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Lee County residents asked to keep an eye out for illegal saw palmetto berry harvests

By Staff | Aug 12, 2015

Neighbors of Conservation 20/20 preserves and others are being asked to be on the lookout for people illegally harvesting saw palmetto berries from the preserves. If you see what you believe are illegal berry harvests, call the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at 239-477-1000.

Pickers frequently arrive in trucks that park on the edge of preserve, or even cut fences to drive right in, and disperse with bags or buckets to take as many berries as they can carry.

In recent weeks, Lee County Park Rangers and deputies from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office have intercepted and cited groups illegally harvesting the berries, which are processed into a supplement used in herbal remedies.

The berries are a critical food source of several native Florida species, including black bear and deer, and are essential to the ecosystem.

Berries that are seized are redistributed throughout the preserve. Citations have been issued this year at the Alva Scrub Preserve in east Lee County, the Galt Preserve in St. James City on Pine Island and others.

Florida closed state lands to berry picking this year. County preserves have always been closed to berry harvesting.

Log on to www.leegov.com/conservation2020 for more information about Conservation 20/20 preserves.