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Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund Archives

September 28, 2014

The Disney Wilderness Preserve

Gary Cruise banner

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and how you can be a Conservation Hero. While I was browsing the Internet, doing research for the blog, I came across an intriguing web page. The headline read "Butterflies by Swamp Buggy at Disney Wilderness Preserve"

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My first thought was, "What better way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of nature than by chasing butterflies through a wilderness preserve with a swamp buggy?"

My mind drifted back about 15 years to the vacation Carol and I enjoyed at Pelee Island, Canada's southernmost point.

Pelee_Island_map

Every summer Pelee Island is teeming with Giant Swallowtail butterflies and we spent a glorious, sunny summer afternoon snapping pictures of swallowtails. I still have vivid memories of Carol, camera in hand, bounding through farm fields following flitting butterflies. Butterflies can flit faster than Carol can bound so her antics kept me entertained all afternoon!

My second thought was, "Disney Wilderness Preserve? What's that?"

Did you know that there is a big Disney conservation project just minutes from Walt Disney World?

You are not alone . . . neither did I. Not many people are aware of the Disney Wilderness Preserve, just 15 miles from Walt Disney World. It's at 2700 Scrub Jay Trail in Kissimmee.

It's a huge preserve, about 12,000 acres - almost 19 square miles!

The project began in 1992, before the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established. The Walt Disney Company heard that an 8,500 acre cattle ranch located at the head of the Greater Everglades Watershed was going to be re-zoned for extensive residential and commercial development. This would have destroyed a huge tract of natural wetlands, as well as habitat for many endangered plants and wildlife.

Disney acted quickly and quietly to preserve this sensitive property. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the State of Florida, and a number of other groups, The Walt Disney Company purchased the property to mitigate its expansion and transferred it to the Conservancy. They were instrumental in the creation of a nature preserve dedicated to wetlands conservation on an unprecedented scale. After the initial purchase The Walt Disney Company provided funds for restoration and wildlife monitoring on the property and they continue to endow a number of on-site projects.

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How successful has the project been? On their web site, The Nature Conservancy refers to it as "A Model Preserve" and goes on to say, "Land that was heavily logged and ranched for decades has been restored to very near to its original state and once again resembles the descriptions left by the area's first Spanish missionaries."

Sounds good to me - sensitive wetlands preserved as natural animal habitat rather than littered with factories, roads, houses and strip malls. Just another heroic initiative that makes me proud to be a Disney fan!

Palmetto

But let's get back to the swamp buggy and the butterflies. I mentioned the web site to Carol; she immediately said, "We're there in October, let's sign up!" So we did!

This is one of many events which makes up Central Florida NatureFest, an Outdoor and Photography Festival organized each year by the Central Florida Visitor's and Convention Bureau. The cost is a mere $5.00 per person!

Here's how they described it. "Fall is the best time for butterflies in our area when wildflowers are abundant. Disney Wilderness Preserve is a mosaic of habitats such as marshes, lake edges, open meadows, flat woods and roadsides. All of these areas are attractive to butterflies. To be expected here are swallowtails, sulphurs, hairstreaks, crescents, fritillaries, skippers and more.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a vast and beautiful natural site and the best way to travel in these parts is by Swamp Buggy. So all aboard the Swamp Buggy and be ready to hang-on while your guides point out butterflies and nature's beauty. This is a spectacular excursion that everyone can enjoy."

Our friend and fellow Fort Wilderness camper Al, from Missouri is joining us. Carol is keen on the butterflies but Al and I are really looking forward to that swamp buggy ride!

I hope to do a blog about the Butterfly/Swamp Buggy adventure so stay tuned! If I can get any good action shots of Carol bounding after butterflies I'll be sure to include them!

In the meantime, here are a few pictures provided by VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy.

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Giant Swallowtail

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Zebra Swallowtail

Can you enjoy the Disney Wilderness Preserve? Yes, you can. The preserve is open daily Sunday-Friday (closed Saturdays and most major holidays) 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. There is no entry fee, but donations are always welcome.

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Boardwalk

The 2 1/2 mile hiking loop takes you past the shore of Lake Russell and then offers a closer look at the preserve's natural communities. What will you see? The landscape and foliage includes: cypress swamp, freshwater marsh, scrub, flatwoods and oak hammocks.

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Lake Russell at Reedy Creek

There is a rejuvenated longleaf pine forest with a lush understory of native grasses, saw palmetto and other shrubs. The rejuvenation is the result of "prescribed fire" on the land. They have used "controlled burns" to remove invasive plants that are not native to the area. These fires have resulted in an amazing return to the type of pine forests those first Spanish missionaries saw.

