PALATKA, Fla., Aug. 17, 2017 — There are a lot of “dos” when visiting public lands owned and managed by the St. Johns River Water Management District — do take your time to enjoy natural Florida, do take drinking water and insect repellent, do hike or bike and take advantage of these unspoiled acres. However, with saw palmetto berry season in full swing, the district wants to remind visitors of an important “don’t.” Harvesting saw palmetto berries is prohibited on public properties across Florida, including the district’s conservation lands.
“The district owns and manages nearly 420,000 acres of public conservation land, which provides the community with passive recreation opportunities,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “District lands were purchased for their water resource protection values, and we strongly encourage compatible recreation. These public lands also provide wildlife with critical food resources, habitat and refuge. Removing vegetation without authorization can have long-term, negative impacts.”
August through October is the harvest season for saw palmetto berries. In recent years, poaching has become a bigger problem as the demand for the berries for pharmaceutical and herbal supplements has increased.
“Saw palmetto berries grow wild in Florida and the southeast, and are critical to the survival of many native wildlife species, particularly the Florida black bear,” said Steven R. Miller, chief of the district’s Bureau of Land Resources. “Harvesting berries from public lands takes food from the mouths of bears as well as other protected wildlife. Poaching on district lands also can lead to property damage, so we take enforcement activities very seriously.”
Report the illegal harvest of saw palmetto berries to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at its 24-hour hotline for wildlife and other environmental and boating violations, 888-404-FWCC (3922).