Earth First! Activists Storm Kolter Group Headquarters and Lockdown

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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.

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Commentary: Scripps on Briger Another Environmental Boondoggle

by Panagioti Tsolkas

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The Palm Beach Post Editorial Board got a few things right in the Dec. 14 editorial about Scripps and Briger: 1. It’s one of the few remnants of pine flatwoods and scrub left along the interstate …” 2. Yes, the risk of “[l]osing it has a group of environmentalists from Everglades Earth First! understandably upset.” 3. Indeed, we’ve “been documenting the tree-felling and road-building with grief and outrage.”

It would have been helpful if The Post went as far as telling its readers what we’ve been finding. First off, the number of gopher tortoises noted in the initial permits for the site was 12. Now that clearing land has begun on Briger, and the developers know that Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition have been collecting data (and using motion-detecting cameras which, I might add, are much more reliable for detecting wildlife than supposed “snake-sniffing dogs”), they have admitted to the presence of 75 tortoises in the area where the current work is anticipated to have an impact.

This new information places the actual number of burrows in Briger at likely over a hundred, with each one providing habitat for literally hundreds of other species — including some of Florida’s most endangered critters. It’s also worth noting that gopher tortoises are on the brink of being uplisted from “Threatened” status to “Endangered,” for the exact reason of developments like this.

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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…

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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.

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.

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