Rangers needed for Waterkeeper program

Rangers needed for Waterkeeper program

■ BY SUE ERWIN

Volunteer rangers are sought for the Caloosahatchee Waterkeeper program in Fort Myers.

The Caloosahatchee River Watch, also known as the Caloosahatchee Citizens Association, started back in 1997.

The organization applied for Waterkeeper status with the Waterkeeper Alliance in late 2016, and requested that John Cassani serve as their Waterkeeper.

A Waterkeeper is an individual licensed by the Waterkeeper Alliance. Each keeper has a body of water he or she is responsible to observe.

After Cassani accepted the designation, the organization then morphed to Calusa Waterkeeper.

“I was honored to be approached and selected for this position,” Cassani said.

The Calusa Waterkeeper is currently recruiting volunteers to become part of the Waterkeeper Ranger program.

Rangers survey area waters looking for algae blooms, fish kills, illicit discharges and other water quality components such as water clarity, dissolved oxygen and temperature. They also report on the status of the seagrass and report observations such as sea turtles, fish and other wildlife issues.

Basic monitoring equipment is provided. However, for those who want to do more, they are welcome to obtain more sophisticated equipment.

Observations are reported to the Calusa Waterkeeper for developing a database of important information for the water resource or directly to the appropriate agency if representing an emergency situation.

Volunteer rangers are trained through the ranger academy consisting of three classes of about an hour each on Saturday mornings. There is no fee for the training or previous experience required. The typical volunteer is a boater or owner of a paddle craft that enables access to the water.

The dates for the next Ranger Training Academy are April 14, 28 and May 12.

“We have about 12 steady volunteer rangers with quite a few requests for individuals interested in the training and eventual designation as a rangers,” Cassani said.

The training will be held at the Calusa Nature Center, 3450 Ortiz Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33905.

For more information or to sign up for the academy training, contact the Waterkeeper at cassani@calusawaterkeeper.org.

Calusa Waterkeeper, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the Caloosahatchee River and Estuary, Lake Okeechobee, Nicodemus Slough, Charlotte Harbor, Estero Bay, the near-shore waters of Lee County, and their watersheds, through education and promotion of responsible use and enjoyment by all people.

To learn more, visit calusawaterkeeper.org.