Is one Home Depot worth a bird and a snake in the bush? There are now more than 800 Home Depot stores to shop at, but the company apparently thinks its so important to build another store in Orange City, FL that is willing to pay more than a quarter of a million in fees to replace sensitive environmental habitat that it will destroy. The proposed Home Depot and Wal-Mart project would wipe out prime habitat for the threatened Florida scrub jay, and the Eastern indigo snake. If the project gets a green light, the habitat would be replaced by a 40 acre shopping plaza even if it kills or injures these 2 threatened wildife species. US Fish & Wildlife officials say the retailers would be required to pay $272,160 to conserv other scrub jay habitat in Volusia County. But officials are not totally insensitive to the needs of the wildlife, because the store could not be built during the months of February and early June while the jays are nesting. An estimated 7,000 to 11,000 scrub jays, which are relatives to the blue jay, live in Florida. They are threatened because of their dwindling numbers, according to a report about this project in the Orlando Sentinel. While surveying the property, workers found 3 families of scrub jays on the site, and federal officials also expect indigo snakes to be found as well. So Home Depot has filed for a federal “take” permit, which, if granted, would relieve Home Depot of any liability for an unlawful take of an endangered species. A “take” is any harassment, harming or killing of a protected animal. Home Depot and Wal-Mart could have chosen to preserve 8 acres on the construction site, but instead chose to use all the land on the site and preserve other land off the site, and get the federal take permit. Home Depot and Wal-Mart were not available to comment on the Orlando Sentinel story. Home Depot claims that it is “pursuing environmental excellence”, and that the company is “dedicated to making an environmental impact every day.” The impact they will make on Orange City is very clear.
Home Depot’s permit application was received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on August 25th, and posted for one month of public comment. If you think this Home Depot/Wal-Mart project is an environmental embarrassment to both companies, email your message that you value scrub jays and indigo snakes more than another orange Home Depot by writing to: David Dell, Division of Ecological Services, US Fish & Wildlife, Region 4 at this email address: r4eao_www.fws.gov. Ask that your comments be forwarded to the appropriate office, and suggest that protecting these birds and snakes is more critical that protecting Home Depot’s expansion plans. While you’re at it, email Home Depot directly at www.homedepot.com. Tell them to leave the scrub jays in Orange City, FL alone. When Home Depot becomes an endangered species, we can worry about them, too.