A Lee County man was arrested on Friday for harvesting an endangered plant without a permit after a Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Agriculture Detective observed the violation in South Punta Gorda. The new requirement for a permit went into effect on July 17, 2018, after the Endangered Plant Advisory Council unanimously recommended adding saw palmetto to the Department’s commercially exploited plant list. More information on the new law can be found on the Department of Agriculture website.
On August 10th, at approximately 2:00pm, the Detective stopped out with a suspiciously parked silver Toyota Tundra in front of 16630 Huffmaster Road in Punta Gorda. The Detective noticed a white male subject on the roof of the truck attempting to unlock the truck door with sticks and a clothes hanger. The white male, identified as Johnny Powers (1/13/1985), had locked the keys in the truck after stopping in front of the property. Powers told the Detective that he was picking palmetto berries from the property but did not have permission from the land owner, and also did not have a Native Plant Harvesting Permit to pick the Saw Palmetto Berries as required. The Detective located approximately 20 pounds of Saw Palmetto berries in the bed of the pickup truck.
During the investigation, it was also discovered that powers had an unrelated active warrant in Lee County. Powers was placed under arrest for Petit Theft and Harvesting Endangered Plant without Permit.
The Department of Agriculture provides information on their website on the requirements of the statute, including a very information FAQ section. You can also download the fact sheet pictured below by clicking here.