‘Ding’ Darling gets $5.3K grant for habitat restoration
The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation announced on Nov. 12 its award of $5,309,000 to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island to further the refuge’s plans for restoring the newly acquired, 68-acre Wulfert Bayous, which lies adjacent to it. The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society- Friends of the Refuge partnered on the application for a Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund grant aimed at restoring bird populations affected by the catastrophic BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.
The acquisition process for Wulfert Bayous, completed earlier this year, entailed $3 million in private funds raised by DDWS, and $6.5 million contributed by the Lee County Conservation 20/20 program. The refuge will begin managing the parcel as part of its complex later this year.
The wetland and upland habitat serves as an important wildlife corridor between the refuge and other established conservation lands as well as a tool for improving local water quality. From the beginning of its acquisition campaign, “Ding” Darling envisioned restoring the property — which had been city-approved for a development of 29 homes — as wetland habitat for a colony of wading birds.
The refuge will improve 16 acres of functional mangrove habitat to attract species impacted by the oil spill, including roseate spoonbills, white ibises, brown pelicans, wood storks and a number of egret and heron species. Restoration will include mangrove bird-nesting islands and adjacent alligator basking areas intended to provide natural predation protection for nesting birds. The preserved land, in addition to avoiding the introduction of more nutrient pollution as a housing development, acts as a filter for waters running eventually into estuaries and the sea.