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Key flowers include the fall-flowering ixia, Catesby's lily and terrestrial orchids.

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Rose Rush

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Pickerel Weed

Animal life includes bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker, wood stork, sandhill crane, northern harrier and crested caracara. The preserve is also home to the southeastern big-eared bat, Sherman's fox squirrel, eastern indigo snake and gopher tortoise. The Florida panther has even been documented crossing the site!

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Read about the Disney Wilderness Preserve HERE.

Sunset

Next time you visit Walt Disney World, set aside a day for a hike at the Disney Wilderness Preserve.

It looks awesome, I cannot wait to experience it first-hand!



Sincere thanks to VisitCentralFlorida.org and The Nature Conservancy for agreeing to share their photos!

August 31, 2014

Be A Conservation Hero

Gary Cruise banner

Are you a Conservation Hero?

Do you own any of these?

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If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Do you own any of these?

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If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

Have you ever tossed a coin in here?

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If your answer was "Yes" - you are a Conservation Hero!

You didn't know that you were a hero? Most people don't . . . but when you buy those conservation buttons, when you press those pennies or when you toss coins in a Disney fountain you are making a donation to the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. And your contribution is bigger than you think it is! I'll explain how it all works, but first here's a bit of preamble:

The Walt Disney Company takes their social responsibility very seriously and have developed a comprehensive environmental policy as a key component of their corporate culture.

This is how they explain it on their web site: "Acting responsibly is an integral part of our brand. It strengthens the connection we have with consumers, makes our company a more desirable place to work, and helps us attract the very best and brightest to join our global cast. It builds goodwill in the communities in which we operate. All of these things contribute to The Walt Disney Company's continued growth and success."

One of the six key factors in their statement of business ethics reads as follows: "Environmental Stewardship: Use resources wisely and protect the planet as we operate and grow our business"

You can read more about Disney's Corporate Ethics Policy HERE.

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The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund was established April 22, 1995 (Earth Day) and since that time they have awarded over 1,000 grants totalling over $24 million to fund environmental projects in 112 countries.

WOW! That's over half of the countries in the world!

DWCF_Factsheet_Overview

What sort of projects do they fund? According to the Disney web site: "Grants provide financial support for: the study of wildlife; the protection of habitats; the development of community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems; and experiences that connect kids to nature through exploration and discovery."

Here is a sampling of the animals and locations involved in 10 of the 150 projects funded in 2013:
1. Umbrellabirds - Ecuador
2. Maasailand Lions - Tanzania
3. Painted Dogs - Zimbabwe
4. Tigers - Indonesia
5. Grizzly Bears - Canada
6. Golden-Winged Warblers - United States
7. Golden-Capped Fruit Bat - Philippines
8. Cheetahs - Namibia
9. Bottlenose Dolphins - United States
10. Ploughshare Tortoises - Madagascar

Where does the money come from? This is where you come in - every time you buy a Conservation Hero Button you are donating to the fund. When you press a penny you are helping preserve our planet. When you toss a coin into a Disney fountain you are a Conservation Hero! Doesn't that make you feel good?

There are even Disney tours and experiences that support the fund. Take the Backstage Safari Tour, the Wild By Design Tour or the Wild Africa Trek and you are supporting the fund!

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Would it make you feel better if Disney were to match your donation?

Well start feeling better . . . because they do! Disney pays 100% of the overhead costs for all of the contribution streams. Every cent you pay for a button, every cent you pay for a pressed penny and every cent you toss into a fountain is fully matched by the Walt Disney Company. They even pay all of the administrative costs to operate the Conservation Fund! That means that when you donate $1.00 for a Conservation Hero button, Disney pays for the production and distribution of the button and $2.00 goes directly to a worthwhile conservation project.

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Even Rizzo and his friends volunteer their time to help collect the donations!

The Walt Disney Company very quietly and modestly does some pretty amazing things, and this is one of them! Things like the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund make me very proud to be a Disney fan!

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There are some other ways to donate, outlined in the picture above.

If you want to read more about the projects, or about other ways to contribute, click HERE and follow the DWCF Featured Links.

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So now that you know about the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund . . . what are you waiting for? Get to a Disney park as soon as possible. Buy some buttons, press some pennies and toss some coins in the fountains.

Be a Conservation Hero!

Return to Blog Central

About Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Disney Wilderness Preserve is the previous category.

Disney-Pixar's Brave is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.