Audubon Florida News

Topic: Land Conservation,Press Releases

Audubon Florida Presents Sustainable Rancher of the Year Award for 2015 to Lykes Ranch

posted on June 22, 2015 in Land Conservation,Press Releases

Audubon Florida presented its Sustainable Rancher of the Year award to Lykes Ranch at Florida Cattlemen’s Association annual banquet held at Champions Gate near Orlando on the evening of June 18.  Accepting the award for Lykes Ranch was Charles P. “Charlie” Lykes Jr., President & Chief Executive Officer of Lykes Bros. Inc. Also present was Linda McCarthy Senior Ecologist at Lykes Bros, Inc, along with numerous members of the Lykes Ranch Staff.

Lykes Ranch, comprising 338,162 acres in Glades, Highlands and Polk Counties, is a leader in ranch based wildlife habitat conservation and water management innovation.

The Lykes Ranch has been the most effective and innovative large scale participant in the South Florida Water Management District’s Dispersed Water Management Program. This year, the 16,000 acre Nicodemus Slough project became operational, providing temporary storage for 34,000 acre feet of water drawn from Lake Okeechobee. This is available to release into the lake or the Caloosahatchee River during times of need.

The Lykes Nicodemus Slough project was preceded by the “West Waterhole Marsh” project, a 2,370 acre facility on the C-40 canal in the Indian Prairie Basin. In 2014, over 6.8 billion gallons of water were pumped into the marsh. 88% of the phosphorus pumped into the marsh, or 10.3 metric tons, was retained in the marsh. 56% of the nitrogen pumped into the marsh (48.8 metric tons) was also retained. Click here to read the detailed independent study.

Lykes Ranch is planning the construction of a new large-scale (8,200 acres) storm water storage and treatment area known as “Brighton Valley” also in the Indian Prairie Basin. This project has been incorporated in the Lake Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan and is essential to meeting the plan’s goal for reducing phosphorous pollution. The BMAP projects a 7.7 ton phosphorus reduction from the Brighton Valley project, and it is scheduled to be constructed in FY16 and to be operational shortly after.

Lykes has also committed substantial portions of the ranch to perpetual wildlife habitat management through existing conservation easements, including:

  • A 41,606 acre conservation easement at Fisheating Creek
  • 7,578 acres of Gopher Tortoise Relocation Mitigation Sites
  • 3,008 acre Rainey Slough Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement.

Lykes Ranch is actively pursuing applications to state agencies for the purchase of additional conservation easements, including:

  • A 6,859 acre conservation easement protecting the 11 mile long, one mile wide tract known as Chaparral Slough through the Florida Forever program.
  • An 886 acre easement at Squirrel Island through the FDACS Rural and Family Lands program.

Finally, Lykes incorporates an integrated approach to wildlife management throughout the ranch. The most notable example is long history of vigilant voluntary protection offered by Lykes to the largest communal migratory roost of Swallow-tailed Kites (Elanoides forficatus forficatus) in North America. This Roost occurs annually on Lykes Ranch near Fisheating Creek, where as many as 3,000 birds congregate prior to migrating to Central and South America.

Working with ranchers to achieve conservation of wildlife habitat, and to encourage restorative water management projects on their lands is a priority for Audubon in the Northern Everglades.

To learn more about this effort, see the updated Audubon video by clicking here.





Audubon Press Releases Have Moved!

posted on January 18, 2014 in Press Releases

All press releases will be now posted to our state website’s newsroom:

Florida Forever Coalition: Florida Forever Shorted Again

Statement from the Florida Forever Coalition Regarding the Florida Legislature’s Proposed Budget

Contact: Eric Draper, Chair of Florida Forever Coalition,Pre

FloridaForeverLogo_roundThe budget proposed by the state legislature falls far short of adequately funding Florida Forever, which protects our open spaces and crucial water and wildlife habitat. Although Governor Rick Scott requested $25 million in general revenue for Florida Forever, the House and Senate have agreed to provide only $10 million in new general revenue; earmarked only for military base buffering is also $10 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

While acknowledging and appreciating all Florida Forever appropriations, these numbers fall far short of the funds historically spent on protecting land and water for Floridians. The appropriations for land conservation appears to be larger than it is in reality due to $50 million that would be available only from sale of other conservation lands. But no one knows what existing parks, forests and wildlife areas may be sold off for that purpose and most people are very skeptical of the plan.

