Ryan Orgera, CEO of SCCF, Addresses Lions Club

provided to Santiva Chronicle

Ryan Orgera, CEO of SCCF, addressed the Sanibel Captiva Lions Club at their October 16th meeting at the Sanibel Community House. He opened the session by highlighting the efforts that SCCF has made toward the conservation of land. SCCF fundraising campaigns have helped to acquire 2,330 acres of land on Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Island. Of that total, SCCF directly manages 1,860 acres. The conservation land provides protection for native wildlife and also provides protection and mitigation for some of the water issues that we in Southwest Florida are facing.

SCCF is well known for the sea turtle and snowy plover monitoring on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. They also monitor a number of other species, including gopher tortoises, the Sanibel rice rat, bald eagles, alligators and coyotes. By monitoring these wildlife species they provide hard evidence about the number and health of these animal populations. He informed the Lions about the disorientation that is caused by light pollution on the survival rate of sea turtle hatchlings. Ryan commented that Sanibel, through its dark skies ordinance, has done a good job of reducing the disorientation; however the impact of “sky glow” from the lights of surrounding communities is an increasing problem.

Although the Lions are aware of the water quality problems that we face, we were informed about the role that SCCF plays in trying to improve our environment. Through their River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network (RECON) program and their recently completed marine research laboratory they are able to provide quantifiable measures of the water quality in our area. The oyster bed restoration provides one approach to improving the water quality, since oysters filter and remove nutrients and other pollution elements. In addition to direct actions, SCCF is one of the lead organizations to raise awareness and lobby for improvement in our water quality.

Ryan noted that forty percent of Lee County is wetlands, and much of this is inland, not just adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico or Pine Island Sound. The importance of this fact is wetlands act as a natural sponge that soaks up floodwaters and reduces flood heights. They also slowly release the water back into the water system and filter some of the pollutants. We were surprised to learn that thirty percent of our critical services such as schools, hospitals, police stations, fire stations and hurricane shelters, are in the floodplain. Destruction of wetlands does not just reduce a nice view of nature, but hampers the ability to respond in an emergency and slows the subsequent recovery.

We appreciate the time that Ryan took to enhance the Lions understanding of some of the issues that we are facing and the role that SCCF plays in trying to address them from a rational basis based on scientific facts.

Sanibel Captiva Lions Club holds regular dinner meetings on the first and third Wednesday of the month during the year. Visiting Lions or other interested people are welcome to attend. For more information on the Sanibel Captiva Lions Club contact Membership Chair Lion Steven Schulz at PO Box 391, Sanibel, FL 33957, or 239-233-6261, or visit our website at www.sanibelcaptivalionsclub.org.

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