Two years ago, Audubon entered a legal battle to protect Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area in Southwest Florida. Out-of-state investors wanted to build a private boardwalk over a state-owned lagoon and conservation lands, barely skirting the edge of the critical wildlife area. Audubon scientists immediately sounded the alarm. When the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) signaled its plans to greenlight this habitat-destroying project, Audubon had to act. Out-of-state investors shouldn’t receive a free pass to destroy critical conservation lands with a private boardwalk for vacation rental houses.
This designated protected area is essential habitat for rare nesting, migrant and wintering shorebirds and seabirds. A boardwalk like this would dramatically alter the habitat by encouraging predators and foot traffic while frightening away birds.
With support from Audubon members and the Town of Fort Myers Beach, our attorneys spent the last two years crossing swords with these investors and DEP. They tried every legal maneuver in the book to exhaust and outspend Audubon, but Audubon does not go down without a fight. Ironically, if Audubon had not stepped up to stop its construction back in 2016, Hurricane Irma would have destroyed this bad boardwalk in this highly dynamic habitat.
By the time you read this story, Audubon’s lawyers and experts will have already testified in the case. Without a doubt, the people of Southwest Florida expect the state to be more protective of our suffering coastal habitats, and we hope there is good news to share in the next edition.
We are Audubon, and this is what we do. No matter the outcome, standing up for Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area was worth the fight. Floridians know all too well that incremental losses—permit by permit—combine to make some of the greatest conservation tragedies. Help us stay strong and ready to act for the next urgent case. Continue your support of Audubon with a generous donation using the enclosed envelope. These gifts give us the power to act quickly when threats emerge to birds and the places they need.
P.S. To find out what happened, stay tuned to Audubon Florida’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!