Sebring man cited for damage to state lands
Monday, June 04, 2012
Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-227-3830
A Highlands County man was charged with damaging state lands along the northwest shore of Lake Jackson in Sebring by using a tractor to clear and till a quarter-mile-long, 100-yard-wide swath of lake bottom.
A month-long investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) resulted in a citation to William D. Askin (DOB 09/28/65) of 4531 Higson Ave., Sebring. Askin admitted to mowing aquatic plants and tilling the exposed lake bottom without a permit. The violation (F.S. 375.314) for damaging state property with a motor vehicle is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to $1,000 and/or 60 days in jail. Askin will pay a $459.25 fine.
“In addition to damaging the lake bottom, it is also likely that bird nests were destroyed. However, we did not witness that damage occurring,” said Matt Ervin, investigating officer for the FWC. “Anyone responsible for destruction of state and federally protected species could face much steeper fines.”
Bird enthusiasts reported the violation to the FWC on May 6. According to Askin, friends who live near the lake asked him to mow the area to improve their view. Askin admitted to having engaged in the practice for several years.
“Unfortunately, this type of illegal activity is becoming more common as Highlands County and other inland areas grow in population, with our wildlife and fisheries suffering for it,” said FWC Lt. Joe Allen.
Damage to state lands or other illegal activity involving fish and wildlife should be reported to the Wildlife Alert Hotline by texting Tip@MyFWC.com or by telephoning 888-404-3922. Those reporting illegal activity may remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward upon conviction of a violator.