Some of the sea grapes cut down had been 30 to 40 feet tall and 50 years old or older. / MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY
(Florida Today) The individual who cut down more than 100 sea grapes at the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge with a chainsaw faces $17,000 in fines and costs to restore the trees.
"It was roughly 106 trees, limbs and stumps," Jane Whaley, an officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said of the beach-side trees cut in August inthe 3300 block of State Road A1A south of Melbourne Beach.
Federal and state wildlife officers would not disclose the name of the person they suspect of cutting the trees or other details, as the case proceeds to federal court. The accused has a hearing next month at the U.S. Middle District of Florida in Orlando, said Amy Filjones, of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Sea grapes are protected because they block beach lights that disturb nesting sea turtles and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.
Some of the sea grapes cut down had been 30 to 40 feet tall and 50 years old or older, Whaley said.
A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer had been dispatched the evening of Aug. 2 in response to a concerned citizen's call reporting trees being cut down in the refuge.
The FWC officer made contact with the suspect and, "after further investigation, the suspect admitted to cutting down the foliage on federal lands," according to an FWC report.