‘Ecological Vandalism on an Industrial Scale’: Several Examples of How Individuals Are Ruining the Environment

By: Lauren Fokas | Last updated: Jun 25, 2024

It’s widely assumed that large corporations are the major destroyers of our environment, and while that’s still generally true, this story proves that individuals can also cause significant damage.

One man in the UK impulsively decided to dredge the bed of a natural river and remove several trees near his home. This decision not only destroyed the river’s natural and rightful composition but also landed the man in jail.

The Once Beautiful River Lugg in Herefordshire, England

The River Lugg flows through Wales and England before it meets the larger River Wye downstream. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including crayfish, trout, salmon, otters, and many species of birds.

A photograph of the River Lugg in England

Source: Wikipedia

At 63 miles long, the River Lugg has been an important part of the local ecological system and natural landscape for more than 1,000 years. 

UK Environment Agency Monitors the River Lugg

For the past several decades, the UK Environment Agency has monitored and attended to the historic and beautiful river to ensure it continues to flow for another thousand years.


That includes testing the water, ensuring the wildlife is thriving, watching for flooding or drought, and keeping the lake clean from pollution.

English Millionaire Destroyed 1.5 Miles of the River Lugg

In December 2020, English multimillionaire John Price took it upon himself to change the natural ecosystem of the river where it passed by his home.

The area of the River Lugg where John Price dredged the river and cut down all the riverbank devastation

Source: gov.uk

He dredged the river bed, removed the natural gravel, and cleared over a mile and a half of vegetation along the river’s edge, leaving the riverbank absolutely devastated.

Price Claimed He Was Protecting His Property from Flooding

When asked why he felt the need to destroy the ancient river, Price claimed that he was trying to protect his own and his neighbors’ properties from flooding.

An aerial photograph of a man standing on a bridge above a flooded river

Source: Freepik

However, it’s become clear that the “work” he did to the river would not have prevented any future floods; in fact, the trees he cut down and the river bed he destroyed would have far better protected the properties.

The Environment Agency Caught Price in the Act

Luckily, Price was not able to damage the river as extensively as he had planned because local agents of the Environment Agency caught him in the act.

A UK Environment Agency officer in high-vis looks over a flooding river

Source: @EnvAgency/X

In addition to stopping Price from continuing his blight against the environment, the Environment Agency also took several photos that they later used when they took Price to court.


The Environment Agency Sued Price for His Destruction

When the Environment Agency took Price to court, they argued, “It is predicted it will take decades to re-establish mature trees to provide the stability, cover and shade to restore the diversity of the river.”

An otter eating a fish in a river

Source: Freepik

They also told the judge, “Fish, plants, native crayfish, and birds may take years to make a gradual return to previous populations.”


The Judge Sided With the Environmental Agency

After a lengthy trial, the judge ruled against John Price, sentencing him to a one-year stint in jail.

A close up photograph of a wooden judge’s gavel

Source: Freepik

He was also ordered to pay £655,000 ($837,000) for restoration work and £600,000 ($766,700) in prosecution costs. Additionally, he was banned from acting as a company director for three years.


Price Only Served 11 Weeks in Jail

But since Price is reportedly worth over $25 million, these fines didn’t come close to ruining him, and he only ended up serving 11 weeks of his original sentence.

A wealthy man flying several $100 bills in the air

Source: Freepik

Maybe it’s because he’s a multi-millionaire or maybe it’s because he wasn’t forced to serve his entire sentence, but John Price wasn’t all that phased by his punishment. As a matter of fact, almost immediately after getting out of jail, he committed (nearly) the exact same crime again.


John Price Didn’t Learn His Lesson the First Time

Price’s second offense was slightly less offensive than his first one. That time, he only felled several 50-year-old trees along the river’s edge.

A man using a chainsaw to cut down trees

Source: Freepik

However, because Price cut down eight times more trees than is allowed in the UK, he was fined an additional £2,060 ($2,632), which, again, is pocket change to the multimillionaire.


Environmental Lawyer Called Price’s Actions an “Egregious Act of Ecological Vandalism”

During the initial trial, Judge Ian Strongman called Price’s actions “one of the most egregious acts of ecological vandalism that I have seen in 25 years of working on rivers in the UK.”

A photograph of a beautiful river flowing through a thickly wooded forest

Source: Freepik

Judge Strongman also sadly reported that the section of river that Price destroyed is now “a canal devoid of life.”


The Devastation to the River Lugg Was Shockingly Extensive

Of course, the judge wasn’t the only one to note the absolute devastation that Price caused with his callus decision. Area manager from Natural England, Emma Johnson, said in a statement: “The River Lugg is one of the most iconic rivers in the UK, and to see this wanton destruction take place was devastating.”

The logo for the government agency Natural England in the United Kingdom

Natural England

Oliver Harmar, the chief operating officer at Natural England, explained, “The decimation of this section of the River Lugg has been devastating to the local environment and to local people, destroying the habitats of iconic wildlife such as otters, kingfisher and salmon. It was heartbreaking to see this beautiful riverside illegally damaged.”


Individuals Destroying Natural Ecosystems Is Not as Uncommon as It Should Be

Sadly, the story of John Price and his destruction of the natural ecosystem of the River Lugg is not a one-of-a-kind tale.

