In three days, more than 480 people have signed a petition to save the Mayan Beach Sand Dune in Fort Lauderdale from destruction.
Spearheaded by the Sea Turtle Oversight Protection, the petition is the latest development in a battle between developers and environmentalists that has stretched for more than a year.
"Private property owners want to demolish the dune because the view of the ocean is slightly obstructed by it," Richard WhiteCloud, founding director of STOP, tells New Times. The dune provides crucial protection for sea turtle nests and helps beat back floodwaters. "The storm we just had is a fresh reminder of what dune systems do, especially considering we had three feet of water on parts of A1A."
WhiteCloud and Broward County have challenged the Department of Environmental Protection's decision to approve destruction of the dune, but have had little success.
"The DEP is nothing but a political tool. Their agenda is to not protect the environment and that's indicative of how this case went down," WhiteCloud says.
Behind the destruction of the dune are two plush real estate plots, the Mayan Beach Club and Ocean Lane Villas. The nonprofit STOP challenged plans to destroy the dune and provided evidence that an illegal concrete sidewalk was poured and vegetation on the dune was being illegally uprooted, WhiteCloud says.
Yet the DEP "summarily dismissed" the evidence, ignored testimony on best-scientific practices from marine turtle experts, and denied STOP's appeals.
It's hardly the first controversy involving complaints against the DEP, an agency in which the director is under federal investigation for potentially violating the Clean Water Act and the number two man is the son of a powerful lobbyist with environmental ties. Under Gov. Rick Scott's direction, the DEP has been repeatedly blasted for taking an industry-first approach to environmental protection.
With few legal options left to pursue, WhiteCloud launched the petition to raise public awareness on the plight of the dune. At the time of writing, it was only 17 signatures shy of the targeted 500 signatures.
"The environment is going to suffer. Sea turtles are going to suffer. Migratory bird populations that depend on that dune as a fuel stop are going to suffer. And all because someone wants a better view of the ocean," WhiteCloud says.