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Trust cuts ribbon on first conservation lot in Cape Coral

By Staff | Feb 13, 2018

Cheryl Anderson stands by a “Tortoise Crossing” sign at the ribbon-cutting for the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust’s first land acquisition Tuesday.

A newly formed land trust celebrated its first purchase of an environmentally sensitive property in Cape Coral Tuesday.

The Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 305 N.W. 7th Terrace, a quarter-acre lot said to be habitat for multiple gopher tortoises.

Many area conservationists from the trust and the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife were there to help celebrate the occasion – the protection of more than 30 gopher tortoise burrows, giving the species an opportunity to thrive in perpetuity on the parcel.

Cheryl Anderson, a board member of the trust, said the whole idea is to buy environmentally sensitive lots – or have lots donated to them – to preserve them for the wildlife that live there.

“It’s very expensive to remove these animals, which is called mitigation and take them to another site,” Anderson said. “We paid $6,500, but that does not include all the mitigation funds that will be put into the property because of the UEP.”

Honey Phillips and Carl Veaux hold the ribbon for Pascha Donaldson, president of the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, to cut while conservationists look on at the ribbon-cutting for the trust’s first land acquisition Tuesday.

The lot was sold to the trust by a woman who lived in Puerto Rico, who needed the money to rebuild her home there following the hurricanes, Anderson said.

The trust was formed in November to acquire burrowing owl and gopher tortoise habitat. Both are threatened species.

Both species are covered by Florida statutes, but their numbers have been declining statewide and in Cape Coral, where development has impacted their habitats.

“People are very sympathetic to the idea of buying property to save the animals,” Anderson said. “We haven’t run into anyone who isn’t sympathetic to this project. Everyone sees the way building is going that these properties are disappearing.”

Among those who have done it on their own is Rick Aliperti, who bought property in the southwest part of the city that abuts 50 acres the city owns, with more than 45 tortoise burrows.

“Hopefully, between what I’ve done and what they’ve done, we can start to preserve our wildlife because that’s why many of us moved here to begin with,” Aliperti said.

Pascha Donaldson, president of the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, said the land is for all the wildlife because with all the development, these animals are disappearing quickly.

“Unless we protect the land and the space, all the wildlife will disappear,” Donaldson said. “This is economics for Cape Coral. People come here to see out wildlife, so it’s good business to protect them.”

Carl Veaux, vice president of the trust and one of the city’s most vocal conservationists, said as a result of this purchase, there will be gopher tortoises in the Cape for now and for all times. But they need help from others, either monetarily or in land donation, to help keep these animals thriving.

“This is a kickoff drive for people to donate land with burrowing owls and gopher tortoises on it,” Veaux said. “We’re looking for people to buy lots with burrowing owls on it.”