Suspect accused of cutting Melbourne, Florida, sea grape trees faces fine

Trees are federally protected

MELBOURNE BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- The person who cut down 106 sea grape trees, limbs and stumps at a national wildlife refuge near Melbourne Beach faces $17,000 in fines and restoration costs

Jane Whaley of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the beach-side trees were cut down Aug. 2. While they're not disclosing the name of the person suspected of cutting the trees, the case is heading to federal court in Orlando. A hearing is scheduled for November.

Whaley says some of the trees that were cut were 30 to 40 feet tall and were at least 50 years old.

Florida Today reports the trees are federally protected because they block beach lights that disturb nesting sea turtles. They also provide habitat for birds and other wildlife.

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