PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Environmental events abound throughout Southwest Florida

Water Lilly
Photo/Naples Botanical Garden
If you want to know more about climate change, you will probably enjoy the inaugural Southwest Florida Climate & Community Initiative. It is just one of many ways to be involved in Southwest Florida's environmental happenings

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” -- Aldo Leopold (1887–1948), who is considered by some environmentalists as the founder of the science of wildlife management.

It’s rather impossible to live in Southwest Florida, with its subtropical climate and stunning natural wonders, and not stop to take a gander at the grandeur.

Watch the River of Grass meander. See birds and plants sporting colors bordering on impossible. Explore state and national parks and preserves so plentiful they more often than not share borders. Enjoy beaches and bays and backcountry bayous. In Charlotte, Lee, and Collier and inland counties environmental wonders are everywhere.

The management of Southwest Florida’s natural wonders are quite often as open to members of the public as is the environment itself.

The following is a sampling of the region’s upcoming environmental events and meetings, which invites public input on gopher tortoises, allow residents to take part in restoration efforts on Sanibel Island, and become immersed in a climate summit with some of the top minds pondering solutions to rising sea levels and warming temperatures.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding online meetings to discuss the continued protection of gopher tortoises in the light of continued development pressure in the Sunshine State
Cliff Leonard

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is holding online meetings to discuss the continued protection of gopher tortoises in the light of continued development pressure in the Sunshine State

Help protect gopher tortoises

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants public input on possible changes to better protect gopher tortoises.

The gopher tortoise is a state-listed threatened species whose burrows are often in the way of planned residential and business developments.

Environmentalists argue the developers should go elsewhere and leave the turtles alone, who were there first and are protected. Builders point to increases in gopher tortoise populations, successful animal relocation efforts, and that they need somewhere to build critical infrastructure for Florida’s current and future residents and businesses.

Written comments will be accepted from now until Sept. 23, 2022.

Information on the draft guidelines, instructions on how to join the webinars, and a link to the comment survey are availablehere.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

Red mangroves planted last year near Pine Island to replace others damaged by hurricanes are thriving

‘The Watch Party’

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is holding a fundraiser Sept. 30 with the proceeds going to support the foundation’s community-based marine conservation efforts.

Over the last year, the SCCF has planted nearly 1,300 mangrove seedlings and transported roughly 3,200 buckets of fossils and oyster shell to Hemp Key and Benedict Key for restoration efforts.

The planted mangroves are already bearing new green leaves, which provide shade for the tiny creatures in the water below and food for things like the aptly-named mangrove tree crab on branches above. Horseshoe crabs scavenge at the bottom of mangroves to feed on algae, invertebrates, and dead stuff.

Mangrove forests contribute to long-term stability of the nearshore ecosystem, and act as an important fish nursery with shallow water underneath and a lot of long roots in which to hide if a predator can get in.

The fundraiser will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at SCCF’s Sanibel Sea School, 455 Periwinkle Way, in Sanibel. Live music will be performed by Uproot Hootenanny. There will be a shrimp boil, craft beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. Fishermen should bring their rods as there will be a casting competition.

Tickets cost $100 for adults and $25 for those under 21 years old. Children 12 years old and younger are free.

Climate summit

If you are among those who believe a warming planet and rising seas are poised to challenge the way everyone lives in coming decades, you will probably enjoy the inaugural Southwest Florida Climate & Community Initiative.

The Oct. 6 gathering is a region-wide movement to educate Floridians about the changing climate and try to come up with realistic solutions for residents in Southwest Florida. With a focus on air, land and sea, the goal is to inform the Southwest Florida community of the unique challenges the region is facing, as well as the steps each individual and the community collectively can take to make a real difference.

“Our goal is to gather the entirety of Southwest Florida to answer two questions: What can we do individually? And what can we do together,” said Greg Tolley, executive director of The Water School at FGCU. “By uniting our community, Southwest Florida aims to be a leader in implementing creative solutions to achieve successful results that protect our paradise.”

National and regional experts, environmental innovators, elected officials, and Southwest Florida community and business leaders will be on-hand to explore solutions that may protect Southwest Florida from changes in weather, land, water, and lifestyle.

The summit will be at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $25, and online registration is open through Oct. 1 here.

Sessions planned for the event include an overview of the current global and local climate challenges that Southwest Florida is experiencing and the impact on the regional economy, health, topography, and weather, as well as existing public perceptions.

Additionally, the event will showcase existing resiliency efforts in Southwest Florida. Attendees will hear from those who have been on the frontlines of these statewide and local endeavors, as well as learn how the community can become involved and support these various efforts.

Prior to the summit, a series of workshops were held throughout Southwest Florida to help shape the day’s events.

“It is clear from these workshops, as well as a recent survey of residents, that Southwest Florida’s vulnerabilities to heat, flooding, severe storms, water quality, and impact on infrastructure are the greatest areas of concern,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “What’s encouraging is that workshop participants were engaged and solution-driven, and suggestions were flowing.

“Our hope is that the summit will further escalate awareness and engagement and bring forth solutions that can be implemented by consumers and residents as well as adopted at the professional and governmental levels,” he said. “We must work together as a community to adopt real solutions to protect our paradise for tomorrow.”

Environmental reporting for WGCU is funded in part by VoLo Foundation, a non-profit with a mission to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. 

Sign up for WGCU's monthly environmental newsletter, the Green Flash, today.

WGCU is your trusted source for news and information in Southwest Florida. We are a nonprofit public service, and your support is more critical than ever. Keep public media strong and donate now. Thank you.