TALLAHASSEE, Fl. – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) Miami, Tallahassee sub-office’s, Mobile Criminal Alien Team (MCAT) supported the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Operation Na-Palm.
The purpose of Operation Na-Palm was to target the illegal harvest of Saw Palmetto Berries, specifically on Point Washington Wildlife Management Area, Deer Lake, Grayton, and Topsail Hill State Parks, as well as any private lands where written landowner permission is not granted. Eglin Airforce Base Reservation leases 6,000 acres to legal harvesters for a total cost of $300,000 dollars a year in permit fees. Due to the recent spike in illegal berry harvest activity, a large amount of undocumented immigrants have been encountered in violation of harvesting these state protected berries.
“I want to thank all of you that participated in this detail, it was a huge success, and I believe we accomplished all of the goals initially set forth, and more, said Taylor L. Tison, with the FWC, Northwest Region, Walton County. “It couldn’t have happened without everyone’s help, I really appreciate the effort put forth by everyone involved.”
During the operation, FWC partnered with various agencies, including ERO officers, one Department of Agriculture investigator, nine Eglin range patrol officers, and one Okaloosa County K-9 deputy, in the efforts to target the illegal harvest of Saw Palmetto Berries on state and federally-owned land.
Some of the accomplishments of the Sept. 12-13 operation include:
- One missing child from Collier Co. Florida was found and turned over to Florida Department of Children and Families.
- Nine arrests were made (four of them were illegal immigrants taken into ICE custody, one of which had a criminal history, prior removal and processed for prosecution).
- Approximately 25,000 pounds of illegally harvested Saw Palmetto Berries were recovered (approximately $40,000.00 street value) and the possessor federally charged for providing an altered permit from the Department of Agriculture.
- A total of 11 resource misdemeanors issued, one traffic misdemeanor issued, and a total of seven NOVA's (equivalent to a trespass warning from US Air Force property) issued by Eglin Range Patrol.