Activists with Earth First! are reportedly locking themselves to a disabled van to bring attention to construction happening in the almost-700-acre Briger Forest, one of the largest -- but unprotected -- forests in South Florida.
"We're here stopping a crime," said Ryan Hartman in a news release. "The illegal destruction of the Briger Forest. Kolter Group Co. is violating the Endangered Species Act and operating without all the proper permits fully approved. The time for compromise is over. If we don't take direct action and put our bodies on the line to protect what we have left, developers will pave over and pollute every last inch of this place."
According to Everglades Earth First's Twitter, "destruction of Briger began 2 days ago w/ Scripps Biotech & Kolter planning to develop it into upscale neighborhoods & #animaltesting labs." Those on the scene say cops have arrived, and at least one person was arrested as of 8 a.m.
Here's the background information from the activists:
Groups like Everglades Earth First! and the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition (PBCEC) have been fighting to protect the Briger Forest since 2010. Last winter a justice department lawyer admitted to PBCEC's lawyer Bill Eubanks that there were no practical alternatives to site layout designs that could both benefit continued snake use of the site and also satisfy the project's purpose and need, effectively sentencing to death any Eastern Indigo Snake on the property. The Eastern Indigo Snake is one of 13 state and federally listed animal and plant species whom the Briger is suitable to support. A member of PBCEC is also appealing permits for construction needed from the South Florida Water Management District. Beyond the legal challenges the groups have gathered hundreds of petition signatures, held demonstrations and even staged a six-week tree-sit in the forest to protest the development. "Kolter and Palm Beach County have had a corrupt deal from the beginning. It is a crime against nature for developers to keep bulldozing over wild South Florida in order to perpetuate an animal torturing biotech expansion agenda." Said Ashley Lyons. Since the early 2000's, Jeb Bush has tried to lure the Biotech industry to Florida with heavy state and local subsidies including this project and the construction of a campus for biotech company Scripps Florida. In the past few years Scripps has received about half a billion dollars in state subsidies for new facilities and has an agreement to lease the county owned portion of the property for $1 dollar a year ensuring their corporate welfare for years to come. With the construction of a massive primate breeding facility in Hendry County, the "progressive" biotech industry is solidifying it's future of inhumane animal testing and Scripps will be no exception. Scripps in Lajolla, CA has a history of testing on primates and Scripps Phase II will more than likely vivisect primates if constructed. Everglades Earth First! promises to continue fighting the development every step of the way. "We're going to fight this project until it's stopped because this forest is worth fighting for." Said Rachel Kijewski.