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Preserving paradise one acre at a time

By Staff | Apr 6, 2016

The campaign to purchase the 8.51 parcel on Wulfert Road is under way by the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society. PHOTO PROVIDED

With undeveloped land on Sanibel becoming a rarity, the chance to purchase and keep it that way is much too important to pass up for the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society.

That golden opportunity popped up recently, which came at the heels of the purchase of the Sanibel historic 6.5 acre Woodring property in 2013, when the Society successfully completed a $1.4 million land acquisition campaign for the historical Woodring Homestead, which protected the water entrance to the Refuge on Tarpon Bay.

In late 2015 it accepted a land donation of 9.1 acres near Clam Bayou. Refuge administration has earmarked the Wulfert Road parcel as a top habitat priority.

“It basically fell into our laps,” said Birgie Miller, executive director of the Wildlife Society. “It is an important piece of land, because of its location near the refuge and SCCF, so it will help keep the border intact. It’s definitely a priority.”

The 8.51 acres is located on Wulfert Road, near the exit of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The City of Sanibel already has permitted the land to house five residential homes and a large boat dock.

The aerial view of the land in which the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society is raising money to purchase. The Society has already raised $600,000 and still has $1.4 million to go. PHOTO PROVIDED

The cost of the 8.51 acres is $2 million, which has a deadline of February 2017. The Wildlife Society has already put down a good faith payment of $600,000, which was raised at their latest special event through pledges and donations.

“It was appraised by both parties and negotiated on,” Miller said. “This property has been permitted for five homes and one large dock, so we think it’s a fair and affordable price.”

The land has been studied and found to be the habitat for up to 80 different land and marine species which live or feed on or near the property, including bobcats, manatees, smalltooth sawfish, red-shouldered hawks and gopher tortoises.

The land purchase on Wulfert Road would also preserve a corridor into the Refuge, which is important.

“If we lose this land, the only way some animals could get into the Refuge that way is by flying,” said Wildlife Society board member Doris Hardy. “The board feels it’s important to help the refuge preserve as much of the dwindling island habitat as it can, since federal budget cuts preclude the refuge from government acquisitions in this area.”

Sarah Lathrop (Ding Darling Wildlife Society) and Society board members Jim Sprankle and Doris Hardy, hold the campaign poster for the Wulfert land acquisition initiative. PHOTO PROVIDED

“We will be extremely grateful to donors who will help us meet these goals.”

Since the purchase will be a time sensitive one, the Wildlife Society is up and going already for their campaign to raise the appropriate $1.4 million.

“With a time-sensitive fundraising deadline of February 2017 to purchase the Wulfert Road property, we will need major gift commitments to this campaign in order to be successful,” said immediate past president John McCabe. “We look to our supportive community to help us save another environmentally crucial piece of Sanibel Island one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels.”

It will also be up to the Wildlife Society to raise the money, because the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge isn’t proportioned the funds to buy land.

“That’s where the Wildlife Society comes into play, we fill in the gaps,” Miller said.

A red-shouldered hawk swoops over the land on Wulfert, which potentially will be sold to “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge if the Society and Friends of the Ding Darling Refuge can raise the $2 million. Photo by Kyle Sweet

Jim Sprankle, who is a Wildlife Society board member, said the community of Sanibel is unique and a big project like this, is realistic.

“There isn’t any other community as giving as Sanibel is,” Sprankle said. “And it would be a shame to have five homes on that piece of land, it is so beautiful out there.”

Up to five-year pledges can be made or single donations. To inquire in making a donation or pledge, contact Miller at 239-292-0566, .

A bobcat on the Wulfert land. Photo by Kyle Sweet