Audubon Florida News

Topic: Everglades,Press Releases

Press Statement: Audubon’s Julie Hill-Gabriel Responds to SNAKES Act

posted on June 7, 2012 in Everglades,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: June 7, 2012

Contact: Julie Hill-Gabriel, Director of Everglades Policy,, 786-246-2903

Invasive Species Fact Sheet:

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Representative Alcee Hastings Files SNAKES Act


Miami, FL – “We are pleased to see that Congressman Hastings’ bill promotes new creative solutions to combat the threats posed by Burmese Pythons and other exotic snakes in the Greater Everglades Ecosystem.  Threatened and endangered species, including the iconic Wood Stork, are being predated by these large constrictors, making their presence in the Everglades a serious problem that deserves immediate attention.”

For more information about Audubon Florida’s research on invasive species in the Everglades, please see our fact sheet “Pythons: An Invasive, Exotic Reptile 


Press Release: Everglades Water Quality Plan Merits Support

For Immediate Release: June 4, 2012
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Everglades Water Quality Plan Merits Support

Audubon Florida commends state and federal agencies

Miami, FL – Today Audubon Florida expressed support for the South Florida Water Management District’s plan that responds to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Amended Determination and its call for a newly proposed Everglades water quality standard and an enforceable clean-up plan.

“This package of solutions provides assurance that water entering the natural system will finally be cleaned up.  This is a necessary step toward getting fresh water into the parched Everglades,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida’s executive director.

The plan builds on recent initiatives by the federal government and state of Florida, including projects outlined in EPA’s Amended Determination and the state’s work to expand water treatment and storage.  Lands acquired with federal funds and lands recently purchased from US Sugar will be used for treatment.

Audubon is an intervener in the two decades-old litigation seeking a permanent end to pollution in the Everglades.  Along with other environmental groups, Audubon has long pushed for the next wave of actions to clean up the dirty water leaving agricultural fields and entering the Everglades.  That polluted water alters the balance of life and is responsible for significant loss of wildlife habitat.

“The EPA and the state are to be commended for coming to terms on treatment plans, on a water quality standard and on enforcement,” Draper said.  “The schedule contains enforceable deadlines for the plan components and compliance with requirements to improve water quality.  We believe that it may be possible in the future to move the timetable forward if consensus is reached on additional funding.”

Audubon pledges to work with Governor Scott and the South Florida Water Management District to urge the Legislature to approve timely funding for the water quality plan and to rebuild support for overall Everglades restoration.


Press Release: Audubon Asks for Public’s Help on Florida Beaches this Memorial Day Weekend

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

For Immediate Release: May 24, 2012

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

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Photos Available Upon Request

Audubon Asks for Public’s Help on Florida Beaches this Memorial Day Weekend

Keep an eye out for Florida’s original “beach babies”

Tallahassee, FL — This Memorial Day Weekend, Audubon is reminding Floridians to take care with Florida’s original “beach babies,” rare and declining species of waterbirds that nest on Florida’s beaches and mangrove islands.

“This is an exciting time of year to be around or on the water,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s Director of Wildlife Conservation. “Some remarkable birds like Roseate Spoonbills, Black Skimmers, Snowy Plovers and Least Terns choose these places to raise their young, and few things are more endearing than the fluffy chicks of these signature Florida species.”

Unfortunately, when boaters or beachgoers approach nesting birds too closely, they may unintentionally cause the death of chicks and eggs. When parents are flushed from their nests, chicks and eggs are left vulnerable to opportunistic predators, overheating by the summer sun, crushing under foot (in the case of beach nesters), or falling and drowning in water beneath the nest (in the case of tree nesters). A single disturbance can destroy an entire colony.

“Whether or not the disturbance is intentional, the result for the birds is the same,” said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, adding, “Together we can ensure this holiday weekend is safe and enjoyable for people and birds alike.”

Each year along Florida’s coast, state and local officials, along with Audubon volunteers, staff and partners, post many of the state’s beach and island nesting sites to prevent human disturbance. Additionally, volunteer “bird stewards” from local Audubon chapters and other partners will help chaperone nesting bird colonies on many Florida beaches this weekend. These stewards help educate beachgoers about the breathtaking spectacle of these colonies while reminding pedestrians not to enter protected areas

Citizens interested in safely viewing nesting colonies in person or wish to learn about volunteer bird stewarding opportunities are encouraged to email for more information.


