Sierra Club Secures Monumental Settlement that will Protect Wetlands and Wildlife in Florida
February 21, 2012
In a monumental settlement and overall victory for Sierra Club and local environmental groups, several thousand acres of wetlands have been preserved in DeSoto County, Florida. Sierra Club and its allies fought for the last 18 months against phosphate mining giant, Mosaic, in a bid to correct the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flawed permit to mine the massive South Fort Meade Extension mine in Hardee County.
The settlement includes several major victories, such as the creation of hundreds of acres of additional conservation easement buffers along the Peace River, which will protect additional bayhead wetlands and stream areas in and around the mining site.
Mosaic also purchased the 4,171-acre Peaceful Horse Ranch at the confluence of the Peace River and Horse Creek, which includes more than 3,000 acres of wetlands. The property was then donated to the State of Florida for use as a new state park. In addition to this environmental win, Mosaic will also contribute $2 million to cover startup and initial maintenance costs of the park.
Along with these major concessions from the mining giant, the settlement also established a long-term water monitoring program that will involve review of Mosaic's monitoring and restoration by an independent panel that will be allowed to make recommendations for improvements to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sierra Club was joined by People for Protecting the Peace River and Manasota-88 in the fight for preserving irreplaceable wetlands in beautiful Florida.
July 8, 2011
In a big victory for wetlands and wildlife in Florida, on July 8, 2011, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against all phosphate mining at Mosaic Company’s massive South Fort Meade Extension site in Hardee County. Judge Henry Adams of the U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida held that Sierra Club and its allies had shown a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) violated the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.
The permit would allow the destruction of 537 acres of wetlands and more than 10 miles of streams in the headwaters of the Peace River, a federally designated Aquatic Resource of National Importance that has been decimated by phosphate mining over the past few decades. In the latest round of ongoing litigation, Mosaic sought to mine 700 acres of what it called “uplands” within its more than 10,000 acre site, while waiting on the judge’s ruling. In his decision, Judge Adams found that these areas were covered by the permit and, based on Mosaic’s own evidence, that mining those areas would cause harm to wetlands in and around the uplands site. The judge also noted that although Mosaic has had approximately a year to do so since this lawsuit began, it has not fixed its permit with the Corps to comply with the law.
In response, Bev Griffiths, chair of the Sierra Club Florida phosphate committee said, “The court has recognized that the Corps of Engineers review of this project was deeply flawed and needs to be re-done in order to protect these wetlands, streams and water flows that are crucial to wildlife and human populations. Such destruction should not occur without full compliance with environmental protections.”
Sierra Club, ManaSota-88, and People for Protecting Peace River originally brought their lawsuit in June 2010, obtaining a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. Mosaic and the Corps appealed that order to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which vacated and remanded the injunction because the judge had prematurely issued a final order. When the case went back to Judge Adams, plaintiffs renewed their request for a preliminary injunction including a request that it consider mining in the 700 acres that Mosaic calls “Area 2”. While Mosaic claimed that Area 2 was almost solely uplands and didn’t need a permit, the plaintiffs pointed out that Area 2 contained wetlands and mining the area was not covered by the Corps permit. The preliminary injunction issued on July 8, 2011, addresses the entire mine site, including Area 2.
Photo: Dennis Mader
August 2, 2010
On July 30, in a monumental win for Sierra Club and its allies, the district court judge granted the groups’ motion for a preliminary injunction, stopping all phosphate mining activities that threaten jurisdictional U.S. waters at Mosaic’s massive South Fort Meade Extension mine site while the Clean Water Act permit is remanded to the Corps. The district court judge agreed that the Corps failed to adequately consider alternatives to the proposed project before granting the permit, and remanded the permit back to the Corps to conduct an adequate alternatives analysis. The judge also directed the Corps to hold a public hearing on the revised permit.
July 15, 2010
On July 1, Sierra Club and its allies secured a victory for Florida’s forests, wetlands, and streams when a district court judge granted our motion for a temporary restraining order, effectively halting all strip mining activities that threaten jurisdictional U.S. waters at Mosaic Fertilizer’s 10,855-acre South Fort Meade Extension phosphate mine site in Hardee County, Florida.
The environmental groups are challenging the final Clean Water Act permit for the proposed mining project, issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in June 2010. The ‘dredge and fill’ permit authorizes the destruction of 534 acres of wetlands and 10.7 miles of streams feeding the Charlotte Harbor estuary and Peace River - a priority watershed, as designated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and a drinking water source for 700,000 Floridians. Despite all this, the Corps failed to hold a public hearing, make permit documents publically available, or prepare an Environmental Impact Statement before issuing the permit, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and Clean Water Act. The Corps also failed to properly consider the cumulative environmental impacts of the proposed mine, when hundreds of thousands of acres surrounding the Charlotte Harbor estuary and Peace River are already being strip mined for phosphate.
While this decision represents a significant win, the proposed strip mining still threatens wetlands and miles of streams on site, and the local plant and wildlife communities that depend upon these resources. Sierra Club continues its fight for a preliminary injunction against Mosaic’s destructive mining. A decision from the court is anticipated any day.
Sierra Club is joined by People for Protecting Peace River, Inc. and Manasota-88, Inc. in this lawsuit.
Details and Documents:
Peaceful Horse Property Pamphlet
April 5, 2009
July 8, 2011, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Preliminary Injunction Issued for South Ft. Meade Phosphate Mine Extension
July 8, 2011, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Order Granting Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
July 1, 2010, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Sierra Club et al. Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction
June 30, 2010, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Sierra Club et al. Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
June 30, 2010, U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida
Mosaic reaches settlement over Fort Meade mine
February 21, 2012 by Kate Spinner, Herald Tribune
Sierra Club Wins Round Two with Fertilizer Giant
July 12, 2011 by Dennis Maley, The Bradenton Times
Legal Issues Halt Work At Mosaic in Hardee Co.
July 11, 2011 by Kyle Kennedy, The Ledger
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.