Exposing the limits of environmental policing, wetlands violations that took place across six and a half acres of privately-owned, ecologically sensitive Cow Bay land were stumbled upon after the fact by Edgartown conservation agent Jane Varkonda while she was in the area on other business.

The violations took place on property leading to Cow Bay beach owned by C. Dean Metropoulos of Connecticut.

The owner razed vast tracts of land within the buffer zone and extending into wetlands. Mr. Metropolous owns two properties on Cow Bay. Attempts yesterday to reach him were unsuccessful.

The violations have come before the Edgartown conservation commission several times. Late last year the board ordered that Mr. Metropoulos replant and perform maintenance of the area to ensure that a similar habitat is restored. The commission is currently seeking a performance bond for $75,000 to cover the replanting work done so far and has instituted daily fines of $300 until the bond is secured.

The board will meet next Wednesday to discuss a second stage of repairs, including a long-term phragmites control project.

Last October Ms. Varkonda was inspecting the area in response to a permit request from the Cow Bay homeowner association to perform a dune restoration on the beach.

Walking through the property she saw dozens of tree stumps, bushes and shrubs including cherry, oak, pine and viburnum. Ms. Varkonda returned to the property, counting the stumps with a clicker.

She viewed seaweed, shells and sand dumped at the rear of a house, cut trees and vegetation near a cabana and on sand banks and piles of debris.

In an e-mail sent late last year to Mr. Metropoulos, Ms. Varkonda wrote that she had discovered multiple violations during the course of several trips to the property, and that when she compared the site using old photographs she realized the full extent of the cutting.

“Each time I go out to the property the magnitude of the work done on the property grows,” she wrote, listing the alleged violations: “Ninety per cent of the vegetation, shrubs, vines and trees up to the wetland edge has been completely removed, the magnitude of the violation has grown substantially.”

In e-mail correspondence with Ms. Varkonda, Mr. Metropoulos emphasized his commitment to environmentalism at several turns.

According to Mr. Metropoulos his share of the dune work totals $700,000. He also pointed out that his family contributed $450,000 in dairy equipment to the Katama Farm.

Ms. Varkonda said that Mr. Metropoulos has been unresponsive at various stages throughout the process which began in October.

“It’s been like pulling teeth,” she said.

According to Ms. Varkonda Mr. Metropolous had been briefed by Edgartown landscaper Michael Donaroma, who is also an Edgartown selectman, as to the scope of potential work and later arranged to do the clearing work anyway, with a separate contractor. Ms. Varkonda said she had no idea why Mr. Metropoulos did the cutting.

“He just decided for whatever reason to mow it all down,” she said.

For his part Mr. Metropoulos argues that he has exercised goodwill.

“We are in the process of getting a bond,” he wrote in an e-mail to Ms. Varkonda last Wednesday. “It has been a bit more complicated than we had anticipated. What more do you feel is required to be done on the property. Mike Donaroma continues to assure me that I have paid top dollar for him to guarantee his work.

“You had not told us the amount of the bond, which we have now determined to be $75,000. Given all this confusion I assume the penalties will be foregone. You must admit there’s been absolute goodwill, response and follow-up to all your requirements as reflected by prompt payment and planting that you requested.”

Ms. Varkonda said the issue has taken up untold time in her schedule.

“I couldn’t even tell you the number of hours I’ve put into this. Couldn’t even estimate it,” she said.

Ms. Varkonda said she has to rely heavily on the vigilance of neighbors to keep on top of possible violations. “I have a habit now where I take a picture wherever I go to document everything,” she said.

“And I investigate every call, because you never know. You know the phone call saying, ‘I hear a chain saw down the road’ could be the one. And I don’t mind if people call me at home — I’d rather they call me the day it happens rather than waiting till Monday.”

When it happens Ms. Varkonda is ready and willing to bring the axe down, literally.

“I go over and say put down that chain saw now, walk away,” she said. “And I call the people in charge.”