Audubon’s Memorial Day Beach Tips:

  • Respect posted areas, even if you don’t see birds inside them. Birds, eggs and nests are well-camouflaged within the beach environment, and a single disturbance can cause the abandonment of an entire colony.
  • Give colony islands a wide berth, and when fishing, be sure not to leave any equipment behind.
  • Avoid disturbing groups of birds. If birds take flight or appear agitated, you are too close.
  • Refrain from walking dogs or allowing cats to roam freely on beaches during the nesting season.
  • Don’t let pets off boats onto posted islands or beaches.
  • If you must walk your dog on beaches, always keep them on a leash and away from the birds.
  • Do not bury or leave trash, picnic leftovers, charcoal or fish scraps on the beach. They attract predators of chicks and eggs, such as fish crows, raccoons, foxes, and laughing gulls.
  • Leave the fireworks at home and attend an official display instead. Impromptu fireworks on Florida’s beaches and waterways can have catastrophic effects for vulnerable chicks and eggs.


Press Release: Water Management District Tax Bill Becomes Law

posted on April 23, 2012 in Everglades,Press Releases,State Government

For Immediate Release: April 23, 2012

Contact: Eric Draper, Executive Director,, 850-251-1301

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SB 1986 was Audubon Florida’s top legislative priority

Tallahassee, FL – Governor Rick Scott on Friday signed into law SB 1986 repealing water management district spending limits. The bill was Audubon Florida’s top legislative priority.

“Repealing the previous year’s cuts to water management district budgets is essential to financing Everglades restoration and other water resource programs,” said Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper. “This bill reflects growing consensus that protecting our water supplies requires public funds.”

In 2011, SB 2142 forced Florida’s five water management districts into severe staff cuts along with scaling back science, education, water supply, and resource protection programs. The deep cuts to the water management agencies led legislative leaders and Governor Rick Scott to acknowledge the need to repeal spending limits.

“It is a sign of maturity when legislative leaders acknowledge they went too far and reverse direction,” Draper said.

The bill also reestablishes a balanced review and approval process by the legislative and executive branches as the citizen appointed boards of the regional agencies put together annual budgets and set property tax limits as allowed by the Florida Constitution and state law.

Draper called on Governor Scott to allow the water management districts to now raise and spend the funds necessary to steward’s Florida’s dwindling freshwater resources.  “It makes sense to use property taxes to provide water for people and the economy while protecting our environment.”


PRESS RELEASE: Audubon Florida Applauds Addition of Speed Humps at Gulf Islands National Seashore

posted on April 13, 2012 in Coastal Conservation,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2012

Contact: Alan Knothe, NW Florida Coastal Bird Conservation Coordinator,; (0) 850-710-6331 or (C) 850-200-6279

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Slower vehicles will protect endangered shorebirds

Tallahassee, FL – Audubon Florida is applauding the National Park Service for their planned addition of speed humps at Gulf Islands National Seashore. These vehicular speed reduction devices will be installed in critical shorebird nesting areas over the coming month.

“Slower cars and more aware drivers means less bird kills,” said Alan Knothe, Audubon Florida’s Northwest Florida Coastal Bird Conservation Coordinator, adding, “both adults and chicks are struck by vehicles each nesting season, and if an adult is killed, its nest fails. We want to make sure that tourists and Floridians recreate in these beautiful natural areas in a safe and enjoyable way.”

There are three main species that nest in the national seashore adjacent to the busy roads: Least Terns (listed as endangered over much of its range), Black Skimmers (Florida listed Species of Special Concern) and Snowy Plovers (Florida listed as threatened).

Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper said, “We are grateful for the leadership shown by the National Park Service to protect wild Florida and our remarkable seashore. Remember, without the birds, it’s just a beach.”

Around a quarter (100 individuals) of all the Snowy Plovers in Florida rely on Gulf Islands National Seashore for nesting. The humps that will be built on Fort Pickens Road and J. Earle Bowden Way will go a long way in ensuring these birds have a chance to fledge.  They will be in place through the end of the breeding season (around mid-August) and then removed until the next year.

Audubon Florida is dedicated to protecting Florida’s natural heritage and helping to connect people to the amazing wildlife at the national seashore and at other locations across the Panhandle. Audubon hosts volunteer bird steward programs and beach ecosystem education classes throughout the year.


PRESS RELEASE: Audubon Florida Urges Governor Scott to Veto Rhinoceros of a Bill

posted on March 20, 2012 in Press Releases

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2012

Contact: Julie Wraithmell, Director of Wildlife Conservation,, 850-339-5009

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Audubon Florida Urges Governor Scott to Veto Rhinoceros of a Bill

Non-native wildlife has no place on state conservation lands

Tallahassee, FL – Audubon Florida is urging Governor Rick Scott to veto HB 1117 – Conservation of Wildlife, passed during the 2012 Florida Legislative Session.

This legislation allows private zoos and aquaria to lease state conservation lands in order to construct and operate breeding facilities for exotic wildlife, including large hooved animals like zebras and rhinoceroses and aviaries for exotic birds.

