More than 200 acres added to conservation land in Lee County, Sanibel

Commissioners added more than 200 acres of conservation land in northwest Lee County and Sanibel, beating out developers also trying to buy the land.

Millions come to see the birds, alligators, tortoises and other wildlife on Sanibel Island every year.

Jake Albi is one of those million.

He comes down from New York every year, and Tuesday, he was happy to hear this plot of land won’t get bulldozed.

“Even just going out biking, we see the little things like stick bugs, and it’s cool for us,” he said. “Getting rid of any of this stuff is definitely bad.”

A public private partnership raised the money to save the 68 acres from big developers.

“The refuge identified this as a very important piece of property that connects a lot of other conservation land,” said John McCabe with the Ding Darling National Refuge Wildlife Friends.

McCabe first raised the alarm about developers taking over the land five years ago.
They wanted to build 29 homes on the Wulfert Bayou: the largest piece of unprotected land left on the island.

“It’s been used by animals to travel back and forth- these different pieces of conservation land,” said McCabe.

The Lee County commissioners agreed to kick in $6.5 million under the conservation 20/20 program. Ding Darling raised the remaining three million: enough for McCabe to claim victory.

“Needless to say…we’re pretty happy,” he said.

And visitors like Albi can enjoy more of the island for what it’s known for.

“The more wildlife, the better…I feel like that’s what separates Sanibel from other vacation, beach towns,” he said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will manage the land and Lee County won’t have to use your tax money to pay for the service.

Also part of that land deal: About 125 acres of the Yucca Pens area in northwest Lee County near Cape Coral will become part of a water restoration project.

Reporter:Janae Muchmore
Writer:Briana Harvath
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