The vibrant Sanibel and Captiva islands are ecological marvels compared to Florida's many overbuilt barrier islands. Development began with the construction of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse in 1884, when only the lighthouse keeper and assistant and their families lived on the island. Noted conservationist Jay N. "Ding" Darling led the charge in preserving the islands' wildlife and natural beauty from the greed of real estate speculators and land developers in the 1930s. Former presidents like Harry Truman and cabinet-level executives worked alongside Sanibel and Captiva residents, setting up preserves and wildlife refuges to guard the integrity of the islands' unique natural blessings, abundant wildlife and aquatic stores. Charles LeBuff and Betty Anholt review the evolution of the islands' conservation ethic and how it perseveres even today.
Betty Anholt is a long-term student of Florida's natural and social history – and in particular that of Southwest Florida and the islands. She has published four books, including Sanibel's Story: Voices and Images from Calusa to Incorporation, as well as numerous articles, columns and smaller pieces. Born and raised in New Jersey, Betty moved to Sanibel with her husband, Jim, and their young family many years ago and owned/operated two local businesses for much of that time. She has canoe-camped along several of Florida's rivers and streams, canoeing the Suwannee from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico at the Cedar Keys, and crossed the Everglades by paddle. Well versed in island history and ecology, as of this writing she works in reference and cataloguing at the Sanibel Public Library.
Charles LeBuff was born in Massachusetts and moved to Bonita Springs, Florida, in 1952. In 1958, he was selected to fill the number two position at the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. He spent thirty-two years as a wildlife technician at this refuge, renamed J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge in 1967. During his time on Sanibel Island, he served as president of the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, was a founding board member of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, was twice elected to the Sanibel City Council and founded and directed the loggerhead sea turtle conservation project Caretta Research Inc. Today, Charles and his wife, Jean, live near Fort Myers, Florida.