The recent removal of mangroves to build a seawall clearly demonstrates serious flaws in Florida’s Mangrove Protection Act.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued an exemption to the state’s mangrove protection rules for a seawall in Anna Maria, where a new home is under construction.
116 feet of mangroves were cut down. According to FDEP, the mangroves on the property “appear to be historically undisturbed.”
The complete removal of mangroves was allowed because the seawall construction was on an “artificially created waterway.”
Under the state’s exemption, limited mangrove alteration/removal is allowed per Rule 62-330.051(12) (a), Florida Administrative Code, and Chapter 403.9328 (5), Florida Statute.
The present general permit criteria allowing mangrove tree removal is radical and unsupportable.
The rule should specify at least a mitigation ratio of one tree planted for every tree trimmed or altered (type for type). Mitigation should be required for all trimming or alterations regardless of whether the trees are located in man-made canals. The complete removal of mangroves should never be permitted.
Any rule which allows the total removal of mangroves on a site renders mangrove protection useless. FDEP’s enforcement capability needs to be increased. Judging by the results of FDEP's lack of adequate monitoring and the ensuing loss of mangroves, it is extremely doubtful that we can depend on that agency to do the job at current staffing numbers.
If we are to adequately protect our remaining mangrove forests in central and south Florida, we need to fortify existing mangrove protection laws with increased staffing, enforcement capabilities, and the development of stronger rules to protect mangrove habitats.
Florida’s Mangrove Protect Rule 403.9324 has been severely weakened over the past years. Trimming mangroves in either height or canopy cover reduces the mangroves’ ability to provide leaf detritus to aquatic environments and reduces the habitat provided by the trees to fish and wildlife. The loss of lateral limbs or canopy dramatically affects the ability of trimmed mangroves to survive.
Manatee and Sarasota County have designated many mangrove areas as conservation or preservation. FDEP can still issue permits to trim in these areas, which then allow adjacent property owners to create a view of the water.
As we have seen in our area, property owners have abused and continue to abuse mangrove trimming exemptions on a large scale by converting native lands and clear-cutting trees in anticipation of future commercial and residential development.
Enforcement of the Mangrove Tree Protection Rule should be done to the fullest extent possible; this will discourage the large-scale destruction of existing valuable trees.
Glenn Compton is the Chairman of ManaSota 88, a non-profit organization that has spent over 30 years fighting to protect the environment of Manatee and Sarasota counties.
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Sunday, February 11 Report this