New Project Launching to Benefit Manatees in Southwest Florida

Tampa, Florida — With the holiday season upon us and the temperatures dropping, Florida’s manatees are on the move, aggregating in warmer waters that they use in cooler weather. Today, conservation and philanthropic partners, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and Gulf Coast Community Foundation (Gulf Coast), are announcing a new collaboration to connect locals to a manatee habitat restoration project in one such region – the Warm Mineral Springs Creek and Salt Creek areas.

The partnership will provide multilingual education for the local community about an upcoming restoration project as well as human impacts to the springs system and manatee habitat through updated and improved signage, one-on-one outreach and community meetings, informational brochures and social media.

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 over 100 manatees. 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.

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. A $3 million habitat restoration project led by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission 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 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. “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.”

“Florida is one of the most popular destinations in the world,” said Mark Pritchett, President|CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.  “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.”

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Visit the National Wildlife Federation Media Center at NWF.org/News.

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About the National Wildlife Federation

The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly-changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Program advances solutions to support healthy waters and sustainable ecosystems for the Gulf’s people and wildlife. Follow us on Facebook.

About Gulf Coast Community Foundation

For more than 25 years, together with our donors, Gulf Coast Community Foundation has transformed our region through bold and proactive philanthropy. Gulf Coast is a public charity that was created in 1995 through the sale of the Venice Hospital. Since then, we have become the philanthropic home of over 950 families, individuals, businesses, and organizations that have established charitable funds here. Together, we have invested over $430 million in grants in the areas of health and human services, civic and economic development, education, arts and culture, and the environment. Learn more at GulfCoastCF.org.

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