How pine trees became people

Steve showed up late even though he left the Miami Dolphins game early. He breezed into the Doc Thomas house and asked, “Who won?”

Nobody knew, not even diehard fans still waiting for a return to 1972. The serious-faced adults assembled around a long wooden table were too busy talking about a deadly assault on Miami’s most vulnerable trees.

10885080_10204361198242356_3469340406012382611_nTrees trump Sunday afternoon football for the newest group to form around an environmental issue in Miami. After a few meetings in the fall, they solidified their name in December as the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition. At each subsequent meeting, new people came forward who wanted to fight Walmart and other potential development on a parcel of extremely rare urban forest known as the Richmond Pine Rocklands.

Steve Liedner, a Miami Beach veterinarian, had connected with Al Sunshine, a retired investigative TV journalist who gave a rousing speech about the pine rocklands at a Miami Sierra Club meeting this past summer, and the ball kept rolling until a coalition had formed. The coalition meets at a historic house in South Miami, the base for the Tropical Audubon Society, which is appropriately surrounded by a thick native habitat but also within view of Sunset Place mall.

Burning is natural and necessary for pine rocklands, but not so much for Walmart.
Burning is natural and necessary for pine rocklands, but not so much for Walmart.

The problem they face gained prominence in the summer of 2014 when a developer announced that it had purchased 88 acres from the University of Miami. Located near Zoo Miami, the area represents some of the last intact pine rocklands on unprotected land. Outside of Everglades National Park, only two percent of Florida’s original pine rocklands remain. Its rarity gives it global significance.

For its first public action, the coalition takes its fight to the streets on the Saturday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Individuals can sign up for the January 17th Rally for the Rocklands on the Facebook page of the Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition.

By the way, the Dolphins won that day, but they ended the season 50-50. The odds for the pine rocklands are much, much worse.

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