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DDWS strives to purchase Woodring property

By Staff | Jan 11, 2013

The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge (DDWS) has embarked on a preservation campaign to acquire 6.56 acres on Sanibel Island’s Woodring Point for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and to update and enhance the refuge’s Education Center.

The property’s preservation is a cooperative effort. DDWS and Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program will each purchase part of the land, contingent on the refuge assuming responsibility to restore and manage both parcels. DDWS must raise private funds to purchase its parcel.

The Woodring family, who homesteaded the property in the 1800s, currently owns the property, which is adjacent to the refuge and privately owned conservation lands.

The purchase of the Woodring property will benefit the refuge the key parcel necessary to re-create an intact habitat on the point. Its location at the entrance to Tarpon Bay, a vital habitat and feeding grounds for a variety of at-risk species and other fauna, makes its preservation especially critical, according to refuge biologists.

If not preserved by the refuge, the land could be developed with as many as five dwellings, each permitted a boat dock extending into Tarpon Bay. Construction of new homes and the increase in boat traffic would have significant impact on the habitat of both the land and marine species that live or feed on or near this property.

“With a successful campaign, this land purchase will protect rare bay beach habitat that more than 80 different land and marine species call home or visit for food and shelter,” said DDWS President John McCabe. “Our goal is to raise $1.4 million for the land purchase.

“The Education Center, which hundreds of thousands of people from around the world visit annually, is vital to the refuge’s mission of conservation education. Built and equipped over a decade ago, it will benefit from this campaign with the replacement of obsolete technology, the repair and updating of exhibits, and improved public access, including an elevator. To properly enhance the Education Center, we hope to raise an additional $400,000, for a total of $1.8 million.”

The partnership of Lee County with the refuge to purchase and manage the property depends upon DDWS’s ability to raise the additional necessary funds to save one of the last remaining bay beach properties on Sanibel.

“With a time-sensitive fundraising deadline of September 2013 to purchase the Woodring property, we will need major gift commitments to this campaign in order to be successful,” said McCabe. “We look to our supportive community to help us save another environmentally crucial and historic parcel of Sanibel Island.”

“As chairman of this preservation campaign, I am so excited that the Society already has raised $715,000 in gifts and pledges towards the $1.8 million goal,” said Jim Sprankle. “It is an exciting effort and one I am honored to be a part of.”

For more information, contact DDWS Executive Director Birgie Vertesch at 239-292-0566, director@dingdarlingsociety.org.