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Why Understanding Florida Keys Environmental Regulations is Imperative When Living in the Keys

The Florida Keys has one of the most spectacular and unique environments and ecosystems in the world. In order to protect the fragile natural landscape and animal life that exist in the Keys, there are myriad environmental and wildlife protections in place that residents of the Keys simply must know and understand, or face stiff penalties. 

Just last month a Marathon lawsuit came to a head with a couple who purchased a private island off the coast near Fanny Key who assumed that they could do with their land as they wanted. In turn, they cleared the island of the natural vegetation so that they could build on their property. Little did they know, the clearing of mangroves and other vegetation in the Keys without proper permitting is illegal. Now they are facing inquiries from the city, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and Florida Fish and Wildlife - since the bulldozed trees were the habitats for a variety of birds and other native animals. So far, they have been issued a citation from the city and are being required to replant six trees for every one that they razed. Being that they cleared an entire small island, the cost of this replacement will be steep for the owners. This is a cautionary tale that clearly illustrates how important it is to understand the local environmental regulations in place throughout the Florida Keys.

Much of the natural landscape on land is strictly off limits to residents of Florida Keys homes and tourists alike.  As these Marathon landowners quickly found out, the iconic mangroves that are such an important part of the Florida Keys ecosystem are protected. You cannot cut, trim or remove any mangroves without appropriate permitting. Also protected are any and all dune vegetation or sea oats. These are necessary to prevent shoreline beach erosion and are fiercely protected throughout the Keys. It is even illegal to walk on these sea grasses that live on the dunes. Underwater vegetation is also protected in the Keys. Steep fines will be issued for vessels that damage the underwater sea grass. 

A wide variety of Florida Keys wildlife is protected under local, state, and federal regulations. Underwater coral is strictly off limits and illegal to touch, damage, or remove. Other protected species in the Keys include all five species of sea turtles present, the famous Key Deer, the Queen Conch, the American crocodile, local sponges, all varieties of migratory birds, the Miami Blue Butterfly, many species of shark, and more. Additionally, almost all local fish have size and quantity restrictions. 

If you are looking to purchase a home for sale in the Florida Keys, it is so important to know and understand local laws relating to our natural environment. The Florida Keys ecosystem is precious and fragile, and all of our residents can help to protect it!

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