Urge MDC Commissioners to:
1. Protect 4 Endangered Florida Species
2. Postpone Miami Wilds Vote
3. Select a Different Site for Development
Florida bonneted bat [Joel Sartore]
Miami tiger beetle [Christopher Wirth]
Florida leafwing butterfly
Bartram's scrub-hairstreak butterfly

Miami Wilds is a proposed hotel and water amusement park project adjacent to Zoo Miami. If constructed on this proposed site, its development will negatively affect the survival of at least four federally listed endangered species: the Florida bonneted bat, the Miami tiger beetle, the Florida leafwing and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterflies. These four listed species are unique to Florida and depend on the proposed project site as their habitat.

The Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to vote on leasing this environmentally sensitive land to developers on October 20, which will lead to devastating consequences for these four endemic Florida species. The Board of County Commissioners needs to recognize that, despite its current use (parking), these species depend on this open space for their survival because:

  • it is a critical foraging site for the Florida bonneted bat. Development will change natural behavior, decrease reproductive success due to reduced food availability and could lead the species to extinction according to Bat Conservation International;

  • the Miami tiger beetle can only be found in Miami-Dade County pine rockland habitat, a fire-dependent ecosystem. The project will detrimentally impact the beetle through fire suppression, limiting the beetle's access to foraging habitat, insecticide drift and water runoff, further jeopardizing this already- endangered species;

  • the Florida leafwing and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterflies are only present in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and Miami Wilds will impact their habitat by fragmenting it. These endemic butterflies will also be further impacted by fire suppression, vehicle strikes and insecticide drift. 

Finally, and of major import, voters in 2006 approved by referendum building a water amusement park on zoo property only on land that is not “environmentally sensitive.” Other commonly used definitions of “environmentally sensitive land” include lands containing native plant communities, rare and endangered flora and fauna, endemic species, endangered species habitat and a diversity of species. The proposed project site meets these four criteria:

  • Presence of rare and endangered species (Florida bonneted bat, Miami tiger beetle, Bartram’s scrub hairstreak and Florida leafwing butterflies).

  • Presence of endemic species (those that are native to and restricted to a certain place): Florida bonneted bat is endemic to Florida; Miami tiger beetle is found only in two locations in Miami-Dade County; the two butterfly species are endemic to Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

  • All four of these endangered species depend on, or use, this open space as their habitat.

  • The site contains a diversity of species.

Please write to the Board of County Commissioners to tell them that you oppose the current proposed location of Miami Wilds; that committing to a 40-year lease agreement is premature; and a non-environmentally sensitive site should be sought for Miami Wilds.

Please send your letter to all Board of County Commissioners to the following addresses;
Please personalize your letter. It will have more impact when you say why this issue matters to you.

Dear Commissioner:

I strongly oppose construction of the Miami Wilds Development alongside Zoo Miami because it will irreversibly damage an environmentally sensitive land and threaten four endangered species: the Florida bonneted bat, the Miami tiger beetle and two butterflies. I urge you to delay the Miami Wilds final lease vote until thorough environmental reviews can be conducted and a different location can be identified. 

Approving this project also goes against the will of Miami-Dade citizens who, in the 2006 Referendum, only authorized the development of the Miami Wilds project “… on Land that is not Environmentally Sensitive.” Given that the proposed project location for Miami Wilds is currently utilized by four federally listed endangered species, the location is an environmentally sensitive land, and therefore it does not meet the referendum criteria. In point of fact, the proposed location of the Miami Wilds project under consideration outright defies the parameters approved by voters in 2006. 

Ongoing research carried out by Bat Conservation International confirms that the area being proposed for development is a critically important foraging area for the federally listed endangered Florida bonneted bat. While this large open space may presently be used for parking, it is nonetheless one of the most important areas for the conservation of the rarest species of bat in the United States. Characteristics at this large open space that contribute to its importance include: its exceptional size; its low physical profile; its proximity to the biologically rich endemic pine rocklands habitat; and little or no artificial lighting.

Recent studies done in 2019 and 2020 also confirm the extensive use of these pine rocklands and parts of the open space by the endangered Miami tiger beetle. In fact, the Richmond Pine Rocklands is the only site where the Miami tiger beetle can reliably be found, despite extensive cross-county surveys.
Because of the four federally listed endangered species at risk, the land’s environmentally sensitive characteristics and the voters’ clear referendum on protecting such places from development, I urge the final lease vote of the Miami Wilds Project to be postponed and a different site secured. To rush into this project as proposed could potentially violate Federal Endangered Species laws, violate the terms of the 2006 Public Referendum and cause irreversible environmental impacts. The damage done by developing this project on environmentally sensitive land could also lead to drastic population declines – possibly extinction – of four species unique to Florida.

No amusement park is worth the extinction of a single species!