Sale of Natural Island in Biscayne Bay Sparks Controversy

Sunday, May 19, 2024 by Isabella Rojas

The announcement of the sale of Bird Key, the only natural island in the northern Biscayne Bay, has stirred controversy due to its significant historical and environmental value to Miami, in southern Florida. Driven by soaring real estate prices, Finlay Matheson and his family, owners of the 37.5-acre property, decided to capitalize on the market boom and sell the island, which is valued at $31.5 million.

"I've owned it for 40 years. The real estate market today is hot, so why not sell it?" Matheson told Telemundo51. He also mentioned that in 1985 he paid $36,000 for the island, which now belongs to his children and a partner.

However, environmentalists like José Francisco Barro have expressed concern, as it is a refuge for birds and is listed on Miami-Dade County's registry of threatened environmental lands. "It's a place where birds and marine birds can rest and nest," said Barro, a conservationist and president of the Tropical Audubon Society, an organization dedicated to conserving and restoring the natural ecosystems of southern Florida.

Though Bird Key is privately owned, its future remains a concern. "Any development could result in the loss of not only the island but also part of the bay's waters, home to marine life and manatees, as well as birds," Barro elaborated.

Response from Miami-Dade Officials

The situation has not gone unnoticed by the office of Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. "My administration has been closely monitoring the situation at Bird Key and made a purchase offer that unfortunately did not meet the owner's expectations," she said in a statement to local media.

"Biscayne Bay is both a recreational oasis and an economic engine for our county, but it is also home to some of Florida's most iconic species, including birds, marine life, and storm-mitigating mangroves," the mayor's office noted.

"Therefore," the statement continued, "my administration will always consider opportunities to restore our bay and protect its wildlife through land acquisition. We are eager to explore alternatives, including state or federal support, to purchase this property and expand our Biscayne Bay protection programs."

In 2019, due to the growing accumulation of trash on Bird Key, about 25 volunteers organized by Christopher Boykin, executive director of the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station, "collected and removed 1.4 tons of tires, patio furniture, cans, bottles, boxes, cartons, coolers, and hundreds of other debris that have been littering the island since at least the 1980s," revealed a report by the Miami Herald.

"Bird Key is truly a special and magical place," Boykin told the Miami newspaper. "In a big city like Miami, with so much concrete and population, having this biodiversity and richness of life is really something extraordinary."

Biscayne Bay, located between Downtown Miami and Miami Beach, is known not only for its beaches but also for its famous artificial islands and being home to the Everglades, a UNESCO-recognized national park of ecological importance.

Renowned artists, including Madonna, Ricky Martin, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, and Gloria Estefan, own mansions in these areas, which captivate with their stunning landscapes.

Environmental Impact and Future of Bird Key

The sale of Bird Key brings forth critical questions about its environmental impact and future. Below are some frequently asked questions and their answers.

Why is Bird Key environmentally significant?

Bird Key serves as a crucial sanctuary for birds and marine life, making it an important ecological site in Biscayne Bay.

What are the concerns of environmentalists regarding the sale of Bird Key?

Environmentalists worry that any development on Bird Key could lead to the loss of critical habitats for birds, marine life, and manatees, as well as negatively impact the surrounding waters of Biscayne Bay.

What steps has the Miami-Dade administration taken regarding Bird Key?

The administration, led by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, has made a purchase offer for Bird Key and is exploring state or federal support to acquire the property for conservation purposes.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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