New project being launched to benefit manatees in Southwest Florida

National Wildlife Federation partnering with Gulf Coast Community Foundation on habitat restoration and multilingual educational outreach to area residents and visitors

These are West Indian manatees. Image from a U.S. Fish and Wildife Service webpage banner

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast) have announced a new collaboration that focuses on a manatee habitat restoration project in the Warm Mineral Springs Creek and Salt Creek areas.

The organizations, in partnership, will provide multilingual education for community residents about the initiative, including a focus on human impacts to the springs system and manatee habitat, a news release explains. They plan updated and improved signage, one-on-one outreach and community meetings, informational brochures and social media efforts, the release says.

“The area in focus is in southern Sarasota County, where the mild, clear waters of Warm Mineral Spring connect to the Myakka River” and provide winter habitat for more than 100 manatees, the release points out. “In addition to the beloved threatened species using the area, the spring head is a tourist hub used by more than 100,000 visitors annually and is a key economic driver for the local region,” the release notes.

“Unfortunately, over the years, Warm Mineral Springs Creek and Salt Creek have been degraded by sedimentation, erosion, debris — and human disturbance by local residents and tourists,” the release adds. A $3-million habitat restoration project led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) “will address key habitat and community needs. However, to maintain the long-term benefits of the restoration work, communication and engagement with the local, diverse, and multilingual Eastern European community is essential,” the release points out.

“The National Wildlife Federation is delighted to partner with Gulf Coast Community Foundation on this important project,” said Jessica Bibza, senior specialist for wildlife policy in NWF’s Gulf restoration program, in the release. “By helping to connect the diverse local community with this effort to strengthen critical manatee habitat, we can improve outcomes not just for the manatees — but for the local residents, economy and the thousands of visitors that come to this area each year,” she added in the release.

“Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the world,” said Mark Pritchett, president and CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, in the release. “One of the biggest reasons people come to Florida is to experience our natural beauty. We are grateful for wonderful partners like the National Wildlife Federation who protect and restore critical wildlife habitats while teaching about the importance of our vanishing wildlife such as our gentle manatees,” Pritchett added in the release.

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