Under both Republican and Democratic control, Florida Forever, and its predecessor, Preservation 2000, received $300 million per year allowing protection of millions of acres of important places through direct purchase and conservation easements all with willing sellers. But the job is not done. The current Florida Forever priority list identifies almost 2 million acres in need of protection, and this does not include the land acquisition needs of water management districts or local governments. With Florida’s economy recovering, we must again invest in protecting the most important places before they are lost to development. While even the small amount of funding provided this year is welcome, it is simply inadequate to save what we must to keep Florida ecologically and economically sustainable.

We thank the many, many Floridians who have expressed support for Florida Forever and encourage people to continue.

For more information, please visit the Florida Forever Coalition website.

Press Release: Conservation Groups Join Forces to Support Public Lands

posted on September 27, 2012 in Press Releases

Contact:    Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper, 904-509-3260,

For Immediate Release.

Community urged to get involved to protect conservation lands.

Jacksonville, FL — Saturday, September 29th is National Public Lands Day, the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States.

A coalition of Northeast Florida’s leading conservation organizations are using this occasion to raise awareness about the importance of our publicly-owned conservation lands and to encourage the community to explore, volunteer and advocate for the protection of these vital natural resources.

The groups include St. Johns Riverkeeper, North Florida Land Trust, Audubon Florida, Sierra Club Northeast Florida Group, Public Trust Environmental Legal Institute, Timucuan Trail Parks Foundation, and St. Johns River Alliance.

Locally, volunteers can help with a cleanup and trail maintenance at Ft. George Island State Park from 9 am – Noon.   Volunteers should meet at the Ribaut Club, 11241 Fort George Road 32226.

Audubon Florida’s Executive Director Eric Draper: “National Public Lands Day is a perfect reminder of the importance of our remarkable natural heritage and a great opportunity to get your family outdoors. From spotting Painted Buntings and Clapper Rails at Big Talbot Island State Park, to watching Royal Terns and Piping Plovers at Huguenot Memorial Park, iconic Northeast Florida experiences are waiting to be had year-round.”

Unfortunately, efforts are underway throughout the state to possibly sell-off publicly-owned conservation lands.   The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) is currently undergoing a process to assess the conservation lands that it owns to determine if some properties should be sold.

“We are extremely concerned about the potential loss of important conservation lands that are vital to the water quality and the overall health of the St. Johns,” said Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper.  “As a result, we are closely monitoring this process and urge citizens to get involved to ensure that our publicly-owned lands remain in conservation, continuing to benefit us and our river.”


Please click here for the full press release for more information about National Public Lands Day, potential threats to our conservation lands, and opportunities to enjoy and explore these important natural resources.

Press Release: Sarasota Bay’s Bird Nesting Islands Need Help

posted on September 24, 2012 in Coastal Conservation,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: September 24, 2012

Contact: Andy Mele, 914-204-0030 or Mark Rachal, 813-623-6826

Click here to download our fact sheet.

Annual fishing line cleanup to take place on September 29, 2012

Sarasota, FL – The Annual Fishing Line Cleanup Day, sponsored by Sarasota Bay Watch, Audubon Florida, and Save Our Seabirds will take place on Saturday, September 29th. Each year, thousands of feet of fishing line become entangled on Sarasota Bay’s bird nesting islands and shorelines and pose a fatal hazard to birds and other wildlife. This cleanup event reduces the threat of entanglement, while recycling the fishing line.

“Cleanups mobilize the people who love and use the bay the most to help us clear important nesting habitat of dangerous fishing line,” said Andy Mele, Executive Director, Sarasota Bay Watch.  “This event is a great way for folks to be good stewards of Sarasota Bay, and save a lot of iconic Florida birds in the process,” added Mark Rachal, Sanctuary Manager for Audubon Florida.

