The Pine Avenue property contains uplands that are covered in shrubs and hardwoods, including the exotic Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia). There are a few active gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows, but most have been choked out by the shade due to overgrowth of canopy trees. A lot of the ground is covered in Australian pine needles that have eliminated native groundcover plants.
SCCF CEO Ryan Orgera said the donation has “made it possible for us to acquire key parcels we had identified that are in need of re-wilding to restore native habitat for wildlife,” said. “We are thrilled to have Gretchen’s name on one of our preserves to honor her legacy of giving.”
The thin section of the parcel along Sanibel-Captiva Road is a mixture of native and non-native hammock trees. The exotic Phoenix palm (Phoenix reclinata) and more Australian pines will be removed or treated so native vegetation can become the dominant species on this strip of land.
Restoration through exotics removal and strategic replanting of native flora of the larger section will allow sunlight to penetrate to the ground to allow tortoise forage plants such as grasses to thrive in the uplands. Tortoises that left this parcel to live in neighboring open canopy residential yards will find the land much more suitable for burrowing after the restoration.
SCCF is the largest private landholder on Sanibel, with more than 1,815 acres in preservation on the island and an additional 200-plus acres of environmentally sensitive land on other Southwest Florida islands including North Captiva and Buck Key, as well as mangrove and tidal habitat in Cape Coral and in south Fort Myers.
To donate to the SCCF Land Acquisition and Improvement Fund, please contact SCCF Development Director Cheryl Giattini at firstname.lastname@example.org or (239) 822-6121.