Butterflies Living on Land Sold to Walmart Developer Are Now Officially Endangered

Categories: Unreal Estate

Photo courtesy of Paul Anthony
A Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly, which will be officially endangered September 11, near the site of the controversial UM sale.
When news broke last month that the University of Miami had sold an 88-acre plot of endangered pine rockland forest to a Palm Beach developer that planned to build a Walmart, environmentalists and activists were outraged. The rare forest is the only habitat of several species, most famously the Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly. At the time, though, the species wasn't officially listed as endangered.

That changed yesterday: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the Bartram's, as well as the Florida leafwing, will be designated as endangered beginning September 11. The two species' habitats will also be listed as critical.

"What that does, in effect, is add a layer of protection," Ken Warren, a spokesman for the
USFWS, tells Riptide.

See also: Thousands Sign Petitions Against Walmart Development on Endangered Pine Rockland

Not that much protection, though, when it comes to the planned Walmart on one of the species' last remaining pieces of native habitat.

Although the endangered listings provide the butterflies protection from federal activities and make it illegal to transport or capture the two species, it would not prevent Walmart from bulldozing their homes, and Ram, the development company, has no plans of stopping.

"Since receiving the letter from Fish & Wildlife Services on July 15, we have determined that these species should just be treated as if they are listed -- we will do a survey for occupied habitat and come up with an avoidance plan," the company's chairman, Peter Cummings, said in a statement. "Ram is committed to species protection."

The Bartram's scrub-hairstreak, a gray butterfly with broad white bands and a bright-orange dot on each wing, lives only in the pine rocklands in five areas of Miami-Dade County and Big Pine Key, according to Warren, and the leafwing is now found only in the Everglades. The ranges of both have been decimated by development.

"When you mess with their habitat," Warren says, "you mess with their ability to breed, to feed, and to shelter."

Anti-development activists who have recently visited the site say there's no question the endangered butterfly is living there.

Last month Paul Anthony, who previously lived near the site of the land sale and opposes the development, took a walk with a Zoo Miami official around the property adjacent to the land slated for development by Ram. It was rainy, and the forest wasn't as vibrant as usual, but along the side of a dirt road on the property Anthony saw a flash of gray, white, and orange perched atop a flower -- a Bartram's.

"We were like, 'Oh, great! We found one!'" Anthony tells Riptide. "Anytime you see one, it brings a smile to your face."

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Alex Lacret
Alex Lacret

Good! Maybe it will make it that more difficult for these careless money hungry bastards to build on there. Shame on you University of Miami!!!!!!

Lauren Devine
Lauren Devine

Saw this; it's bad they're endangered but also good because it will put burden on the developers; they will have to jump through hoops.

Travis Gonzalez
Travis Gonzalez

Way to be a steward for the community and environment UM.

Odette Jamie
Odette Jamie

i know, Jennifer Quispe. I am so disheartened by this... :'[

Barbara Behrens
Barbara Behrens

Humans just don't get it!We are losing are environment bit by bit to corporate greed... That acreage should be used for endangered butterflies and protect,,, speak out people in Florida stop walmart save your land!

HarryTheHandyman topcommenter

Misleading clickbait headline.  The land was sold to Ram Realty Services, NOT Walmart.  Just because a Walmart is planned as part of the site, doesn't mean they purchased the land.

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