Merchandising folly 1 – Conservation 0

The Miami-Dade County Commission approved development of ‘the largest shopping mall in North America’ with a vote of 9-1 last week. While there’s nothing inherently noteworthy about another super complex, this one will sit in uncomfortable proximity to the Everglades National Park.

It has been my privilege to bird in the ‘Glades – the largest US wilderness east of the Mississippi River. This fragile ecosystem is home to 344 feathered species, 300 fish species (salt- and freshwater), 50 species of reptiles, 40 mammal species, and 36 listed species (threatened and/or protected).

Everglades National Park is an Audubon designated IBA (Important Bird Area), and here are some beauties we best go see before ‘progress’ isn’t so progressive.

Wood Stork. Photo by © Mike Blevins

Roseate Spoonbill. Photo by © Mike Blevins

Great Blue Heron. Photo by © Mike Blevins

White Ibis. Photo by © Mike Blevins

Anhinga siblings. Photo by © Mike Blevins

Osprey. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Reddish Egret. Photo by © Robin Edwards

Back in the county commission meeting, a large crowd of citizens gathered during a nine-hour public hearing to oppose the 175-acre behemoth development. They expressed a number of concerns with conservation, traffic, and funding at the top of the list.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Environmental Caucus submitted a formal letter of concern to the commissioners. Here are the environmental impact highpoints:

* “Paving over more than one square mile of existing agricultural and open lands that currently recharge our imperiled Biscayne Aquifer, after replacing all of the existing absorbent and filtering soils with imported construction-grade fill and cement.

Everglades National Park. NPS photo.

* Creating a massive urban heat island and contributing substantially to stormwater management loads.

* Drawing as much as two million gallons per day of potable water and more than 100,000 additional gallons of non-potable water. This is more than 20% of the total current output of the Hialeah RO Water treatment plant (ADM’s only source) and will substantially increase the plant’s energy requirements and waste output, and likely hasten an expansion of the plant’s capacity at significant expense to the public. Though the water is to be drawn from the Upper Florida Aquifer, drawdown in that source is a matter of continuing concern and study.

Anhinga Trail moonrise. NPS photo.

* Consuming upwards of 1400 mw hours of daily electric power – enough to power nearly 40,000 homes – and resulting in a significant increase in CO2 emissions unless the mall contracts for power from a renewable energy facility.

* Promoting sprawl and threatening the existing Urban Development Boundary, with siting and design contrary to our existing Comprehensive Development Master Plan and any responsible concept of urban planning. ADM’s proximity to existing water and wildlife management areas, its location far from existing transit lines and public services, and the plans for the 20 year expansion of the Graham Companies properties are all certain to spur the rapid, westward growth of the County.

Alligator on nest. NPS photo.

* Adding 80,000 individual external automobile trips per day to existing traffic in the region, increasing CO? emissions (not least from delivery vehicles), exacerbating the county’s already-acute traffic problem, creating additional pressure to build more roadways (with their attendant environmental and development impacts), and further contributing to the light, sound and air pollution in surrounding neighborhoods and remaining wild areas.” (As reported to Political Cortadito by Wayne Brody.)

Bobcat boardwalk. NPS photo.

One of the developers said that he wanted to build American Dream Miami (the official misnomer of the place) because his grandkids don’t have anything to do when it rains. Really?

Another supporter said the place would let “families…connect with each other as human beings” (SunSentinel). Again, really?

A representative of the development company (which also owns Mall of America in Minnesota and Canada’s West Edmonton Mall) used the phrase ‘Las Vegas-type atmosphere.’ Here’s a thought – we already know where to find that atmosphere…in Las Vegas!

While there are still some 32 permits needed to break ground, it appears the River of Grass will have a new noisy, smelly, stressful, and resource-draining neighbor who’s anything BUT a dream.

Everglades National Park. NPS photo – G. Gardner

(Featured image – Birding at Mrazek Pond, Everglades. National Park Service photo.)

Written by Angela Minor
Angela Minor’s first avian adventure involved a 1000-mile road trip just to look at hummingbirds. As a lifelong vagabond, she has lived, traveled, and birded across the continental U.S., Alaska, the Caribbean, and seven European countries over the past three decades. Freelance travel writer is her third career, following teacher and small business owner. She’s a regular contributor to several travel publications including Blue Ridge Country and Smoky Mountain Living, and writes feature articles for Ft. Myers Magazine, 3rd Act, and international cruise sites. She serves as a field editor with Birds & Blooms, the “Park Watch” Beat Writer for 10,000 Birds, and authors the state park birding series for Bird Watcher’s Digest.