Flower Farmer Admits Hurting A Turtle Habitat

An endangered bog turtle. (Photo by the NJ Fish and Wildlife)

A Burlington County farmer who is one of the East Coast's largest producers of cut flowers admits that his tree-cutting activities hurt the habitat of an endangered bog turtle.  

James Durr, 57, has pleaded guilty to a federal charge he "harrassed" the tiny, orange-earred creature by cutting down acres of trees near the turtle's muddy territory along Turtle Creek in North Hanover in 2005.  The tree clearing, wildlife officials said, caused erosion that deposited two feet of sand and gravel in the stream, which could have made it tough for the turtles to survive.

It's unclear whether the elusive turtles are still there.

Durr faces up to 5 years probation when he is sentenced in April and may be required to donate $20,000 to a federal wildlife fund.     

Durr, who owns James Durrs Wholesale Florists Inc., says he never intended to hurt the rare reptiles.  "I would never in a million years want to do anything to harm them," he said, explaining he thought it "was kinda nice" when he learned his farm contained the endangered species.  He said the trees were cut down 600-feet from where the turtles had made a home.  

We'll have the full story tomorrow.