The CREW Land & Water Trust was established in 1989 as a nonprofit organization to coordinate the land acquisition, land management, and public use of the 60,000-acre Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.
The CREW project spans southern Lee and northern Collier Counties in southwest Florida. It includes the Corkscrew Marsh, Bird Rookery Swamp, Flint Pen Strand, Camp Keais Strand, and National Audubon’s famous Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
In the 1970s, Ed Carlson and Mike Duever were trying to determine the best way to manage the water levels of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. They began looking at the 20 foot contour lines in the area in an attempt to define the watershed that influenced the Sanctuary. Carlson and Duever found that the watershed was still functioning and that keeping the system in its natural state was the best way to protect the water of Corkscrew Swamp. Piece by piece, Audubon, Lee County, and the South Florida Water Management District began acquiring pieces of the watershed. In the 1980s, the concept of CREW was conceived to assist in the acquisition of the entire CREW project which encompassed Corkscrew Marsh, Flint Penn Strand, Bird Rookery Swamp, and Camp Keais Strand.
In 1989, Joel Kuperberg began preliminary work towards creating a cooperative acquisition group. A formal project proposal for Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed Trust, Inc. was formed including project boundaries. It was designated as a public/private partnership trust made up of adjoining landowners, business people, governmental agencies, and conservation interests to coordinate the land acquisition and land management for this 60,000-acre watershed project.
Twenty years later, the work is still not done. Of the 60,000 acres within the boundaries of the CREW project, just under 50,000 are in preservation. Population growth in southwest Florida has created greater demands on natural resources, especially water. And the protection of green spaces for wildlife habitat and human recreation is more important than ever.
Today, much of the land inside the CREW boundaries that has been purchased is owned by the South Florida Water Management District. The heart of CREW is Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, owned by the National Audubon Society. The CREW Land and Water Trust has purchased and holds title to several parcels of land that buffer the CREW boundaries and is a co-owner, with Collier County, of the Caracara Prairie Preserve west of the Corkscrew Marsh.