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Guest opinion: Much done, much more to do to protect endangered species

By Staff | Apr 19, 2019

Carl Veaux

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife is a not-for-profit 501-3c was born 19 years ago when Cape Coral resident Carol Kiefer noticed that city lot mowers were riding over owl burrows that were protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act and by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission which were “species of special concern.”

She told the city about the situation. A staff member was concerned and asked Carol for help protecting the owl burrows. The 20 people who stepped up were the first members of the organization.

Cutting stakes and putting together perches to make an area around the burrows was a commitment. To raise attention, the first Burrowing Owl Festival was created which drew about 100 people. Fast forward to today – there are more than 215 members and nearly 4,000 enjoyed the 2019 Burrowing Owl Festival at Rotary Park.

Owl and gopher tortoise burrows are located by CCFW using GPS and turned in to the city to place on maps. The city and CCFW have created a partnership in helping to protect our threatened species of which there are many. Some of these species are the burrowing owl, gopher tortoise, Florida scrub jay, manatee, purple martin and butterflies.

Yes, we have grown and along the way accomplished a great deal.

CCFW recently helped to keep the bald eagle ordinance intact and helped with a burrowing owl ordinance which included the Cape Coral Construction Industry and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission along with other stakeholders. A gopher tortoise ordinance is presently in the works. These ordinances reflect only the state rules that are in place. However, now that the ordinance is local, our Code Enforcement officers can address any issues dealing with these threatened species in addition to FWC officers.

Thousands of owl burrows have been staked, cleared of weeds and marked with protective signage which the city now contracts out the trimming.

CCFW members still construct perches and place PVC around the new burrows at a 10-foot foot radius.

In 2017, the Cape Coral Wildlife Trust, a 501(c)(3) was created with the mission to acquire lots that have gopher tortoises or burrowing owls. So far CCWT has acquired seven lots. One area hosts more than 20 gopher tortoise burrows. Others have owl burrows. We are in the process of working with the city to obtain gopher tortoise lots.

CCWT’s goal is to create mini environmental parks to educate locals and visitors about the importance of protecting these keystone species as the city continues to grow. We are asking land owners to donate parcels that perhaps have been inherited and over the years have become a home for these threatened species. Monetary gifts, or the designation of CCWT as a beneficiary in your will would also be an option.

We’d like to see service organizations, builders, businesses and Realtors join this effort. Contributors will have naming rights prominently displayed on educational signage placed on lots.

Cape Coral is one of the fastest-growing cities in the USA. If all of us do not act now, we may not see the gopher tortoises or burrowing owls for our grandchildren to enjoy when the city reaches the build out population of 400,000.

In addition, protected species need to remain in order to ensure eco/sustainable tourism throughout our growth.

Conservation and preservation of our wildlife is a must as Cape Coral grows in order to enhance quality of life for all who call Cape Coral home.

Parks and green space keep land values on the up side.

The members of CCFW and CCWT look forward to the day when Cape Coral’s diverse wildlife will be as great a draw as its weather and waterways.

Please take a moment to consider a donation of time, land or money to help make this happen.

Visit Facebook, CCFW, or the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife Website, www.capecoralwildlifetrust.org

Carl Veaux President,

Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife

and Vice President,

Cape Coral Wildlife Trust