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

Gretchen C. Valade Preserve Restoration Will Help Gopher Tortoises

July 19, 2022

The replanting of the Gretchen C. Valade Preserve, one of SCCF’s most recent land acquisitions, has begun. To make space for native vegetation, the SCCF team has been hard at work removing invasive exotic plants from the property, including Australian pines (Casuarina equisetifolia), phoenix palms (Phoenix reclinata), and mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria hyacinthoides).

Map showing location of Gretchen C. Valade Preserve off Pine Avenue on west Sanibel.The 2.2-acre Valade Preserve is located on the far west end of Sanibel and contains a favorable stretch of tropical hardwood hammock with ephemeral pools for wildlife. Part of the property is an open grassland that will be managed to allow forage for local gopher tortoises. SCCF Land Conservation Steward Victor Young and Field Technician Dustin Lucas recently planted native trees in the narrow section of the parcel to keep a buffer between residents’ properties and Sanibel-Captiva Road. Several additional sweeps through the property to keep exotic vegetation out will occur throughout the year.

The new preserve is named after one of SCCF’s long-time supporters and donors, Gretchen C. Valade. The acquisition was funded by her family.

SCCF staff member planting a tree on the Valade Preserve.“Gretchen was instrumental in getting the Marine Laboratory off the ground in the early 2000s, which led to the deployment of SCCF’s River, Estuary, and Coastal Observing Network (RECON) sensors,” said SCCF CEO James Evans. “Gretchen has been a part-time Sanibel resident since 1980, and she and her family are passionate about water quality and conserving the island’s wildlands.”

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 or 239-822-6121.


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