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Front Page » Top Stories » Miami tiger beetle claws into Miami Wilds theme park plan

Miami tiger beetle claws into Miami Wilds theme park plan

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Written by on March 29, 2016

Miami tiger beetle claws into Miami Wilds theme park plan

Miami Wilds LLC, approved for a $13.5 million county Economic Development Fund grant, has modified its plans for a theme park in the ZooMiami area should the Miami tiger beetle be listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this month its proposal to list the beetle as endangered after review of the best information possible. Thought to be extinct for over three decades, biologists found the beetle living in pine rockland in 2007 close to land where the proposed theme park was planned. Other populations of the beetle were subsequently found in the vicinity.

Paul Lambert, a member of Miami Wilds LLC, said this week the project has already been impacted just by the proposal to list the beetle as endangered.

Last summer, project partners began evaluating a phased approach – in two parts – to accommodate upcoming environmental surveying on federally-owned land where the Coast Guard has facilities. Development was originally planned there as well as on county-owned Zoo Miami land in South Miami-Dade.

In July 2015, Mr. Lambert said Phase I development, all taking place within existing county property, could include a water park, limited lodging and some retail.

Phase II, he said, could later include development on the adjacent Coast Guard land that would include the theme park and significant retail.

On Monday, Mr. Lambert said the federal review will eventually provide specific boundaries for the beetle’s habitat but the Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t yet know what they are.

“We can’t move forward unless we know the habitat of the beetle,” he said. “Both the government-owned Coast Guard land and ZooMiami property have pine rocklands, so we’ve already implemented two levels of modification.”

Miami Wilds LLC’s footprint has been shrunk to stay away from any forested area, Mr. Lambert said. “As a stand-along project, it’s still viable as long as Phase I doesn’t fall within the boundary of the endangered species, so for the portion on county-owned land, we’ll only build on zoo property that’s paved or mowed.”

At this time, he said, Miami Wilds LLC recognizes that the Coast Guard portion will take more time to come to fruition for a number of reasons, including the potential for the endangered beetle found immediately adjacent to the land.

Therefore, Mr. Lambert said, plans for Phase II are on hold and the project is focusing primarily on Phase I.

County staff and Miami Wilds LLC are currently negotiating a lease for the county-owned land before going to the county commission for final review and approval.

Mr. Lambert said the entire project was to bring 2,700 to 2,800 jobs for the two properties combined.

Phase I, to be built on the county-owned land, was to bring 403 of those jobs. Mr. Lambert said that number has not changed.

“We are close to an agreement with the county for leasing land,” he said. “From our perspective, but for the beetle issue we would be moving forward with Phase I and Phase II.”

Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation have destroyed an estimated 98% of the historic pine rockland habitat in Miami-Dade County, with only two known Miami tiger beetle populations remaining, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Staff from the county’s Department of Environmental Resources Management said development at Miami Wilds that might affect the Miami tiger beetle would require approval from the Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid, reduce or mitigate potential impacts to a protected species or to ensure actions don’t negatively affect protected species or modify their habitat.

Depending on the proposed impact of the project, staff said via email, the Fish and Wildlife Service may require the property owner or applicant to minimize the impact and modify the site plans to avoid negatively impacting the beetle.

Mr. Lambert the project made changes to the project to avoid negatively impacting a protected species well before notice of the specific boundaries where the beetle lives, and it has no intention of disturbing the beetle’s habitat.

The county commission had long sought development of a major attraction beside ZooMiami. The Miami Wilds project was chosen several years ago from among applicants to negotiate for and develop the attraction.

7 Responses to Miami tiger beetle claws into Miami Wilds theme park plan

  1. Hugh Jardonn

    March 30, 2016 at 12:47 am

    The developer and the county seem presumptuous that they are going to get the Coast Guard land. From what I know the county has yet to come up with a suitable replacement land parcel for the Coast Guard’s use and since the county has failed to land bank for the future I doubt that they ever will. Opponents to the amusement park should lobby the Coast Guard not to give up the land and let it remain as federal property.

  2. DC Copeland

    March 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    For more info on the original brouhaha over the depletion of endangered pine rock lands and the flora and fauna found there BEFORE the Miami tiger beetle showed up on the scene, check out this link: http://bit.ly/1w8sP9S It’s short and sweet and comes with a equally short call-to-action video. Shame on the University of Miami for selling the land to the developer in the first place, land GIVEN to UM by the Feds with the assumption the university would use it for educational purposes.

  3. steve

    April 5, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    really? we are going to stop a project over a stupid beetle. Come on just relocate the dumb beetle and get on with it. This is stupid!

    • D Glass

      April 26, 2016 at 10:12 pm

      It’s not only about the beetle. It’s about the entire area including protected land. There is a gigantic big picture here. Educating ourselves on the seriousness of destroying Florida & the devastation that will occur ecologically is a concern everyone needs to have. You can’t keep paving over natural earth & expect life to carry on naturally in the years ahead. It’s a complicated issue that citizens don’t know the ins & outs of – but they are becoming engaged against destroying their environment & destroying the home of 5 endangered species for a stupid theme park. Now this is the stupid part.

  4. Sarah

    May 3, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Excited about the parks and opportunities. Dont care about no damn bettles or rocklands.

  5. PEPE DIAZ

    May 8, 2016 at 9:22 pm

    F THE F*IN BEETLES! WE NEED A WATER PARK!!

  6. enlightened one

    May 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Excited about park and opportunities?? Do you not see the irony in that you want to DESTROY the wild native pinelands to build a pseudo wild park that will DESTROY the native flora and fauna? Do the prospects of a couple hundred part time minimum wage jobs excite you? The people of SoFl really are easy to sell these cheap ideas as you literally can’t see the forest through the trees.

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