Wednesday, December 11, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Legal challenge filed over massive mine that threatens Florida panther, other imperiled species, and Camp Keais Strand
NAPLES, Fla. (12/11/13) –Conservation groups, including Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity Group and the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to halt a 970-acre limerock and sand mine in Collier County. The Hogan Island Quarry would be adjacent to the Camp Keais Strand, a significant wetland flowway that feeds downstream public wetland preserves and is a major wildlife corridor. Building the mine would have significant impacts on the Florida panther, wood stork, crested caracara, and eastern indigo snake.
The entire Hogan Island Quarry site is comprised of lands identified as essential to the survival of the Florida panther, with about half the site designated as “primary zone” habitat for the panther, making it a top priority for protection. The mining operation would destroy the habitat value of these lands forever and impair the use of the adjacent wildlife corridor. It would also add more than 1,000 vehicle trips a day onto rural roads that are already deadly for panthers and other wildlife.
“These Florida species have nowhere else to go,” said Jaclyn Lopez, a Florida-based attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As good stewards, we can’t degrade our beautiful, irreplaceable Florida environment any further.”
In addition to allowing the project to move forward despite serious impacts to the panther, the federal agencies failed to consider how the project would affect the threatened crested caracara and eastern indigo snake during their reviews. “Much of the site should be protected as an agricultural buffer and listed species habitat,” said Alexis Meyer of the Sierra Club. “Protection of the existing habitat and restoration of agricultural lands back to natural lands, as has been identified by the scientific community for portions of this site, is needed, not this intensification to mining.”
Of added concern, the mine is but just one of several mine and residential developments in southwest Florida, including several in the same watersheds. In approving the mine, the Army Corps did not consider the cumulative effects of all of the projects on the panther, other wildlife, and water resources depended on by Floridians.
“Hogan Island Quarry is the first mining project we are aware of to go forward without regional cumulative review by the Corps,” said Jennifer Hecker, Director of Natural Resource Policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “The agency needs to analyze the impact of this mine in concert with existing and future mining, including the more than 13,000 acres of proposed mining projects within just eight miles of the Hogan site. Without it, the panther will die a death by a thousand cuts.”
“The project is clearly not within the public’s interest,” said attorney Robert Hartsell, “and my clients are petitioning that the permit be invalidated in order for the Corps and Service to further evaluate the effects of the mine on the natural environment and require further avoidance and minimization of the project’s direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts.”
The three groups in the suit, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club, are represented by Robert N. Hartsell, P.A., Davis & Whitlock, P.C., and the Center for Biological Diversity.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit grassroots organization focused on the critical environmental issues of the Southwest Florida region with a mission to protect the region’s water, land and wildlife. Visit www.conservancy.org for more information.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
The Sierra Club is a national nonprofit organization of approximately 600,000 members dedicated to exploring, enjoying, and protecting the wild places of the earth. The Sierra Club webpage is located at www.sierraclub.org.
Jennifer Hecker, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, (239) 262-0304 x250,
Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity, (727) 490-9190,
Alexis Meyer, Sierra Club, (727) 490-8215,