What is the true beauty of Southwest Florida? The thing that has drawn us here? To many it is the nature, the beauty and serenity of our wildlands; the orange of the setting sun reflected off the rippling, glassy water at the edge of a mangrove forest; the spray and shower of droplets as an osprey dives at a ladyfish darting through a seagrass bed; the croak of a green heron from his hideout in the branches of a gnarled red mangrove and the squawk of a great egret as she flies overhead, bound for her nest in a mangrove rookery. These mangroves not only provide a place for young birds but also protect our shorelines and act as a nursery for fish.
Unfortunately, some developers and uneducated homeowners are decimating our mangroves. We now stand at a critical point, a fork in the road where we must choose the future that we want to see. The choice is this: will we allow development and uninformed homeowners to rob our environment of the very beauty that has drawn us here or will we conserve it for future generations?
One part of this decision was made in the spring of 2022 when Medallion Home illegally destroyed a mangrove forest at Long Bar Pointe, now the Aqua development. Instead of standing idly by, citizens cried foul, documenting the damage, writing articles, and filing complaints with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Unfortunately, FDEP was very slow to respond, taking weeks to investigate, never ordering Medallion to stop cutting, and imposing only a minuscule fine of $8,500 dollars nearly a year later. Such weak enforcement assures developers that they simply have to pay a small fee to decimate the last of our area’s mangroves for profit.
If my generation and future generations are to have the wonderful experiences in nature that make Florida what it is, then developers must be forced to obey the laws, not occasionally asked to pay to circumvent them. Homeowners must also be educated on the importance of mangroves and how to legally trim them.
If in thirty years I bring my children here, what will I have to show them? Rows of luxury houses looking out over a polluted bay? Strip malls and condos where once stood sun dappled mangrove swamps? Or will I be able to show them the beauty of nature that I so enjoy: the ospreys, herons and pelicans diving and stalking for fish; the seagrass beds that house baby pufferfish, toadfish, and even bonnethead sharks; the roseate spoonbills that squabble in mangrove trees?
The choice is yours. Protect mangroves on your property. Report illegal mangrove trimming to FDEP. Vote for politicians who put our future over the deep-pocketed developers who pay them in campaign donations. And spread the word! Inform others on how to properly trim mangroves on their property and the dangers these trees face. Our paradise is in peril and it takes everyone to stand up to developers like Medallion and to realize the great benefits these trees offer. On behalf of my generation and those of the future, thank you.