Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
The Sanibel-Captive Conservation Foundation was founded in 1967 as a private, non-profit corporation for the purpose of acquiring land to save natural habitats on the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. The SCCF currently has over 1500 acres protected either by outright purchase or by holding conservation easements. In addition to its land protection activities, Foundation facilities include a nature center and museum with exhibits, lecture room, offices and gift shop, many miles of walking trails. There is also a retail sales area, butterfly house, native plant nursery, a lab area for use by visiting researchers, and a housing area for interns and staff. SCCF has a staff of ten under the direction of Eric Linblad as well as a cadre of active volunteers.
In 1998 the foundation and the CLT made a joint purchase of 200-acre York Island located at the south end of Pine Island. The two organizations have recently cooperated to purchase 230 acres of pristine mangrove forest and several upland sites known as Long Cut Preserve. These areas are nursery grounds for shrimp, crabs, and many species of fish, as our boating friends will attest.
National Wildlife Reserves
Also based on Sanibel Island is the Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve. Established in 1945, the refuge protects over 6000 acres. Under the administrative direction of the Ding Darling Reserve are the older satellite reserves, Matlacha Pass Wildlife Reserve with 17 islands covering 548 acres, and the Pine Island Wildlife Reserve with 23 islands protecting 512 acres. The latter two reserves were established in 1908 under the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. All of the National Wildlife Reserves come under the responsibility of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
The State of Florida has the major role in efforts to maintain and improve the environmental health of the larger Charlotte Harbor Estuary in which Pine Island lies. Under the auspices of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) , the division of Coastal and Aquatic Managed Areas (CAMA) has two programs active in the region.
Several aquatic preserves have been established to monitor and protect the fragil and complex eco-systems of state-owned submerged lands. The Matlacha Aquatic Preserve and the Pine Island Aquatic Preserve are within the Calusa Land Trust target area. Land Trust volunteers have been active for the past three years sampling and testing the quality of these waters which surround Pine Island. The project is managed by Judy Ott, an environmental scientist with the aquatic preserve staff. The project is funded by the federally designated Charlotte Harbor National Estuarine Preserve (CHNEP).
The Charlotte Harbor State Buffer Preserve, also an agency of the DEP, is comprised of several management areas in Charlotte and Lee counties. The preserve owns and manages a total of 38,000 acres. The Cape Coral management area (9,185 acres) and the Pine Island management area (6,772 acres) are intended to protect the Pine Island Basin watershed. The filtering effect of the buffer lands helps keep the pollutants caused by increased urban and agricultural development from destroying the natural chemical and physical balance of the estuary.
Little Pine Island, now a part of the buffer preserve system, was given to the state of Florida by the Nature Conservancy in 1974. This 5000+ acre island is now undergoing extensive wetland restoration to remove exotic plant infestation and to restore the hydrology thus permitting the natural wetland ecology to maintain itself.
The northern portion of La Costa Island (locally known as Cayo Costa)
is the site of what has been called "the best state park in Florida". Accessible
only by boat, the park affords primitive cabins, camping, and a six mile long beach on the
Gulf of Mexico. While most of the island is owned and managed by the state, there are
scattered private lots here and there. Many of the privately owned camps on the island
have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair.
The state has recently been doing a commendable job of killing most of the invasive melaleuca and Australian pines. In a few years, the island will once again be the pristine collection of sub-tropical habitats that support as great a natural diversity of vegetation as can be found in southwest Florida. A remaining environmental problem, however, is a quite large herd of feral hogs which cause great damage to the native plants. The southern two thirds of North Captiva Island is also owned by the state of Florida and managed by the DEP.
Lee County Pine Island Preserves
Lee County is a growing partner in the task of preserving environmentally sensitive lands. There are currently three preserves on Pine Island which have been acquired by the county over the past ten years. They are the Bocilla Island Preserve, the Eagle Preserve, and the recently acquired Edison Community College property in Smokehouse Bay. Several other threatened parcels on Pine Island are currently under review by Lee County for possible acquisition under the mechanism and funding of the county's 2020 conservation program.