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ELC Files Brief to Protect Everglades Lands from Improper Development

On April 7, 2022, ELC filed an amicus curiae “Friends of the Court” brief in Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal in opposition to the development of a 13 mile highway extension of State Road 836 through critical Everglades buffer lands. 

The highway at issue is slated to be built entirely outside of Miami-Dade County’s urban development boundary (“UDB”) and into and over important Everglades conservation lands and lands needed for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. The UDB is a defining feature of Miami Dade County’s Comprehensive Development Management Plan (the “Plan”) and distinguishes the area where urban development may occur from areas where it should not occur.

The land proposed for the highway development is intended to serve resource-based functions like agriculture and potable water supply. This area includes the Tamiami-Bird Canal Basins, the Pennsuco Wetlands, and the eastern portion of the North Trail and Bird Drive Everglades Basins. These areas provide valuable ecosystem services, are critical habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species, and serve as the recharge areas for the primary source of the County’s drinking water. 

Miami-Dade passed a Plan Amendment expanding the UDB to allow for the construction of the highway in these important conservation lands. Tropical Audubon Society, among others, challenged the Plan Amendment in administrative court. The administrative law judge (“ALJ”) ruled partially in favor of Tropical and found that the Plan Amendment was not in compliance with Miami-Dade’s Comprehensive Plan, but the Administration Commission overturned the ALJ’s ruling. Tropical appealed the Administration Commission’s final order to the Third District Court of Appeal. 

ELC filed an amicus brief with the Third District in support of Tropical’s position on behalf of Friends of the Everglades, 1000 Friends of Florida, and Miami Waterkeeper. ELC argued, among other things, that the Administration Commission failed to correctly apply the review standard when overturning the ALJ’s findings and explained how this failure threatens comprehensive planning, Everglades restoration, and environmental resources throughout the State.

ELC continues to oppose the expansion of the UDB into inappropriate conservation lands that mitigate the impacts of sea level rise and flooding and protect our drinking water, environment, and quality of life in Miami-Dade County.

Read more about the ALJ’s ruling here: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article241618056.html