Miami Herald: Mining in Broward could spark outcry

Dec 29, 2009

The Miami Herald published this article on December 29, 2009.

Sun Sentinel

The Seminole Tribe has applied for a permit to expand a rock mine in a remote corner of northwest Broward County in a proposal that could generate opposition from environmentalists concerned about the Florida panther.

The tribe has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for permission to destroy 198 acres of wetlands to mine limestone on its Big Cypress Reservation, a place of pastures, forests and wetlands where panthers hunt deer, hogs and other prey.

The rock would be used mainly to rebuild a bridge, widen shoulders and make other safety improvements to Snake Road, a notoriously dangerous road that winds through the reservation.

But the project could face a fight from conservationists concerned about the construction of housing developments, roads andother developmentsin the endangeredcat’s shrinking hab-itat.

“The panther is getting squeezed,” said Matthew Schwartz, Everglades chairman of the Broward Group of the Sierra Club, who has led hikes through the area and seen panther tracks. “Each development may not be the final nail in the coffin, but it’s the cumulative impact. It’s not just the rock mine, it’s the residential development on the western side of Big Cypress.”

The Corps of Engineers plans to seek an opinion from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the likely impact on the panther. But many environmentalists have little faith in the government’s willingness to stop or restrict projects that could threaten the endangered cat.

Although rock mining typically involves blasting, no explosives would be used for this one, according to the Corps of Engineers. Using a backhoe, the tribe’s workers would mine in strips 20 feet deep, 200 feet wide and 2,195 feet long, leaving behind rock pitlakes.

To mitigate the loss of wetlands, a federal requirement, they have proposed making improvements to 736 acres of existingwetlands on thewest side of the reservation, which the tribe says will improve the habitat for panthers and endangered wood storks.