Environmental events abound throughout Southwest Florida

“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 will delight with displays of water lilies in Naples, 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.

Weekend of water lilies

Water lilies at the Naples Botanical Garden will be at peak bloom on Labor Day weekend, and guided tours will take guests throughout the garden’s aquatic areas to see the water lily collections throughout the 170 acres of tropical plants.

The festival, held on Sept. 2 and Sept. 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. will be filled with demonstrations, family-friendly activities, and special curator talks. It is an opportunity to slow down during a busy weekend and surround yourself with nature, even seeing a water lily competition up close.

On Sept. 3, meet artist Christy Noonan in the garden’s Kapnick Hall from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. At 10 a.m. enjoy a “hybridizing” demonstration by Brandon McLane of Florida Aquatic Nurseries in the Water Garden. All activities are included with admission, which is $12 for adults, $3 for those ages 4 years old to 17 years old. Children ages 3 and under are free.

Help protect gopher tortoises

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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

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.

Key revisions and information included in the guidelines will be presented at two public webinars. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions. Webinars are scheduled for the following dates:

• Wednesday, Sept 7, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
• Wednesday, Sept 14, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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 available here.

‘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 event 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 initiative 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 highlight the 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 this October 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. 

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