West Palm Beach, FL—Two activists with Everglades Earth First! have just locked their necks together with bicycle u-locks inside the 701 S. Olive Avenue offices of Kolter Group’s “Kolter Urban” division after more than twenty people stormed the building with signs, banners, air-horns and other noisemakers, demanding that the permits for Kolter’s development of the Briger Forest be revoked.
The group opposes Kolter’s plans to build 360 houses and townhomes in the Briger Forest, a 681-acre tract of land that runs along Donald Ross Blvd. and I-95. The protestors claim that the developers are working off deeply flawed permits and have cleared a massive access road which was never approved by South Florida Water Management District. They are also concerned about the recent relocation of the area’s gopher tortoises and the destruction of the tortoise’s burrows, which provide habitat for several other species, including the endangered Eastern indigo snake.
“There’s so little of the wild left in this area, it just doesn’t make sense for them to be cutting this,” says Juan Chévere, one of the two currently locked down. “We don’t need more development, more urban sprawl. For what? So Kolter can make a buck and Scripps can build animal testing labs? No thanks. The forest is surrounded by schools, it should be treated as an educational resource.”
Everglades Earth First! has been fighting the development of the Briger Forest since it was first proposed over ten years ago. In November, two members of Everglades Earth First! locked themselves to a disabled van to prevent entrance to the construction site. In 2011, there was a six-week-long treesit inside the forest. Concerned parties have also been holding bi-weekly protests at the corner of Donald Ross and Central Blvd., often marching down to the area being cleared.