Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Restoration of Wildlife Habitat an Ongoing Process

May 31, 2022

Restoring and then maintaining our conservation lands for native wildlife is a challenging and rewarding task. With approximately 2,000 acres of land hosting various listed or imperiled species of wildlife that often use unique habitats, SCCF’s dedication to restore and maintain these areas takes careful planning, time, and effort to keep them functional.

Exotic plant removal is the first task that must be completed when acquiring a new conservation property. This usually requires the use of a contractor since most new properties are infested with undesirable exotic vegetation, making it a big job. This is also the most expensive part since it usually requires the use of heavy machinery or mechanical removal. 

Afterward, the Wildlife & Habitat Management team must deal with the vegetation that is removed. The options are to have it hauled off-island on trucks to a dumpsite somewhere in Lee County, which is very expensive. Another option is to stack it in many piles to break down naturally or burn it, if possible, in the future. The final option is to chip it with a woodchipper and either spread the mulch or leave it in piles.

Herbicide treatments are needed on restoration sites for low exotic vegetation and for the stumps of large exotic trees so they don’t regrow. Additional treatments are made by staff in intervals after the contractor’s work is complete. This is to treat any exotics that were missed, during the initial stage, and to allow native vegetation to rebound. 

The replanting of the property as needed is the next step. 

“Replanting must be carefully planned out to allow maximum benefits for the wildlife habitat we are trying to provide,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “Realistic maintenance responsibilities must be considered so the habitat does not revert to its previous state. This succession can happen quickly in our south Florida climate.”

Frequent visits to the completed restored areas are needed in the first year to monitor the regrowth progress and make sure the property is beginning to look as was planned. After the first year, annual or biannual maintenance tasks such as herbicide treatments, mowing/light mechanical clearing, and even periodic prescribed fire in some cases are essential for sustaining the restoration into the future.



Archives by Month