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Windowed mangroves protect homeowners' investments while protecting the environment. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

Reel Time: The value of mangroves

Anglers know the important ways mangrove forests provide food and shelter for the snook, redfish, sheepshead and other species they pursue. Those who don’t fish but enjoy eating fish should realize that over 80 percent of the most popular species, including grouper, depend on mangroves when they are juveniles

People come to live on the West Coast of Florida because of the area’s unique environment. The natural world that forms the basis of that environment, however, is often poorly understood and misrepresented. Case in point: mangroves.

A complaint has been filed with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection against a contractor for the removal of more than 40 feet of mangroves at a waterfront house under construction at 111 Gull Drive. (Read more.)

And a property on a canal on Longboat Key lined with a 35-foot stand of mangroves recently was listed in the Multiple Listing Service with the line, “mangroves will be removed.”

A statement like this might signal to someone coming to the area for the first time that mangroves are not desirable and are in effect a liability. They do not understand that mangroves help create what brought them here in the first place and are so important that they are protected by state law. Homeowners should understand that the environment (mangroves in this case) is an asset.

When trimmed by a reputable mangrove-management company:

  • The laws protecting mangroves are followed, avoiding fines and other penalties.
  • The shoreline is protected from erosion caused by storms.
    • Maintenance costs are minimized.
      • Mangroves that are “windowed” and trimmed to provide a view create “eye appeal,” enhancing the value of the property.
        • The cost of seawall construction (when allowed) and subsequent maintenance is avoided.

            When laws protecting mangroves are violated, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection must enforce these laws. Unfortunately, state regulators are not performing their duty promptly to protect the citizens and businesses of Florida, present and future.

            But it wouldn’t be fair to lay the blame only on the FDEP. People I have spoken with who deal with state regulators regularly fault former Gov. Rick Scott for eviscerating the FDEP and spawning a mass exodus of the brightest and most committed regulators. The people I spoke to at the agency have been responsive to questions and concerns and ultimately addressed the issue when they were alerted. My feeling is that the agency is struggling with a limited budget and staff, especially considering the rapid development taking place in coastal areas.

              That’s where we the voters come in. It’s incumbent on the citizens of Florida and Manatee County to elect officials with a proven record of protecting our most important and vulnerable resources.

                You can report mangrove trimming violations at the Suncoast Waterkeeper site using their new Eyes on the Suncoast initiative. If you’re a boater, request one of their stickers that have a QR code to take you to a form where you can make a report.

                Suncoast Waterkeeper also is recruiting people to become Mangrove Rangers who help map the critical habitats in the area.

                If we don’t do it, who will?