Dana Crater, M.D., one of the CREW leaders, and CREW members Luke Crater and Henry Whitman unveil the National Wildlife Federation plaque proclaiming the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Photo provided.
Dana Crater, M.D., one of the CREW leaders, and CREW members Luke Crater and Henry Whitman unveil the National Wildlife Federation plaque proclaiming the Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Photo provided.

The Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ celebrated Earth Day, April 22, by having its property designated as a National Wildlife Habitat and unveiling a plaque from the National Wildlife Federation.

SCUCC Senior Pastor the Rev. Dr. John H. Danner told those in attendance at the celebration on Monday that he recognizes this habitat “is something God and Nature have had going on for centuries. It’s always important to have the next generation involved.”

The special designation is the result of the efforts of three groups: the church’s Children and Youth Committee, the Green Team and the CREW youth group of middle and high school students. It became a “green activity” for them, and several months ago NWF representatives joined the CREW group for an extensive walk-through checklist.

The list had four major categories of food, water, cover and places to raise young. It included a section of sustainable practices with numerous subcategories, as well as soil and water conservation, controlling exotic species and organic practices.

Together, NWF and CREW members explored the property, consisting of the main campus and 17 undeveloped acres behind the church. It had to qualify in a specified number of areas for each category.

Our church grounds are extremely lush and diverse, so we thought we might have a good chance to get certified,” said Dana Crater, M.D., one of the CREW leaders. “It was a great experience for (the groups), and it’s important to our church to protect the environment.”

During the celebration, there was a singing of “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” Danner offered a prayer, as well as read “Egrets,” a poem about nature and wildlife by the late Mary Oliver who he referred to as “the unofficial poet laureate of Sanibel.”

The church’s certification as a “Garden for Wildlife,” came with a reminder from Danner of the church covenant that reads in part, “We will do all we can to protect the birds, animals and plants on this fragile barrier island.”