Refuge Preservation Campaign Update

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Anonymous mangrove cuckoo sculpture bidders, donors thank Sprankle 
They created quite the drama when they anonymously bid $60,000 for the Jim Sprankle Mangrove Cuckoo sculpture at a February fundraiser at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, then turned around and donated it to the “Ding” Darling Education Center.
Island winter residents Fred and Alice Stanback, however, recently blew their cover to personally and meaningfully thank Jim for all of his contributions to the community.
“The mangrove cuckoo piece needed to stay within the Education Center for others to enjoy and learn from,” said Fred Stanback. “I couldn’t bear to see it leave once it took up residence there before the auction. Having served in the field as a research decoy, this bird is unique and tells a story about the importance of research. So Alice and I decided we would make sure it stayed in its rightful place.”
The cuckoo -- first used for an important, groundbreaking mangrove cuckoo study being conducted at the Refuge -- was the key auction item at the Cuckoo for “Ding” Trailgate Party on February 15, 2013, at the Refuge. The Stanbacks had someone place their winning $60,000 bid by phone and then announce their intentions to donate it.
“Despite our intentions to keep behind-the-scenes, we wanted to make the donation a public show of appreciation for all the hard work and talent Jim has contributed to the refuge and other organizations and events throughout the islands and beyond,” said Fred .
The Stanback’s contribution and much of the other proceeds from the fundraiser went into the coffers for the “Ding” Darling Preservation Campaign, which strives to purchase the environmentally sensitive land of Woodring Point at the entrance to Tarpon Bay and improve the 12-year-old “Ding” Darling Education Center.
“Fred and Alice have been long-time supporters of conservation and land acquisition around the country as well as on Sanibel Island,” said Jim Sprankle, campaign chair. “This generous gesture is so typical of them, and it truly brings tears to my eyes. Not only are they contributing to the preservation of valuable, sensitive habitat with their gift, but also a learning tool that will benefit generations to the Education Center – a place dear to my heart.”
The “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS) leads the Preservation Campaign to acquire the 6.56 acres on Woodring Point for the refuge.  Site of the historic Woodring homestead, Woodring Point is also home to myriad species of birds, marine creatures, and vegetation.
The property preservation is a cooperative effort. DDWS and Lee County’s Conservation 20/20 program will each purchase part of the land; the Refuge will assume responsibility to restore and manage both parcels. If not preserved by the Refuge, the land could be developed with as many as five dwellings, each permitted a boat dock extending into Tarpon Bay . Construction of new homes and the increase in boat traffic would have significant impact on the sensitive habitat.
DDWS is working to raise $1.8 million to cover the acquisition and Education Center improvements. Just recently, the Society received a challenge gift, leaving $200,000 left to raise to reach their goal.

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Preservation Campaign, contact DDWS Executive Director Birgie Vertesch at  239-292-0566 or email