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Florida Wildlife Federation challenges wetlands permit

Published Sep. 10, 2012

The Florida Wildlife Federation filed a legal challenge last week to the permit the state Department of Environmental Protection recently issued for a controversial wetlands mitigation bank.

Last month DEP officials approved the new permit for the Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank in Clay County despite strong objections from the state's top wetlands expert that it would harm the environment.

In its petition for an administrative hearing to overturn the permit, the environmental group contends that DEP's management overruled its staff's objections and pushed the permit through as a pilot project "for which DEP has never adopted a rule, and for which DEP has no authority to adopt as a rule."

Also, most of the credits the DEP granted the bank are for dry land, not wetlands, "which are ecologically and scientifically unjustified as wetland mitigation credits," states the petition, filed Thursday by federation attorney Tom Reese of St. Petersburg.

The DEP has not yet responded to the petition.