The Sanibel–Captiva Conservation Foundation was founded after the formal dedication of the J. N. ‘‘Ding’’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge in 1967. After the death of Jay Norwood ‘‘Ding’’ Darling in 1962, local and national groups worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Florida to merge several tracts of land into one single federal refuge bearing his name. When that was accomplished five years later, the locally-based J. N. ‘‘Ding’’ Darling Memorial Committee members transitioned into SCCF.
SCCF's articles of incorporation were signed on Oct. 31, 1967. Our original mission was to preserve Sanibel’s interior freshwater wetlands. When the City of Sanibel was founded in 1974, one of its priorities was the development of a land use plan. SCCF provided funding and extensive expertise for the Sanibel Report, which was published in 1976 and served as the basis of Sanibel’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. The Sanibel Plan is still widely used as a model of environment-based planning.
Acquisition of environmentally sensitive lands remained a major goal of SCCF and its partners, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the City of Sanibel. An amazing 70% of the island is now protected as conservation land. As the island's largest private landowner, SCCF acquired and manages more than 1,800 acres on Sanibel as well as another 300 plus acres on North Captiva, various islands in Pine Island Sound, and critical mangrove habitat in Cape Coral and south Fort Myers.
Expansion of Mission
Over the years, SCCF moved well beyond its beginning as a land trust to include a Native Landscapes & Garden Center as well as extensive wildlife monitoring and research. In 2002, a Marine Lab was formalized, giving SCCF the unique ability to research the relationships between freshwater, estuarine, and marine systems within the Caloosahatchee watershed. Shortly thereafter, a policy team was added to advocate for our coastal ecosystems based on sound science.
Conserving What We Love
In 2020, the Sanibel Sea School merged with SCCF, bringing its mission to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. With programs for kids and families, Sanibel Sea School provides experiential learning that fosters lifelong stewardship. Coastal Watch also became part of SCCF at that time, deepening our community engagement with immersive volunteer programs and sustainability projects.
SCCF has always stood strong in its commitment to the residents of Sanibel and Captiva to protect the special nature of our islands.
Sanibel Vision Statement
Sanibel is and shall remain a barrier island sanctuary, one in which a diverse population lives in harmony with the islands’ wildlife and natural habitats. The Sanibel community must be vigilant in the protection and enhancement of its sanctuary characteristics.
Captiva Community Plan
The goal of the Captiva Community Plan is to protect the coastal barrier island community’s natural resources such as beaches, waterways, wildlife, vegetation, water quality, dark skies and history. This goal will be achieved through environmental protections and land use regulations that preserve shoreline and natural habitats, enhance water quality, encourage the use of native vegetation, maintain the mangrove fringe, limit noise, light, water, and air pollution, create mixed-use development of traditionally commercial properties, and enforce development standards that maintain one and two story building heights and the historic low-density residential development pattern of Captiva.