To register for the free event, visit the Sarasota Bay Watch website:  Boaters are encouraged to attend, kayaks are welcome, and there are routes for people traveling by car and on foot.

Volunteer registration is required for the September 29th event, which runs from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM.  All volunteers will meet at 8:30 AM at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, 1717 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island to go over the cleanup instructions and receive their equipment, data sheets and maps.  Additionally, Lee Fox of Save Our Seabirds will provide a demonstration using a live bird on how to free entangled birds volunteers may encounter during the cleanup, or where to transport injured birds for rehabilitation.

When the volunteers have completed the cleanup, they will return to Sarasota Sailing Squadron to weigh their retrieved fishing gear and turn in all equipment and data sheets.  Lunch will be provided, courtesy of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and Sarasota Bay Watch.

Sarasota Bay Watch is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to protecting and restoring Sarasota Bay’s ecosystem through community education and citizen participation.   To learn more about Sarasota Bay Watch, visit

Audubon Florida and the National Audubon Society are dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them.  Audubon’s national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation.  For more information, please visit or, or call 813-623-6826.


Photo opportunities: Media is welcome to join us for the monofilament cleanup.  Please contact Andy Mele at 914-204-0030 or email at to coordinate.

Click here to download our fact sheet.

Press Release: Everglades Restoration Moves Forward

posted on August 2, 2012 in Press Releases,Publications

For Immediate Release: August 2, 2012

Contact: Julie Hill-Gabriel, Director of Everglades Policy,, 305-371-6399 x136

Download PDF:


Everglades Restoration Moves Forward

Audubon Florida commends Senator Bill Nelson

Miami, FL – Today Audubon Florida expressed support for legislation filed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) to approve four Everglades restoration projects and make them eligible for federal funding.

The four projects included in the bill store and treat water in Broward County before it flows to the southern Everglades, while also improving the health and vibrancy of Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, and the Caloosahatchee Estuary. Additionally, projects that complete the restoration planning process in the next five years are authorized in this bill – a provision that ensures Everglades restoration momentum continues.

“Senator Nelson’s legislation moves Everglades restoration forward. The projects in his bill are all necessary steps toward getting more fresh water into the parched Everglades, ” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida’s Executive Director.

The legislation takes a new approach to the authorization of restoration projects, a critical procedural hurdle. Rather than waiting for a national Water Resources Development Act to be passed, which has not happened since 2007, the bill focuses only on Everglades-specific projects, and will help some of Florida’s most iconic wildlife.

“Today Senator Nelson answered the call from Greater Everglades advocates who are tired of waiting for Congress to act,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, Audubon Florida’s Director of Everglades Policy. “While citizens wait for politicians to take action, the Everglades is dying. That could turn around today with this new legislation.”

For more information, please download our fact sheet:


Photo by Mac Stone

Press Statement: Another “Home Run” For Obama Administration in Greater Everglades

posted on July 13, 2012 in North Everglades,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: July 13, 2012

Contact: Charles Lee, Director of Advocacy,, 407-620-5178

Another “Home Run” For Obama Administration in Greater Everglades  

Audubon Florida’s Director of Advocacy Charles Lee Responds

Kissimmee, FL – Audubon Florida’s Director of Advocacy, Charles Lee attended today’s announcement by Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality; Rachel Jacobson, Assistant Secretary US Department of the Interior; and Jo-Ellen Darcy, Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) at the Disney Wilderness Preserve near Kissimmee, Florida.

Statement from Audubon Florida Director of Advocacy Charles Lee:

“President Obama’s administration has hit another ‘home run’ for the Everglades. With today’s announcement of $80 million dollars for 23,000-acres in new conservation easements under the Wetlands Reserve Program, a critical step to protect vital wildlife habitat and provide important water management lands in the Everglades Headwaters has been achieved. Maintaining the cattle ranching economy in the Everglades Headwaters is a vital component of the strategy to restore the ecosystem. The purchase of easements on 13 ranch properties in the Everglades Headwaters within the northern Kissimmee basin assures that ranchers will stay on the land rather than sell it to real estate developers.Water will continue to reside on the natural landscape and opportunities will be created to hold more water in the wet prairies north of Lake Okeechobee. Wildlife species also benefit from this purchase. The conservation of these lands helps assure we will continue to have Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Crested Caracara and the Endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow as vital components of the Everglades Headwaters Ecosystem.”


