The WildBlue project totals 3,000± acres located in Fort Myers. The site stretches from Alico Road to Corkscrew Road, about 2 miles east of Interstate 75. The Project site was originally permitted as a mining operation in the 1980s. Mining operations ceased in the early 2000s. In 2012, the property was purchased and entitlement efforts for a mixed-use, resort-style development began.
We have assisted with environmental services for mining and residential components of the project during due diligence, permitting, pre-construction, and post-permit compliance phases. The environmental factors which make WildBlue unique relate to the site’s location and ecology. The site is located within Lee County’s Density Reduction/Groundwater Recharge area and within the Florida panther focus area. Some of the sites ecological characteristics include slough systems, state and federal protected species, and jurisdictional wetlands. Due to WildBlue’s complex ecological elements, we performed extensive environmental services including, but not limited to, vegetation mapping, wetland delineation, listed species surveys, red-cockaded woodpecker surveys, Everglade snail kite surveys, Florida bonneted bat surveys, and wood stork foraging surveys.
Obtaining agency authorizations for WildBlue was a complex and dynamic process which spanned years and underwent multiple project improvements/modifications. We worked diligently with the project team, regulatory agencies, and Non-Governmental Organizations to design a site plan which would result in the least environmental impacts. The resulting project would restore the historic slough systems within the project site, accommodate movement of large mammals (including the Florida panther and Florida black bear) using wildlife crossings, and benefit the Density Reduction/Groundwater Recharge area through large-scale habitat preservation, enhancement, and restoration efforts. WildBlue received a letter of support and commendation from the Florida Wildlife Federation due to the project’s contribution of restoring over 1,300 acres of habitat, completing local and regional habitat connectivity, enhancing the value of off-site conservation lands by providing a “missing habitat link” between Corkscrew Road and Alico Road, and facilitating wildlife crossings. Our staff coordinated closely with a skilled project team to acquire the necessary entitlements. Some of the services provided included due diligence analysis, mitigation analysis and design, technical assistance for site planning, Lee County Comprehensive Plan Amendment support, Lee County zoning support, provided expert testimony at public hearings, State and Federal wetland jurisdictional determinations, South Florida Water Management District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting support, and consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Once permitted, our staff assisted in pre-construction surveys for listed species such as the Big Cypress fox squirrel, burrowing owl, and gopher tortoise. We conducted safe and successful relocation efforts for gopher tortoises located within the approved development areas. Upon commencement of construction, we coordinated mitigation bid requests for extensive preservation, enhancement, and restoration activities within WildBlue’s conservation areas. Once a contractor was selected, our staff provided oversight for the mitigation activities and will conduct annual monitoring of vegetation and water levels as required by the permitting agencies.