145 Acres Added to “Ding” Darling NWR (FL)

Fort Myers, FL, 12/5/2003 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today announced it has conveyed 145 acres to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The property, formerly owned by Roberts Development Corporation, is located on San Carlos Bay in Fort Myers, Florida within the recently expanded boundary of the Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) will manage the land. Funding for the project was provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund, thanks to the strong support of U.S. Rep. Porter Goss and U.S. Senators Bob Graham and Bill Nelson.

Congressman Porter Goss (FL-14) said, “We have been working with U.S. Fish and Wildlife for years to purchase this land, and are so pleased the Trust for Public Land has stepped up to the plate and made this addition to Ding Darling a reality.”

“This acquisition will conserve Florida’s unique natural history and provide an educational experience for visitors in Southwest Florida,” said U.S. Senator Bob Graham. “It also can serve as a reminder about the importance of adequately funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

“It’s been a hundred years since Florida’s Pelican Island was set aside as the first National Wildlife Refuge,” U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said. “I’m proud to see this long legacy of conservation continuing today with the expansion of Ding Darling.”

The waterfront property provides permanent protection to critical habitat for wading birds and other wildlife, including large resident flocks of neo-tropical wading birds, migrating waterfowl, alligators, otters, raccoons and a small population of American crocodiles.

“The Fish & Wildlife Service recognized the importance of this mangrove wetland and the imminent threat of development,” said John Garrison, director of TPL’s Southeast Florida Office. “Condominiums and a shopping mall would have been built on the property had we not stepped in to preserve it.”

?A boardwalk approximately a half-mile long will be constructed through the site and will provide some public access to view wildlife and give USFWS biologists access to the mangroves, wetlands, and the bay to monitor and study the habitat.

“The acquisition of this critical piece of habitat is the result of many people working together for the benefit of wildlife,” said Rob Jess, manager of the Refuge. “The Roberts tract, adjacent to Lee County’s Bunche Beach, provides a tremendous opportunity for the Refuge and the county to manage habitat desperately needed by migrating shorebirds. The significance and importance of this acquisition will be remembered as demands continue to pull on these limited natural resources.”

This project is also part of TPL’s ongoing program to acquire land for the USFWS within the recently expanded boundary of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This is the fifth parcel TPL has helped add to the Refuge. The nonprofit was involved in two small acquisitions earlier this year around the old Island Water Association treatment site on Sanibel Island. TPL also acquired and conveyed properties to the Refuge Chino Island in 1999 and Buck Key in 2000.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being. TPL helps conserve land for recreation and spiritual nourishment and to improve the health and quality of life of American communities. Operating in Florida since 1975, TPL has helped save more than 275 sites as community parks, waterfronts, historic sites, greenways and trails. The Wall Street Journal’s SmartMoney magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity for the second year in a row, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information, please visit our web site a www.tpl.org. # # #