The Panther Island Mitigation Bank transferred more than 1,800 acres to the Corkscrew Swamp sanctuary in South Lee County Friday. The Sanctuary then took over managing the land. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the mitigation bank next door marked the first phase of a land exchange that will make the sanctuary thousands of acres larger. The Panther Island Mitigation Bank is former cow pasture and farm fields - restored with money developers and local governments pay to offset environmental impacts on their own projects. Sanctuary manager Ed Carlson says it’s a wonderful way to protect more habitat in Southwest Florida.
“It’s getting so difficult to acquire land anymore because it’s getting so expensive and you’ve seen how you know trying to buy the Naples Zoo or the Babcock Ranch is really getting so difficult it’s almost impossible for conservation organizations to buy land because of the increasing value. So this is a major tract of land and it’s in peak condition ecologically which is also nearly impossible to find around here.”
Carlson says the pristine land is great territory for endangered panthers and wood storks. A colony of the birds nests at the sanctuary.
“And it’s been struggling. So this restoration of the land that the bank has been doing, they’ve been restoring wetlands, which will actually our wood stork colony a lift because they’ll have more territory to feed in. And that’s been a limiting factor for them is that they’re foraging areas have been decreasing so it’s more and more difficult for them to find food to feed their young but this place has very high quality wetlands and will give a boost to our wood stork colony.”
The transfer of the mitigation bank comes with a 1.5 million dollar endowment to pay for equipment and staff to manage the land. Carlson thinks it could be a field site for Florida Gulf Coast University and a second visitor center. The rest of the 2,700-acre bank would become part of the sanctuary in two more transfers in 2007 and 2009.
Monday, 14 November 2005 00:00