Wetlands and mangroves along much of the Gulf Coast are vital coastal ecosystems that also defend against sea level rise and storm surges. For decades these wetlands have been under attack from coastal development and the oil and gas industry, which is why large swathes are now protected. All of this makes it all the more baffling that a private contractor has destroyed a 300-foot stretch of mangrove trees near Miami as part of preparations for the 2016 Miami International Boat Show, yet Mayor Tomas Regalado appears largely unconcerned.
The mangrove removal is just the latest source of alarm surrounding the boat show. In early May, nine environmental organizations including the Tropical Audubon Society and the Sierra Club of Miami petitioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny permits for the 2016 International Boat Show. In their letter they argue that the show, and its expected 100,000 attendees and 200,000 square foot of temporary docks, which are partly composed of styrofoam, will endanger manatees, birds and fish.
After this letter had been sent, it was revealed that 300-feet of mangroves abutting the shuttered Miami Marine Stadium had been razed by developers in preparation for the event. The Stadium itself has been closed since it incurred damage in Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and with $16 million set aside by the city to renovate it, those mangroves were serving not only local wildlife, but protecting the stadium during the current hurricane season.
Yet remarkably, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado has approached the issue with no apparent concern over the destruction. According to Reuters, Regalado said: “It was an isolated incident,” and the trees will be replanted. It will take around five years for the new trees to reach mature size, once they are planted after the boat show in February 2016.