LEE COUNTY, Fla .– The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation has purchased three locations near Sanibel that are critical habitat for wildlife. All three are on McGregor Boulevard just before the Sanibel Causeway tollgate.
âThere are two on the south side of McGregor, one on the north side,â said Chris Lechowicz, director of wildlife and habitat management for the SCCF. “It’s about 25 acres in total.”
There is a reason why this land is so crucial to preserve.
âThe habitat here is mostly mangroves,â Lechowicz said. “Some areas on the south side have mud flats.”
Mangroves are a major line of defense in protecting Southwest Florida’s waterways. The roots help filter water before it enters bodies like the Gulf. Mangroves are also essential habitats for wildlife.
âThis area is used by many species of wading birds and shorebirds that come here to nest and feed,â Lechowicz said.
The SCCF said estuarine habitat is also important for cruciform turtles, critically endangered small-tooth sawfish and countless species of invertebrates, including crustaceans and molluscs.
Without the plots of land that remain natural, they would have fewer places to go.
âIf you look along this road you will see individual houses, you will see lots for sale,â Lechowicz said. “It is very important that we acquire them so that they can never be turned into houses.”
Maintaining the new preservation land will require a lot of work. Along the edges closer to the road there are many exotic plants that pose a danger to native plants.
âWhen you disturb the ground, the aliens really take over, so we’re going to have to eliminate that,â Lechowicz said. “It lines most of the road because it’s all been built artificially.”
Now, buying the land will prevent further build-up. This acquisition is due to an anonymous donor who has launched a brand new fund to help preserve the land.
âIt shows that there are good people in the world,â said local fisherman Chuck Garnes. “If you weren’t doing it very soon, I wouldn’t have the capacity to do what I’m doing now in good, clean water.”
The SCCF’s new land acquisition and improvement fund can also be used to optimize the quality of this habitat through restoration, rewilding and ongoing maintenance.