UPDATE: County acts on mangrove destruction

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ENGLEWOOD, Fla. - Following a story we first brought you yesterday, the property owner who damaged a mangrove swamp on Manasota Key has been given a notice of violation and a strict plan as to how to correct the damage.

It happened Saturday along Manasota Key Road. Dozens of mangroves were chopped down and a lagoon was starting to be filled in.

Amy Meese, general manager of Sarasota County Natural Resources, is thankful destruction like that doesn't happen very often. "A habitat level impact like this is pretty rare."

Sarasota County and the State of Florida, both of which designate the plant as protected, say it keeps shorelines from eroding and provides protection for the youngest of some species. “Mangroves are the nursery of our costal organisms. They go out into our coastal waters and represent the adult population.”

The county does act on calls from time to time for improperly cutting or removing the plant, mostly to get a better view of the water. The incident this past weekend was more severe because it was considered a rare mangrove swamp; a whole ecosystem unto itself.

Neighbors like Rick Schuessler are already noticing wildlife that once used the area as a hiding spot. "You couldn't see ducks like you can now. You couldn't see the water fowl."

Much of the damage is done though. The county has met with the property owner Paul Maurer of Cape Coral, and have implemented an action plan that includes removing fill dirt within the next few weeks and coming up with a planting plan to return the area to its prior natural condition, or face some fines of up to $250 a day.

"Given the circumstances, I would assume that ought not be planting little tiny seeds. It ought to be some reasonable mangrove restoration."

Neighbors we talked to were surprised to learn the unpermitted work is coming without any fines so far.

Meese says they understand owners have property rights, and says most times a compromise can be made. "In a way that is compatible with the environmental systems."

She says the goal is not to take away rights, but to protect what's right. "We may not see it in our lifetime; certainly not to the way it was, but the habitat could be restored."

Sarasota County says if you see someone cutting down mangroves, you are urged to call their call center at 861-5000. Someone is there 24 hours a day.