Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program is a partnership working to protect the natural environment of southwest Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs to Winter Haven. This partnership gives citizens, elected officials, resource managers and businesses in the 4,700-square-mile watershed a voice to address diverse management concerns. The watershed includes all or portions of Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, Manatee, Polk and Sarasota counties.

The National Estuary Program was established in 1987 by an amendment to the Clean Water Act to identify, restore and protect estuaries along the coasts of the United States. In 1995, Governor Lawton Chiles submitted an application to designate the estuarine system around Charlotte Harbor, which Congress accepted, and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) was created. There are now 28 “estuaries of national significance” within the National Estuary Program.

In 1996, a decision-making team known as the Management Conference set to work to develop a 20-year Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) that identifies the region’s common priority environmental issues and actions needed to solve them. Since you can’t protect the water unless you protect the land that drains into it, the region of concern includes the Myakka, Peace and tidal Caloosahatchee river watersheds. The CCMP was accepted in 2001, updated and accepted again in 2008, and is being updated again now. The four problems throughout the region that impact the health of the estuaries are stewardship gaps, fish and wildlife habitat loss, water quality degradation, and hydrologic alterations. Acceptance of the CCMP marked the beginning of action to restore and protect the natural environment. The specific purpose of the CHNEP is to ensure that the CCMP is implemented by engaging and empowering citizens, elected officials, resource managers and businesses.

Contact Info

Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program
1926 Victoria Ave.
Fort Myers, Florida 33901

Phone: 239-338-2556

Map