The “Ding” Darling team celebrates victory on the steps of the old courthouse in downtown Fort Myers following the county commissioners’ unanimous vote in favor of supporting the Wulfert Bayous acquisition.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners recently voted in favor of supporting the acquisition of the 68-acre Wulfert Bayous parcel located on Sanibel Island. The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) and the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge have been working with the county on the collaboration for more than a year to make the acquisition a reality.
Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program will fund $6.5 million of the total $9.5 million cost to purchase the property. DDWS has raised the additional $3 million through private donations. The refuge, for its part in the collaboration, will manage the property as part of its complex.
The city of Sanibel had already approved development of the land for up to 28 new homes. To preserve the tract from such development, DDWS kicked off its public campaign to preserve the acreage this past February.
The community quickly stepped up to support the land’s preservation, and by June, had met the $3 million private philanthropic goal needed to help make the purchase possible.
Located along Wulfert Road and Sanibel-Captiva Road and adjacent to refuge boundaries, the property is home to a number of species that would be seriously threatened by development of the habitat. The preserved acreage will also help protect water quality as a natural filter.
In addition to 16 acres of existing mangroves, Wulfert Bayous contains 15 acres of wetlands that can be restored and enhanced to create a wading bird colony of roseate spoonbills, wood storks, white ibis, and other egrets and herons, while serving as a natural water filter.
“We were simply overjoyed to hear the commissioners’ decision,” said John McCabe, who led the Wulfert Bayous acquisition effort for DDWS. “Having partnered with the 20/20 program back in 2013 with the purchase of the Woodring Point property on Sanibel and again in 2017 for the 8.15-acre Wulfert parcel, we know what a win-win proposition this turns out to be for all parties concerned.”