Students protest Nature Preserve remodel

Guethshina Altena / Staff Writer

The Northern 2.8 acres of the Nature Preserve could possibly be diminished  to have two athletic practice fields built over it, after the motion was approved by the Board of Trustees.

Questions were raised by a group of students who spent the last three months protecting and cleaning the Nature Preserve from invasive species.

Anas Rojas, a senior Environmental Studies major is the president of Growth of Leadership Academics and Diversity in Ecological Sciences and an urban forestry intern, said, “The Nature Preserve is a small piece of the Everglades right here on campus, we are so fortunate to have it.”

Rojas also said, “It is home to many birds, foxes and other animals since 1978 and that’s what makes it so special.”

Rojas shared her disappointment toward the situation after all the efforts her team made to restore this part of the Nature Preserve. She pointed out that there are a lot of different species that depend on the wetland area, and to diminish that specific area could potentially cut off resources for organisms who reside there.

“As students who volunteer for the restoration effort, we should have been informed,” Rojas said.

“The process was not at all transparent since not even the Office of University of Suitability was informed,” she said.

Rojas invited all interested students to join their campaign “Save the Nature Preserve.” Their hashtag #SaveitDontPaveit is specifically for the new movement to stop construction over the Nature Preserve.

“The area that we have been restoring has improved so much that we received a grant of $4,000 from the FWC, which is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,” Rojas said.

She said, “The state agency’s grant was going to allow us to remove the invasive and put native plants in this area. We were just about to make those changes, but now we cannot proceed with it.”

“We have a Facebook page for the campaign and a drive where we save all of the important documents on the matter. We also have a survey available to figure out how this is affecting students. It can be taken anonymously if preferred.”

“We understand the need for athletic fields, we are not saying don’t build them; all we are saying is: Don’t build it on the Nature Preserve!” Rojas said.

The GLADES committee is asking for the administration to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Rojas said,“We believe that if we can get a third party as an unbiased outside source, perhaps things will be different.”

She mentioned that “if they are not, so be it, but at least we will know the true worth of the wetland area.”

Joshua Muñoz-Jimenez is the Organic Garden manager. As a senior, he will be the first student to graduate FIU with a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural sciences.

According to Muñoz-Jimenez, many species such as native box turtles, fish, native frogs, foxes and snakes depend on the lake in the wetland. He also says every mammal, every bird that lives in the Nature Preserve also depends on this lake as it’s their only water source.

“The issue with the lake removal is that it takes about 30 to 40 years to make it environmentally stable for native species to use it. So replacing it and putting it on another side of the Nature Preserve would not work,” Muñoz-Jimenez said.

“It all works together as a system; like a car, for example, it would not function if you take one part out so removing the lake would make the entire ecosystem collapse,” he said.

Muñoz-Jimenez pointed out that older citizens in their 50s and 60s outside of FIU also use the jogging path to walk and that building over the Nature Preserve would not only affect FIU students but the community as a whole.

This issue also alerted past students who are now part of the alumni community.

Tom Condon is an active alumni who graduated FIU last year with a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in History.

“In addition to offering an area for research, the Nature Preserve provides students with both physical and mental health benefits by giving them an area in which they can exercise and relax.” Condon said. “Although building over the Nature Preserve may be a cheaper alternative, I believe it’s ultimately worth investing an additional 1.5 million dollars in order to provide these long-term benefits to students.”

Another alumni, Adonis Alvarez graduated FIU in the spring of 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental studies and a minor in Agroecology. He was also the President of the organic garden when he was a student.

As a response to what he termed as an “abuse of power,” Alvarez encouraged students to take part in the campaign and take a stand against the project to build on the Nature Preserve.

“I would tell students to think of their kids; do we want to leave a world where most of the environment is concrete walls and most of the plants have been destroyed?” Alvarez said that “we have the chance to stand up for what is right and protect nature for future generations.”

[Photo by Selene Basile/The Beacon]


2 Comments on "Students protest Nature Preserve remodel"

  1. This is outrageous! The Preserve should be preserved not bulldozed! It is irreplaceable. Start a petition, protest, whatever. Do not let this happen FIU!

  2. I agree! FIU profits so much and they choose to pick the "cheaper" way out? How about you act WORLDS AHEAD and think about sustainability for our planet?!


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