PRESS STATEMENT: RESTORE Act Passes as Part of Transportation Bill

posted on June 29, 2012 in Gulf Oil Spill,Oil Drilling,Press Releases

Today’s passage of the RESTORE Act as part of a larger transportation bill ensures the dedication of 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to Gulf Coast restoration. The RESTORE Act will set up the framework for what is almost certain to be the single largest investment ever by the United States Congress in environmental restoration.

Audubon congratulates Senator Nelson and other members of the House and Senate who championed this bill for Florida and all of the fragile ecosystems along the Gulf.


For Immediate Release: June 29, 2012

Contact: Julie Wraithmell, Director of Wildlife Conservation,, 850-222-2473

RESTORE Act Passes as Part of Transportation Bill


Tallahassee, FL – “Senator Bill Nelson’s RESTORE Act brings BP oil spill penalties back to Florida to help our coastal habitats and communities.  We are grateful that Nelson got the bill passed and got the job done.”


Tallahassee, FL- “Congratulations to all who care about the unique ecology of the Gulf of Mexico. Our thanks to Senator Bill Nelson for his leadership on this win for wildlife, water quality, and the Gulf way of life.”





posted on June 28, 2012 in Press Releases

“The RESTORE Act is a lifeline for the Gulf Coast. It will create jobs….”

Washington, D.C. – June 27, 2012 – Today the U.S. House and Senate announced a compromise on the surface transportation bill, which includes a provision to dedicate 80 percent of Clean Water Act penalties from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster to Gulf Coast restoration.

“The RESTORE Act is a lifeline for the Gulf Coast.  It will create jobs, and it’ll restore the places wildlife need to thrive,” said David Yarnold, Audubon President and CEO. “This is an act of hope and faith in America, and we look forward to seeing the House and Senate step up on behalf of generations to come.”

Now in its second century, Audubon connects people with birds, nature and the environment that supports us all. Our national network of community-based nature centers, chapters, scientific, education, and advocacy programs engages millions of people from all walks of life in conservation action to protect and restore the natural world. Visit Audubon online at


Press Release: Everglade Snail Kite Receives “F” Grade from National Research Council

posted on June 22, 2012 in Everglade Snail Kite,Everglades,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: June 21, 2012

Contact: Megan Tinsley, Everglades Policy Associate,, 786-295-4954

Everglade Snail Kite Receives “F” Grade from National Research Council

Audubon Florida supports National Academies’ assessment

Miami, FL – Today the National Research Council of the National Academies released their “Progress Toward Restoring the Everglades: The Fourth Biennial Review,” which assesses the progress made toward accomplishing the goals of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

The assessment provided grades based on the status and trajectories for 10 ecosystem attributes.  While many ecosystem attributes received poor grades of “C” or “D,” only the Everglade Snail Kite (Kite) received a failing grade of “F.” The Everglade Snail Kite is a system-wide indicator species for the success or failure of the CERP.

Megan Tinsley, Audubon Florida Everglades Policy Associate, remarked:  “As a system-wide indicator species, if the Everglade Snail Kite receives a failing grade, so too does the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.  We must drastically improve our ability to move water through the central to southern Everglades to improve habitat for this critically endangered bird. ”

Audubon has called extensively for increased effort to remedy the problems plaguing the Everglade Snail Kite before populations decline past their already dangerously-low levels. The report identifies recent Kite declines as being related to the degradation of habitat in previously productive areas, namely Lake Okeechobee and the Water Conservations Areas.

With its own scientists witnessing the effects of continued ecosystem degradation, Audubon Florida supports the independent panel of scientists’ statement that “substantial near-term progress to address both water quality and hydrology in the central Everglades is needed to prevent further declines.”

Audubon Fact Sheets and Other Everglade Snail Kite Links:

For continuing coverage of Audubon Florida’s work with Everglade Snail Kites, please see the Everglade Snail Kite category section of our blog:


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