildlife Protection and the Army Corp of Engineers) 

9.18.13 Scripps Briger Notice Letter

Exhibit A – March 23, 2011 BiOp 

Exhibit B – January 19, 2010 Email

Exhibit C – February 8, 2010 Email

Exhibit D – February 15, 2011 Draft BiOp

SFWMD Draft aproval notices:

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contact person: Rachel Kijewski (707) 902-3262

TONIGHT! Palm Beach Gardens decides on Briger Housing Development!!

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
of Briger.

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
allow.

Come out and say NO to resolution 30!

For ride info or more information contact us at:
(707) 902-3262
or pbcecoalition@gmail.com

Click the link below for more info:
https://egov.pbgfl.com/weblink8/ElectronicFile.aspx?dbid=4&docid=1218054&openpdf=%E2%80%9Dtrue%E2%80%9D

Here is the link to the pic of the site:
http://pbgfl.com/filestorage/74/118/2180/Town_Center_Location_Map.pdf

Announcing: Fight or Flight Tour

Everglades Earth First!

Please make time to attend this tour coming to  Florida July 22nd~24th. Reposted from  fightorflighttour.org 

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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