DEP fines other responsible parties for illegal mangrove cutting in Wilbur-By-The-Sea

Article Courtesy of  Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Abigail Breashier

Published April 7, 2020


After over 500 mangrove trees were illegally slashed in Wilbur-By-The-Sea in the beginning of January, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is issuing fines to the final two of three responsible parties.

Ashley Gardener, a spokesperson for the DEP, said the consent orders were issued to the Wilbur Improvement Association, Inc. — Wilbur-By-The-Sea’s voluntary Home Owner’s Association — and Peter Zarcone, the individual who hired the tree cutting service to slash the mangroves.

Zarcone will pay a total of $5,559 in penalties, and the improvement association will pay $4,849. As of Tuesday morning, both Zarcone and the improvement association did not respond to News-Journal inquiries for comment.

DEP fine amounts are determined by the Environmental Litigation and Reform Act, Gardener said.

“The Department has worked diligently to ensure that the responsible parties were held accountable and that the area impacted will be fully restored,” Gardener said. “The Association’s consent order includes penalties and the requirement of a full restoration plan.”

The fines include civil penalties as well as costs and expenses incurred during the DEP’s investigation of the matter.

At the end of February, the DEP issued a consent order to fine SB Tree Service $6,000. The Holly Hill company’s workers chainsawed the 8-foot-tall mangroves to a height of only 3.5 feet to improve a homeowner’s view in Wilbur-by-the-Sea, but didn’t have required permits or training.

After over 500 mangrove trees were illegally cut in Wilbur-By-The Sea in January, The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is issuing fines to the final two of three responsible parties.

Mangroves, which are protected by the state, are known to foster important habitats for fish and birds and are considered to be of great ecological importance, which is why they’re monitored closely by the DEP.

According to the consent order, $5,000 of the fine against SB Tree Service is for violating Florida Statute 403.121, which states the state can recover damages for “for any injury to the air, waters, or property, including animal, plant, and aquatic life, of the state caused by any violation.”

There are about 469,000 acres of mangrove trees in Florida, according to the DEP’s website. Their importance “cannot be overemphasized,” because of their ability to cycle and trap different organisms, nutrients and chemicals through their expansive root system.

In addition, roots provide homes and attachment surfaces for animals, and act as nurseries for fish, shellfish and crustaceans.