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The Florida Statutes

The 2023 Florida Statutes (including Special Session C)

Chapter 253
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F.S. 253.04
253.04 Duty of board to protect, etc., state lands; state may join in any action brought.
(1) The Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund may police; protect; conserve; improve; and prevent trespass, damage, or depredation upon the lands and the products thereof, on or under the same, owned by the state as set forth in s. 253.03. The board may bring in the name of the board all suits in ejectment, suits for damage, and suits in trespass which in the judgment of the board may be necessary to the full protection and conservation of such lands, or it may take such other action or do such other things as may in its judgment be necessary for the full protection and conservation of such lands; and the state may join with the board in any action or suit, or take part in any proceeding, when it may deem necessary, in the name of this state through the Department of Legal Affairs.
(2) In lieu of seeking monetary damages pursuant to subsection (1) against any person or the agent of any person who has been found to have willfully damaged lands of the state, the ownership or boundaries of which have been established by the state, to have willfully damaged or removed products thereof in violation of state or federal law, to have knowingly refused to comply with or willfully violated the provisions of this chapter, or to have failed to comply with an order of the board to remove or alter any structure or vessel that is not in compliance with applicable rules or with conditions of authorization to locate such a structure or vessel on state-owned land, the board may impose a fine for each offense in an amount up to $10,000 to be fixed by rule and imposed and collected by the board in accordance with the provisions of chapter 120. Each day during any portion of which such violation occurs constitutes a separate offense. This subsection does not apply to any act or omission which is currently subject to litigation wherein the state or any agency of the state is a party as of October 1, 1984, or to any person who holds such lands under color of title. Nothing contained herein impairs the rights of any person to obtain a judicial determination in a court of competent jurisdiction of such person’s interest in lands that are the subject of a claim or proceeding by the department under this subsection.
(3)(a) The duty to conserve and improve state-owned lands and the products thereof shall include the preservation and regeneration of seagrass, which is deemed essential to the oceans, gulfs, estuaries, and shorelines of the state. A person operating a vessel outside a lawfully marked channel in a careless manner that causes seagrass scarring within an aquatic preserve established in ss. 258.39-258.399, with the exception of the Lake Jackson, Oklawaha River, Wekiva River, and Rainbow Springs aquatic preserves, commits a noncriminal infraction, punishable as provided in s. 327.73. Each violation is a separate offense. As used in this subsection, the term:
1. “Seagrass” means Cuban shoal grass (Halodule wrightii), turtle grass (Thalassia testudinum), manatee grass (Syringodium filiforme), star grass (Halophila engelmannii), paddle grass (Halophila decipiens), Johnson’s seagrass (Halophila johnsonii), or widgeon grass (Ruppia maritima).
2. “Seagrass scarring” means destruction of seagrass roots, shoots, or stems that results in tracks on the substrate commonly referred to as prop scars or propeller scars caused by the operation of a motorized vessel in waters supporting seagrasses.
(b) Any violation under paragraph (a) is a violation of the vessel laws of this state and shall be charged on a uniform boating citation as provided in s. 327.74. Any person who refuses to post a bond or accept and sign a uniform boating citation commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, as provided in s. 327.73(3), punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(4) Whenever any person or the agent of any person knowingly refuses to comply with or willfully violates any of the provisions of this chapter so that such person causes damage to the lands of the state or products thereof, including removal of those products, such violator is liable for such damage. Whenever two or more persons or their agents cause damage, and if such damage is indivisible, each violator is jointly and severally liable for such damage; however, if such damage is divisible and may be attributed to a particular violator or violators, each violator is liable only for that damage and subject to the fine attributable to his or her violation.
(5) If a person or the person’s agent as described in subsection (2) fails to comply with an order of the board to remove or alter a structure on state-owned land, the board may alter or remove the structure and recover the cost of the removal or alteration from such person.
(6) All fines imposed and damages awarded pursuant to this section are a lien upon the real and personal property of the violator or violators, enforceable by the Department of Environmental Protection as are statutory liens under chapter 85.
(7) All moneys collected pursuant to fines imposed or damages awarded pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the Internal Improvement Trust Fund created by s. 253.01 and used for the purposes defined in that section.
History.s. 2, ch. 15642, 1931; CGL 1936 Supp. 1446(14); s. 11, ch. 25035, 1949; s. 2, ch. 61-119; ss. 11, 27, 35, ch. 69-106; s. 11, ch. 84-79; s. 2, ch. 89-174; s. 10, ch. 89-175; s. 2, ch. 91-175; s. 15, ch. 91-286; s. 70, ch. 94-356; s. 844, ch. 95-148; ss. 3, 59, ch. 2009-86.