“Florida’s conservation lands were acquired with public dollars to protect native imperiled wildlife; this bill’s proposed use could supplant threatened and iconic Florida species with exotic,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s Director of Wildlife Conservation, adding, “The opportunity for zoos to lease state lands, likely for less than a private land owner would negotiate, is an example of government competing with and undercutting the private sector.”

For a copy of Audubon Florida’s letter to Governor Rick Scott, please visit


CLICK HERE to send your comments to Governor Scott!

Press Release: Hope for the Everglade Snail Kite

posted on February 9, 2012 in Everglade Snail Kite,Lake Okeechobee,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: February 9, 2012

Contact:  Jane Graham, Everglades Policy Associate,, 561-271-5766

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Hope for the Everglade Snail Kite:

Army Corps Agrees to Evaluate Forward Pumps on Lake Okeechobee

Miami, FL – Yesterday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved a South Florida Water Management District request for authorization to use temporary forward pumps to pull water from Lake Okeechobee lower than gravity-flow will allow.

The Army Corps has agreed with an Audubon request to reduce the permit extension to one year only to allow for a complete analysis of impacts of the pumps on the endangered Everglade Snail Kite and to analyze additional specific conditions that could limit future pump usage.

Lake Okeechobee is critical Everglade Snail Kite habitat, and decisions that impact how the Lake’s water is managed for the environment, agriculture, and other users can be the difference between life and death for this iconic Florida species.

“With three severe droughts hitting Lake Okeechobee in less than a decade, it is crucial for state and federal agencies to look closely at impacts of low water levels on the Everglade Snail Kite,” said Everglades Policy Associate Jane Graham.  “The Corps’ decision to renew the permit pending an evaluation of the impact of forward pumps on Lake ecology is an encouraging step in the right direction.”

The Everglade Snail Kite is a system-wide indicator species for Everglades restoration success. In order to comprehensively protect Kite habitat and the Greater Everglades Ecosystem as a whole, water level declines should be dealt with through water restrictions and water conservation measures.  Audubon urges that citizens, businesses, and agencies respond to these steps dutifully when drought conditions are identified to avoid the need to use temporary forward pumps when water is most scarce.

Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director, said, “The South Florida Water Management District needs to rethink how water from Lake Okeechobee is being used throughout the year to put the environment on par with the sugar industry and other users.”


Press Release: Audubon Florida Comments on C-111 Canal

posted on February 6, 2012 in Everglades,Press Releases

For Immediate Release: February 6, 2012

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

Audubon Florida Applauds Restoration Project Milestone and Urges Immediate Congressional Approval  

The C-111 Spreader Canal western project will increase freshwater flows to Florida Bay.

Miami, FL – Last week the Army Corps of Engineers chief signed off on the C-111 Spreader Canal Western project, completing the last step before presenting to Congress for approval of this longtime Audubon priority.  Audubon urges immediate Congressional action for final approval.

“This critical project can now be included in legislation required to advance implementation,” said Megan Tinsley, Everglades Policy Associate for Audubon Florida. “If this project is operated to achieve ecological benefits such as revived wildlife populations, we will demonstrate that successful restoration of the Everglades is possible.”

Construction on the C-111 Spreader Canal Western project was expedited by the South Florida Water Management District and operation is ready to begin soon. The recent approval of this project by the Army Corps of Engineers means the federal government is one step closer to sharing the project costs with the state, continuing the federal and state partnership required for restoration.

“Audubon’s Everglades research tell us that wildlife can and will respond to changes in water management that mimic more historical water flows,” said Dr. Jerry Lorenz, State Director of Research for Audubon Florida. “True restoration requires bringing the quantities of clean, freshwater back and we must work toward that goal.”

The C-111 Spreader Canal Western project will increase freshwater flows to Taylor Slough in Everglades National Park, reviving a greatly impaired ecosystem. The delivery of more freshwater to these vital wetlands is essential to species such as the Roseate Spoonbill and other iconic wading birds of the Everglades.

For more information on Audubon’s work on behalf of the C-111 Spreader Canal and Florida Bay, please see our fact sheet from January 2010:


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Audubon of Florida Responds to NRDA’s Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Draft Phase I Early Restoration Plan

posted on December 14, 2011 in Press Releases


Tallahassee, FL – “Audubon of Florida is pleased to see that the National Resource Damage Assessment has announced the Deepwater Horizon Draft Phase 1 Early Restoration Plan. This proposal is a critical first step to making Florida and the Gulf Coast whole after the disaster that was the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Our thanks go to the trustees for providing an extended 60-day public comment period and a series of public hearings on this important initial proposal. Audubon of Florida is looking forward to working with state and federal staff to ensure the important ecological needs of our Gulf Coast are addressed in future rounds of NRDA’s restoration plan.”

