Florida Wal-Mart To Be Built in Endangered Species Habitat

Jul 14, 2014 11:47 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

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A new Wal-Mart location in South Florida is causing consternation among environmentalists since it will be built on land that holds endangered species.

The University of Miami recently sold around 88 acres of land to a developer that plans to build a 158,000-square-foot Wal-Mart store, an LA Fitness Center, two restaurants and around 900 apartments, the reported.

Besides Everglades National Park, only around 2,900 acres of rockland remain untouched, about 2 percent of Florida's original savanna. The park comprises around 19,000 acres.

Part of the development deal involves setting aside 40 acres of the parcel for a preserve. Florida rockland is a habitat for several endangered species, including the bald eagle and indigo snake; the Florida bonneted bat, which received federal protection last year; and two rare butterflies that should soon be categorized as protected.

But despite the 40-acre preserve, environmentalists and biologists believe that local species are getting the short end of the stick.

"You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM," said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, as quoted by the Miami Herald.

If rockland is to be developed, at least 80 percent of the property must be maintained as a preserve, according to a 1984 ordinance.

"I agree more could have been preserved. But what they preserved complied with the code," said county biologist John Tim Joyner. He was the only biologist working in the forest division when the university suggested developing an "academic village" of shops and housing in 2003.

"And that was a big selling point. [UM was] not managing the land, and we had no way to get them to manage the land," Joyner said of the deal.

Coral Reef Commons, the development plan that includes Wal-Mart as well as a Chick-fil-A and a Chili's, was first proposed in 2011.

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