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salt marsh

North Florida Land Trust buys part of Intracoastal island chain for conservation

August 02, 2021
A Jacksonville nonprofit has bought part of an Intracoastal Waterway island chain that a businessman promoted as luxury home sites to try to protect the undeveloped property’s ecology. 
The North Florida Land Trust took title to about 28 acres of the Small Islands chain north of Butler Boulevard after collecting $30,500 from a fundraising drive.  The group is still trying to buy the rest of the 245-acre island chain, and it used the purchase as an occasion to ask supporters to help it raise the rest of the $350,000 it needs to do that.  “We still need the community’s help to raise the remainder of the money needed to acquire these environmentally important islands,” Jim McCarthy, the land trust’s president, said in a release about the deal.  “The islands are surrounded by salt marshes and oyster beds and create an extremely biodiverse ecosystem,” McCarthy said. “Protecting the islands is important for the survival of many forms of wildlife as well as the recreational value of the islands. Salt marshes also protect coastlines from flooding, erosion, and storm surge.”
No roads reach the nine islands or the marshes surrounding them, but the Small Group LLC had offered the islands for sale for $3.9 million as luxury getaway sites with breathtaking scenery.  A public backlash against that offer encouraged the land trust last year to sign a purchase deal for the whole 245 acres, giving the trust until December to come up with the money.
But the nonprofit is still a long way from reaching its goal.  It closed on a part of the islands adjacent to Jacksonville Beach’s Cradle Creek Preserve and said it’s “in early discussions” with that city about adding its land to the preserve.  The land trust’s new property includes salt marshes and tidal creeks used by federally protected wood storks and manatees.  The trust said the wetland habitats are important to many species of birds including plovers and warblers, as well as a number of waterfowl.

Source:  Steve Patterson - Florida Times-Union