50 Years of SCCF
Celebrating Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, protecting our natural resources
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) was founded on Oct. 31, 1967. Fifty years have brought a lot of change to Sanibel and Captiva―increasing development spurred by the 1963 Sanibel Causeway opening and the 1966 creation of the Island Water Association, Sanibel’s founding in 1974. Now, over 65 percent of Sanibel Island is held in conservation land due to a concerted effort by SCCF and its partners, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the city of Sanibel.
Land acquisition had been a primary goal of SCCF. In 2000, SCCF saw an emerging focus on water quality. To that end, the SCCF Marine Laboratory was founded in 2002 and began working on monitoring, research and restoration projects. That work was recognized in 2015 with a $1 million Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant for oyster reef and seagrass restoration, split evenly between SCCF’s Marine Lab and the Florida Oceanographic Society in St. Lucie.
Our region’s water problems escalated in 2013 with the dumping of billions of gallons of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee. Decisions of water managers rippled from Orlando to Florida Bay. Our local waters and the Caloosahatchee are inextricably bound into an incredibly complex system and, unfortunately, Southwest Florida was at the bottom of the list of priorities. SCCF’s 2006 addition of a Natural Resource Policy director has given us representation regionally, in Tallahassee and in Washington, D.C. Scientific data provided by SCCF’s Marine Lab―and working closely with local partners, especially the city of Sanibel―gave us a seat at the table. There is still a lot
SCCF’S LAND ACQUISITION EFFORTS HAVE PROTECTED 1,860 ACRES, AND FACILITATED THE PRESERVATION OF AN ADDITIONAL 470 ACRES.
of work to do, but we have a voice.
Looking back on 50 years, there have been many successes. After intense lobbying by SCCF staff and volunteers, for instance, lands on Cayo Costa and North Cap were nominated for state acquisition in 1974. Large tracts on both islands were purchased by the state of Florida in July 1976, becoming Cayo Costa State Park. Much of Sanibel’s unique interior wetlands have been preserved. SCCF began working in 1969 to buy lots comprising Sanibel Gardens and Tarpon Bay Estates, later turning the work over to the city of Sanibel. Habitat restoration on the Sanibel Gardens Preserve was a partnership between SCCF, the city and “Ding” Darling that won a Coastal America Partnership Award in 2002. SCCF also
won the Florida Wildlife Federation Conservation Organization of the Year Award in 2014. And in the late 1980s, SCCF spearheaded the fundraising to preserve almost 80 percent of 350-acre Buck Key [about 20 percent still remains in private hands]. Much of the island is now owned and managed by the “Ding” Darling Refuge. Today, SCCF’s land acquisition efforts have protected 1,860 acres, and facilitated the preservation of an additional 470 acres―on Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Island―including the most r ecent acquisition of the Bailey Homestead Preserve in 2011. On all this acreage, SCCF’s monitoring programs have removed exotic vegetation, monitored
species, and restored the health of these unique barrier island habitats.
Much of our work is accomplished with the invaluable help of hundreds of volunteers and the generous support of the community. Volunteers are the heart of our Sea Turtle conservation program, for example, with over a hundred participating every year, walking the beach to help stake and monitor nesting, which has been breaking records for the past three years. While it’s too early to know for certain, it is believed that the conservation efforts begun in the 1970s― in a number of places, including Sanibel, where Charles LeBuff began Caretta Research―are beginning to literally bear fruit. The work of Caretta Research was passed on to SCCF in the early 1990s.
Southwest Florida faces challenges on many fronts. Growth management is an ongoing concern, and several longstanding battles are still being fought. Water issues remain front and center. Ongoing education of a changing population is vital, fostering respect and understanding for the natural environment of the islands, one that evolved in a subtropical world of two seasons, dry and wet. The Native Landscapes & Garden Center provides native plants and landscaping services, and has demonstration gardens showing plants in the islands’ different habitats.
SCCF looks forward to meeting the challenges of the next 50 years as part of this resourceful and resilient islands community. The door is always open to those who would like to help.
Local waters are inextricably bound into an incredibly complex system. SCCF has been at the vanguard of protecting this vital natural resource.
Two-thirds of Sanibel is held in conservation thanks to SCCF, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the city of Sanibel.