Don't mess with the mangroves

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is tasked with monitoring and protecting our remaining natural areas. See, Florida has a history of exploitation from wrestling alligators in front of tourists to shooting egrets for their feathers to draining the Everglades to provide land for the sugar cane industry interests.

Palm Beach County has an Environmental Resources Management department which does the same thing here locally. Now, with ever expanding population putting pressure on what is left of Florida's natural environmental treasures, tampering with them can get you in big trouble and cost you plenty. Take the case of mangroves.

The three varieties of mangroves (red, white and black) are an integral part of our natural ecology first by putting down roots and establishing new islands then to providing sanctuary for infant fish (called fry) as they try to safely navigate predators to make it to adulthood. And hanging out in the mangroves is a great place to seek shelter if you are a juvenile fish the size of a child's finger.

Now, you can trim these mangroves if they block your view of the salt water. But you need to call a licensed mangrove trimmer who has a permit to trim them. (These days you have to get a permit to do nearly anything).  And certain sections between the properties have to be allowed to grow naturally. Calling in your local landscaper to cut them down can get very costly as another Jupiter couple recently found out.

They reportedly had landscapers cut down 109 on weekends and after dark. After turning down a settlement of $ 1,000 per tree, the couple was slapped with a fine of $ 1.6 million plus legal fees and another potential fine of $ 43,100 from the State. The Loxahatchee Riverfront couple are not the first to taste the State's vengeance for cutting down mangroves.

Several years ago, another couple who lived along the Intracoastal in a community called The Bluffs, did this and got whacked with a huge fine. The officials tried to drag the landscape company into the mess but eventually settled my letting them provide some other work for the Town in lieu of a fine.

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