SCCF Protecting, Caring for Community
It has now been a week since recovery and rescue operations began on our barrier island communities. Our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones, pets, homes, and/or businesses. We want to thank our first responders, the City of Sanibel, Sanibel and Captiva Fire, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Lee County, and all those who have come from far and wide to support our recovery efforts.
For the past week, SCCF staff have assisted first responders from local, state and federal agencies with emergency response efforts. Our Marine Lab’s primary research vessel, the R/V Norma Campbell has been transporting equipment back and forth between Port Sanibel Marina and Sanibel for the USFWS and City of Sanibel, including ATVs, utility vehicles, and golf carts to provide transportation for first responders and to aid in recovery efforts.
“Starting last Friday, our main emphasis has been to support first responders on the island in any way we can,” Evans said. “We have been using the R/V Norma Campbell, to transport equipment for U.S. Fish & Wildlife, J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Fire, and the City of Sanibel and have also assisted with door-to-door checks.”
SCCF staff helped transport a number of evacuees from their homes to the City’s boat ramp and checked on people who stayed on the island. They also transported pets, including cats, birds, and a tortoise.
In preparation for Hurricane Ian, which slammed the islands on Sept. 28, SCCF stored a number of its vehicles at its Wildlife & Habitat Management facility on Sanibel-Captiva Road, which is one of the highest elevations on the island. Those vehicles have been lent to Sanibel Police, Sanibel Fire, and the City of Sanibel for use in critical first response. SCCF has also been transporting water and food and other supplies to support recovery efforts.
As staff traverse the island, they are often stopped and asked about SCCF’s mission to protect and care for our coastal ecosystems.
“We’ve passed people walking on the road who have serious damage to their homes, yet the conservation ethic is still strong in their hearts,” said Evans. “They want to know how wildlife and our ecosystems are coping.”
Once life safety issues are resolved and properties have been assessed and secured, SCCF will turn its attention back to its mission.
“The good news is we’ve been seeing a lot of wildlife. We will do assessments of the impacts of Hurricane Ian on our ecosystems once we feel we’ve done all we can to support recovery efforts,” added Evans.
With one-third of its staff displaced due to storm damages, SCCF is also focused on securing housing and supporting employees through these challenging times. “We are deeply committed to supporting our community and know that Southwest Floridians are strong and resilient, just like our ecosystems,” Evans said. “This is a time when we need to protect and care for each other as well as our beloved nature.”
SCCF does plan to undertake vital research studies to determine how our beloved coastal ecosystems and wildlife were impacted by Hurricane Ian. For now, however, the organization’s sole focus is helping our coastal community heal and rebuild.