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Miami-Dade environmental watchdog called 'monster,' accused of 'Gestapo tactics'

Out where Alice Peña raises tropical fruits and chickens, Miami-Dade environmental enforcers have long been greeted like a case of blight.

Residents in Las Palmas, a rural enclave in West Miami-Dade, have been embroiled in dozens of legal battles over wetlands violations. Peña, president of the Dade County Farm Bureau angrily vented during a County Commission meeting last month, accusing inspectors of “Gestapo tactics.”

“I don’t regret saying it,” she said recently. “I needed to shake things up.”

In reality, the shake up is already under way. Activists fear it will weaken the county’s environmental watchdog — known until last year as the Department of Environmental Resource Management — and open the door to paving more dwindling farm lands.

Miami-Dade’s leaders are pushing top-to-bottom reviews of regulations and the agencies that enforce them, with DERM among the prime targets. Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, competing to be the next mayor, have unveiled separate proposals aimed at cutting red tape.

More here.