A faceless woman holding a miniature globe in her hands

Source: Freepik

In fact, there are dozens of stories just like it from all around the world where people take it upon themselves to “change” the natural landscape around them, meanwhile destroying a beautiful and necessary part of our planet.


Australian Man Fined $145,000 AUD for Destroying Protected Wetlands

In 2020, the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service in Australia was informed that one man had apparently destroyed more than 200,000 square feet of protected wetlands to build a road to his property.

Aerial photograph of the destruction of natural wetlands in Bowling Green Bay National Park in Australia

Source: Australia Department of Environment, Science and Innovation

After a lengthy investigation, they found that the Australian man had absolutely devastated the natural ecosystem in more ways than one.


Mass Destruction in Cape Cleveland Australia

While tearing down more than 200,000 square feet, or about four NFL football fields, of wetlands, this man also destroyed thousands of protected mangrove trees.

A photograph of the Bowling Green Bay National Park in Australia

Source: Queensland National Parks

Additionally, he removed soil from the Bowling Green Bay National Park to solidify the road he built in place of the natural wetlands.


Australian Man Built Unauthorized Boat Ramps and Causeways

But that wasn’t all; the Australian resident also built a boat ramp and several causeways a long Alligator creek.

An aerial photograph of the destruction of the natural wetlands in Australia along Alligator Creek

Source: Australia Department of Environment, Science and Innovation

To do so, he used concrete, bricks, used pipes, and other waste materials, which obstructed the natural flow of the river.


The Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service Took the Man to Court

After seeing the immense destruction this one man had on the natural ecosystem of the national park, they sued him for violating the Environmental Protection Act of 1994.

A photograph of several agents within the Department of Environment in Australia assessing the destroyed national park in Queensland

Source: Australia Department of Environment, Science and Innovation

The judge couldn’t deny that the man broke the law in numerous ways and ruled with the protection agency. Although the man was not sentenced to prison, he was left with a hefty fine for his mistakes.


Australian Man Paid $145,000 AUD Fine for Natural Damage

The perpetrator was found guilty of 11 offenses, and was fined $20,00 AUD ($13,300), plus $5,000 AUD ($3,320) in costs, and had to pay an additional $120,000 AUD ($79,600) for restoration.

A faceless person hands over hundreds of dollars in cash to another person

Source: Freepik

Senior Conservation Officer Craig Dunk said after the ruling, “Today’s decision reaffirms our continued commitment to a zero tolerance of environmental harm within our nationally and internationally recognized protected areas.”


Damage to the Natural Will Take Yeats to Recover

Officer Dunk continued, “The damage that has been willfully done to these wetlands will take years to fully recover and could create flow-on affects to wider ecosystem including the Great Barrier Reef – it’s heartbreaking.”

An underwater photograph of coral reef

Source: Freepik

Dunk also hopes that the message to all who read this horrific story is quite clear: “We won’t hesitate to hold people accountable for damaging our precious environment.”


Florida Resort Owner Cut Down Nearly 20,000 Square Feet of Mangroves

A very similar situation occurred in Port St. Lucie, Florida, when a resort owner illegally cut down more than 17,700 square feet of natural mangroves alongside his property.

A photograph of a boat dock in the wetlands of Port St. Lucie, Florida

Source: iStock

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is pressing charges and is hoping that the judge will approve a $110,395 fine for the man’s egregious mistake.


Mangroves Are Absolutely Essential to Protecting Florida's Natural Ecosystem

The FDEP explained that the resort owner didn’t just cut down trees, he actually put the entire region, including its people and wildlife, in grave danger.

The logo for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Source: Central Florida Regional Planning Council

A organization reported, “The relationship between mangroves and their associated marine life cannot be overemphasized. Florida’s important recreational and commercial fisheries would drastically decline without healthy mangrove forests.”


Mangroves Protect Florida From Extreme Weather

In addition to endangering the natural wildlife and fishing industry, cutting down mangroves also puts the Florida coast at risk for extreme weather.

A photograph of a flash flood in a residential Florida neighborhood

Source: iStock

Mangroves provide natural protection from flooding, waves, and storm winds. All of which are becoming increasingly more common in Florida thanks to climate change.


"Somebody Should Be in Jail"

While the FDEP is obviously infuriated, they are not alone. When the story went viral on Reddit, dozens of people commented on the post with their frustrations.

A photograph of the naturally forming mangroves in Florida

Source: Abode Stock

One user wrote, “110k… lol that is laughable,” another said, “hopefully one day they’ll be taught a lesson by nature as to why mangroves are so important.” Still a third wrote, “somebody should be in jail.”


No Amount of Money Will Bring the River Lugg Back to Life

These stories of John Price and many others are  important lessons for everyone to learn. No one should try to change the natural landscape of a functioning ecosystem without the assistance and approval of an environmental agency.

A photograph of the devastation caused by John Price on the River Lugg in England

Source: enviornmentagency.gov.uk

But even though Price and the others paid their fines and served their time, sadly, as conservationist Mile King explained, “no amount of money will bring the habitats and species back” to the River Lugg.