J. N. "Ding" Darling
National Wildlife Refuge
.... ..- ..
Robert Jess, Refuge Manager
J.N. "Ding" Darling NWR Complex
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: 239/472 1100
Fax: 239/472 4061
* Established: 1945.
* Acres: 5,223 Fee Title.
* Located: in Lee County, FL.
* Other management:
with State of Florida;
950-acre Tarpon Bay.
184-acre State Botanical Site.
* Total refuge acreage 6,390.
* Most of the refuge lies within the
jurisdiction of the City of Sanibel.
* Location: the refuge is located
approximately 15 miles southwest
of Ft. Myers FL, on
* Satellite refuges administered as
part of the complex:
Pine Island NWR.
Island Bay NWR.
Matlacha Pass NWR.
* The refuge is made up of several
habitat types: estuarine habitat
consisting of open water, sea
grass beds, mud flats and
mangrove islands; and interior
freshwater habitats consisting of:
open water ponds, spartina
swales, and west Indian
hardwood hammocks/ridges. Two
brackish water impoundments
totaling 800 acres are used
extensively by wading birds and
other water birds.
* Two thousand eight hundred and
twenty-five (2,825) acres of the
refuge have been designated as
* Several threatened and
endangered species benefit from
the habitats described: eastern
indigo snakes, American
alligators, American ( cr', i, Ii -,
bald eagles, wood storks,
peregrine falcons, Florida
manatees, and Atlantic
1. .1' :'l, .,1 turtles.
* The refuge has a large diversity
of species. Approximately 238
bird species have been identified
utilizing refuge habitats, as well
as 51 species of reptiles and
amphibians and 32 species
Financial Impact of Refuge
* 17 full time employees.
* Five full time non-refuge FWS
* Nine seasonal/temporary
* Four student employees.
* 850,000 visitors annually.
* 240+ volunteers contributing
equivalent of 10 full time
* Current budget (FY 05)
* To join in partnership with the
residents of Sanibel and Captiva
Islands, Lee County and State of
Florida to safeguard and enhance
over 7,300 acres of pristine
subtropical habitat for the benefit
* To protect and provide suitable
habitat for endangered and
threatened species including the
American ci in 1 Il west Indian
manatee, wood stork, eastern
indigo snake and bald eagle.
* To implement sound wildlife
management techniques to
provide feeding, nesting and
roosting habitat for a wide
diversity of shore birds, wading
birds, waterfowl, raptors and
neo-tropical migratory species.
* To provide high quality
interpretive and environmental
education programs in order to
develop within each refuge visitor
an appreciation of fish and
wildlife ecology and to provide
recreation compatible with the
purposes for which the refuge
* Water management.
* Prescribed fire.
* Law enforcement.
* Wildlife population surveys.
* Visitor management.
* Marine protected areas.
* Concession operations/
* Chemical and mechanical control
of invasive exotic plants.
Public Use Opportunities
* Education/Visitor Center.
* Five-mile auto tour route.
* Fresh and salt water fishing.
* Hiking trails.
* Tram service.
* Sealife cruises.
* Canoe and kayak rentals.
* Electric pontoon boat rentals.
* Fishing boat rentals.
* Guided interpretive programs.
* Wildlife observation tower.
* Wildlife photography.
* Bike rentals.
Calendar of Events
March: Junior Duck Stamp Contest.
May: International Migratory
July: National Fishing Week.
October: National Wildlife Refuge
Week, "Ding" Darling Birthday and
Duck Stamp Celebration.
Questions and Answers
Over 850,000 people ..... ,,'/ 1/visit
the refuge. What is the secret to its
The peak visitor season at the refuge
coincides with Florida's peak tourist
season, the winter months of
December-April. Sanibel Island is
world famous for its beautiful beaches
and natural beauty.
J. N. "Ding" Darling National
Wildlife Refuge serves as a major
attraction for tourists coming to
Sanibel. Roseate spoonbills, reddish
egrets, snowy egrets and a variety of
other heron and egret species are
found in abundance throughout the
mangrove environment. As one of the
top birding hot spots in the nation,
J. N. "Ding" Darling NWR has
received much national and
international publicity from
professional photographers and
The refuge operates an entrance fee
collection y.sYsh ,,. How successful is
that .i ./. ? And how are the fees
utilized on the refuge ?
The refuge fee program is one of the
most -, 'n --fill fee programs in the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The
refuge concessionaire staffs the
collection booth and provides helpful
information. The refuge collects over
$300,000 annually, of which $240,000
stays at the refuge. Monies from the
entrance fee program are used to
support the refuge's environmental
education, interpretive and public
Do ... I /I "partnerships" play a
part in day-to-day refuge
operations? If so i".. ':
Partnerships are integral to the daily
operations of the refuge complex.
Annually, the Service/refuge provides
over $50,000 for Partners for Fish
and Wildlife projects that restore fish
and wildlife habitat. Also, the refuge
has a cooperative agreement with the
city of Sanibel and the Sanibel
Captiva Conservation Foundation
that allows for the sharing of
equipment, personnel and material
for the restoration of fish and wildlife
habitat on and off the refuge.
The refuge also has a cooperative
agreement with the "Ding" Darling
Wildlife Society (a not-for-profit
friends group). Annually, the Society
assists with funding projects that
directly contribute to the objectives
of the refuge. The friends group
raised more than $3,000,000 and built
the new Environmental Education
Center which was completed in 2001.
What are some of the primary
threats to the health of the refuge ?
The health of the refuge complex and
the estuarine ecosystem in which the
refuges lie are directly tied to the
Caloosahatchee Watershed and those
watersheds which are drained into
the Caloosahatchee River (i.e.
Kissimmee River and Lake
Okeechobee watersheds). Water
quality, quantity and timing are
specific problems and concerns for
the health of the refuge complex.
These impacts are being analyzed
through the Comprehensive
Everglades Restoration Project and
the Southwest Florida Feasibility
In addition, residential and
commercial development has
increased along the river and bays
causing higher nutrient and fertilizer
runoff into the waterways.
The high volume of recreational
boating and sport fishing has affected
fish populations and the quality of
seagrass beds which threatens
endangered species such as the
Florida manatee and sea turtles.
Unregulated public use on beaches
and inlands have adversely impacted
migratory birds and nesting sea
What can the refuge do to /iT .1 the
health of the ."- /. 1. ?
Management is focusing actions on
understanding and sustaining a
healthy structure and function of the
estuarine ecosystem. Working with
partners, the refuge has begun to
investigate the status and trends and
promote the health of the habitat and
wildlife within the marine nursery
areas in and around the barrier
islands. Information garnered from
these and other studies assist in the
refuge's actions for maintaining the
biological diversity, integrity and
environmental health of the
resource, as well as assessing
management decisions for compatible
wildlife-dependent recreational use.
J. N. -Ding- DalingL National Wildlife Refugerr