A South Florida forest that's home to a trove of endangered and almost-endangered plant and animal species, including the bald eagle, indigo snake, and Florida bonneted bat, is about to be invaded by a far less rare creature: Walmart. The University of Miami this month sold 88 acres of endangered pine rockland to a developer who plans to erect a Chik-fil-A, a Chili's, an LA Fitness, 900 apartments, and yes, a Walmart, the Miami Herald reports. "You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how," says one environmentalist who's demanding an investigation.
The developer has agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve. "I agree more could have been preserved," said one biologist. "But what they preserved complied with the code." The university, which has owned the land for decades, had previously planned to build an academic village there, and while those plans fell through, they led to conservation teams combing the land to rescue rare plants—and finding far more than they expected. "There was so much material there that we had to kind of prioritize. It was acres and acres," one recalls. Part of the reason is that only 2% of the rocklands that once dominated South Florida's spiny ridge remain unspoiled. Federal officials are watching the project, but say they can only step in if federal money or property is involved, and county officials say various ordinances tie their hands as well. (Read more South Florida stories.)