Gulf Coast Community Foundation awards $30,000 to Conservation Foundation

Funds support Conservation Foundation’s land management and restoration programs

The is a scene at the Myakka Headwaters Reserve. Photo by Sam Valentin, courtesy of the Conservation Foundation

The Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast recently received two $15,000 grants from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Conservation Foundation has announced.

These grants were made possible through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation itself and the Katherine Naismith Witten Fund at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, a news release explains. The funding supports the Conservation Foundation’s land management and restoration programs on its protected lands, “with a specific focus on improving wildlife habitat and increasing climate resiliency,” the release adds.

“Gulf Coast Community Foundation is a true champion of Southwest Florida’s natural environment,” said Christine P. Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation, in the release. “We are deeply grateful to them and the Katherine Naismith Witten Fund for continuing to invest in our mission and the future of our region.”

Through a variety of techniques, the Conservation Foundation works to ensure that the land it protects “is well-managed for the benefit of people and nature,” the release continues. “Most often this includes practices such as native tree planting, exotic plant removal, and prescribed fire.

“The planting of native trees and plants provides significant benefits to wildlife by increasing access to food and shelter,” the release points out. This year alone, the Conservation Foundation has planted thousands of trees along the Myakka River, for example, the release notes. “Trees planted on the shores of rivers, lakes, and creeks shade the water, thereby decreasing water temperature, increasing oxygen, and improving fish habitat,” the release explains. “Additionally, shoreline plantings help to improve water quality and stabilize shorelines by capturing sediment and reducing erosion.

“The re-introduction of fire to landscapes is also a critical practice on land where fire should naturally occur,” the release adds. “In Florida, almost every natural community benefits from fire. When natural fires do not occur, old branches and leaves accumulate, becoming fuel for catastrophic, uncontrolled wildfires that place people and wildlife at risk. By routinely burning land through a practice called ‘prescribed fire,’ ” the Conservation Foundation and other land management organizations help protect the community by decreasing wildfire risk, the release points out.

The Conservation Foundation’s work also improves the “community’s resiliency to the increasingly intense storms and floods caused by our changing climate,” the release adds. “Land conservation in itself is a powerful tool and our best natural defense against flooding.” The protection of floodplains, coastal marshes, prairies and forests results in “places for water to be naturally stored and absorbed, now and in the future,” the release says. “Benefits to the community increase when protected land is also responsibly managed and restored through practices such as Conservation Foundation’s tree-planting initiatives,” the release adds.

“We are proud to continue to support Conservation Foundation’s important work that benefits our people, economy, and environment,” said Jon Thaxton, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s senior vice president for community leadership, in the release. “Because of their longstanding and unwavering support of preserving our natural environment, they are working to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”