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Naples Botanical Garden heading up Bahamas environmental recovery effort

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There is a total of 61 people dead and 600 still missing in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian swept through weeks ago.

Those numbers are still expected to climb.

However, there is some hope, as one SWFL group is trying to help clean up and restore the islands’ natural beauty.

The howling winds and intense storm surge nearly wiped out parts of the Bahamas.

“They are just starting to clean up in some places, because they’ve still been dealing with just the shock of this monstrous hurricane,” said Eric Carey with the Bahamas National Trust.

It takes a lot to rebuild and there is one area often overlooked: the environment.

Chad Washburn, Naples Botanical Garden’s vice president of conservation, has made it known to his fellow conservationists that it’s a battle the people in the Bahamas don’t have to brave alone.

“We talk to each other once or twice a week just on the phone; a, “Hey, how you doing? We’re here for you,'” said Washburn.

It’s his way of paying it forward.

“We had staff come in from several gardens in Florida and just help us plant annuals after we got cleaned up,” he said.

After seeing a number of gardens rise to the occasion to help him and his staff after Hurricane Irma, it started with Puerto Rico following Irma and Maria.

Now, they’re lending a hand to the Bahamas.

Photos show just a small portion of the destruction that Carey and the Bahamas National Trust are still working to assess.

“We haven’t seen this type of destruction before,” said Carey. “Our mangrove systems and tidal ecosystems, which are critical marine nursery systems, those have been absolutely torn up and decimated.”

That makes it hard to map a timeline for recovery efforts. But no matter how long it takes, Washburn and Naples Botanical Garden are in for the long haul.

If you’d like to be a part of the Garden’s recovery efforts, you can find more information and even help fund their mission by clicking here.