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Sanibel Island Restoration Management Partnership Receives 2002 Coastal America Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 16, 2002

Contact:
Tom MacKenzie, FWS, 404/679-7291 or 404/909-2243
Kevin Godsea, FWS, 941/472-1100, ext. 237
Nancy New, USDA, 202/401-9923

Florida’s Sanibel Island Restoration Management Partnership has received The 2002 Coastal America Partnership Award today at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel.

P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget, presented the award to the Partnership. The Partnership includes The City of Sanibel, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who are working together to implement an innovative restoration plan to save Sanibel Island’s native habitat.

Thirteen people received plaques individually and as members of the Partnership. From the City of Sanibel were the Mayor, Nola Theiss; Judy Zimomra, City Manager; Rob Loflin, Ph.D, Natural Resources Director; and James Evans, Conservation Officer. From the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation were Marge Meek, President of the Board of Trustees; Erick Lindblad, Executive Director; and Brad Smith, Biologist. From Ferrier Enterprises were Claudio Herrero and Marcello Herrero. From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were Louis Hinds III, Florida Refuge Supervisor; Robert Jess, Refuge Manager and David Lucas, Equipment Operator for J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel; and Layne Hamilton, Refuge Manager of the Service’s Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge in Naples.

“The Sanibel Island Restoration Management Partnership exemplifies Secretary of Interior Gale Norton’s four C’s - Consultation, Cooperation and Communication in the service of Conservation,” said Scarlett. “It is a model partnership between public and private organizations that other groups can follow to achieve tangible conservation results.”

“With almost 70 percent of the island now protected as wildlife conservation land, this partnership shows how conservation and progress can be compatible,” said Lou Hinds, Southeast Refuge Supervisor for Area 4. “I am proud of the great people from the City of Sanibel, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, and our Fish and Wildlife Service employees for all of their positive efforts with this partnership.”

“The Sanibel Island Restoration Partnership is an example of what Coastal America is all about,” said Virginia K. Tippie, Director of Coastal America. “This project shows the benefits of partnerships that bring people and organizations together to achieve restoration, preservation, and protection for our coastal resources in ways they wouldn’t be able to achieve if they each worked alone.”

A barrier island off the Southwest Coast of Florida, Sanibel Island has faced challenges to its uniqueness. Its mangrove estuaries, freshwater interior wetlands, and tropical hardwood hammocks host over 240 migratory bird species including blue herons, roseate spoonbills and several endangered and threatened species, such as the eastern indigo snake, manatee, and wood stork.

Invasive, non-native plants, like the Brazilian pepper, development, and drainage were destroying Sanibel’s sensitive ecosystem. In response, The Sanibel Island Restoration Management Partnership was formed in 1998.

The most pressing challenge that the Partnership has faced is the eradication of the non-native, noxious Brazilian pepper, prevalent in wetlands and upland habitats throughout central and south Florida. Introduced into Sanibel in the 1950’s, the pepper displaces native vegetation and consequently the species that depend on their natural habitat. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation created an experimental impoundment on its property to test the effect of higher water levels on the plant. This successful experiment led to a new cooperative surface water management project that raised maximum water levels in the central marsh from 2.5 feet to 3.2 feet, a technique that also helps control flooding.

The City of Sanibel divided the City into six zones and provided incentives for the removal of Brazilian pepper on private, residential property, including free periodic roadside pickups of pepper debris and use of the free, on-island, exotic plant disposal site. In two years, about 920 acres of Brazilian pepper have been cleared within the City limits. The largest pepper eradication project, involving all three partners, has been the clearing of the Sanibel Botanical site that totals 400 acres of Refuge, Foundation, and City-managed properties.

To help eliminate pepper and other common exotics (lead tree, sansevieria, air potato, and java plum), the Refuge provided a former homesite as the on-island disposal site. The Service also issued Special Use Permits to private contractors who would use the site and provided equipment and operators to maintain or burn the piles of vegetation. The City helped clear the site of metal debris and the Sanibel Fire Department and the Island Water Association installed a fire hydrant for fire control. In addition, the Refuge, through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, provided funding for exotic plant control on acres adjacent to the Refuge. Also, the Lee County Tourist Development Council gave the Partnership over one-half-million dollars in grants since 1998 to remove exotics from hundreds of acres of Refuge, Foundation, and City lands.

All of the Partnership’s efforts to eradicate Brazilian pepper and other exotics from the Sanibel area have resulted in the ongoing restoration of habitat for several native species such as marsh birds, American alligators, small rodents, wading birds, and raptors, and their populations are again increasing on the island.

The Coastal America Partnership was established in 1992 to protect, preserve and restore our coastal watersheds by integrating federal actions with state and local government and non-governmental efforts. The federal partners include the Departments of Agriculture, Air Force, Army, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Navy, State, Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Executive Office of the President. Through multi-agency teams, the partnership process enables national policy issues to be identified and resolved, regional plans and strategies to be developed, and local projects to be implemented. To recognize outstanding partnership efforts, Coastal America established a national awards program in 1997. The Sanibel Island Restoration Management Partnership is one of four partnership initiatives selected to receive the 2002 award.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System that encompasses 540 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife

 



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