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Press Release: 84% of Florida Voters Support Bill to Spend BP Fines on Gulf Restoration

posted on December 12, 2011 in Gulf Oil Spill,Press Releases

75% of State Voters More Likely to Support Candidates Who Back Bill



(Tallahassee, Fla.—Dec. 12, 2011) Eighty-four percent of Florida voters and 92 percent of Panhandle voters support a bill approved by a Senate committee that would ensure the BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration, according to a new poll released today at news conferences in Tallahassee and Pensacola. The poll also showed 75 percent of Florida voters and 82 percent of Panhandle voters are more likely to support candidates who back the legislation.

“Voters haven’t forgotten the BP oil spill was the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history because our ecosystem and economy are still recovering from it a year-and-a-half later,” said Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward.  “They recognize that the BP oil spill fines would dramatically accelerate our recovery.”

The telephone poll by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s pollster, Hamilton Campaigns, and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s pollster, Ayres McHenry & Associates, was conducted between November 30 and December 4, 2011, and sampled 700 registered Florida voters in the metropolitan areas of Miami, Orlando, the Panhandle/Northeast, South Central Florida (Ft. Myers and West Palm Beach media markets), andTampa, who are likely to vote in the November 2012 election.  It includes an oversample of 100 registered likely voters in the Panhandle (Pensacola and Panama City media markets) because that’s where the BP oil spill caused the most environmental and economic damage.

“Regardless of political party or region of the state, this is an issue that unites Florida voters, when so many other issues divide them,” said Dave Beattie, president of Hamilton Campaigns, based in Fernandina Beach, Florida, which does consulting and polling for Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations.  “There is broad, bipartisan support for ensuring that fines paid by BP and any other parties responsible for the spill actually are targeted to the Gulf Coast states hurt by the spill.”

The poll is timely because last Monday, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force issued its final report, recommending that Congress ensure that a “significant portion” of the BP oil spill fines go to restoring the Gulf.  In late September, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act, (S. 1400), co-authored by Senators Nelson and Rubio.  It would dedicate 80 percent of the estimated $5-$21 billion in expected fines for the BP oil spill to restoring the Gulf ecosystem and economy.  The House version of the bill, (H.R. 3096), is co-sponsored by nine Florida House members: Congressmen Ander Crenshaw (FL-4), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-21), Jeff Miller (FL-1), Richard Nugent (FL-5), David Rivera (FL-25), Thomas Rooney (FL-16), Dennis Ross (FL-12), Steve Southerland (FL-2), and Allen B. West (FL-22).

However, if Congress fails to pass the RESTORE Act, the spill fines will be used for unrelated federal spending or to reduce the federal deficit.

The poll showed that voters favored using the oil spill fines for Gulf Coast restoration instead of reducing the deficit by nearly a 7-1 margin: 79 percent to 12 percent.

“Support for this proposal cuts across traditional partisan lines.  Florida GOP voters and Tea Party supporters also favor using the Gulf spill fines for Gulf restoration over deficit reduction by nearly a 7-1 margin, said Dr. Whit Ayres, founder and president of Ayres, McHenry & Associates, Inc., a national public opinion and public affairs research firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.  The firm specializes in providing research and strategic advice for corporations, associations, and GOP candidates.

The poll found strong support across party lines for legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:

  • 82% of Republicans and 84% of GOP presidential primary voters
  • 84% of Tea Party supporters
  • 88% of Independents
  • 83% of Democrats

The poll also found that the vast majority of Florida voters–regardless of political affiliation–also support candidates who back legislation to ensure BP oil spill fines are spent on Gulf restoration:

  • 73% of Republicans and 73% of GOP presidential primary voters
  • 72% of Tea Party supporters
  • 72% of Independents
  • 78% of Democrats

“Florida voters statewide across the political spectrum expect their representatives in Washington to ensure that fines from the BP oil disaster are used to restore the lingering environmental and economic damage from the spill, where they belong,” said a joint statement by Environmental Defense FundNational Audubon SocietyNational Wildlife FederationThe Nature ConservancyOcean Conservancy and Oxfam America, the groups which funded the poll, except for Ocean Conservancy.  “The reason is simple: 98 percent of the voters in this poll believe a healthy Gulf ecosystem is important to the state’s economy.”

Duke University also released a report last Monday concluding the Gulf oil spill fines could kick start the launch of a long-term investment in ecosystem restoration and create jobs that would benefit at least 140 businesses with nearly 400 employee locations in 37 states, including nearly 60 in Florida.

“Investing in coastal restoration work is a highly leveraged activity that creates ripple effects for hundreds of businesses and a wide variety of workers,” said James Marino, P.E., president of Taylor Engineering, an employee-owned design firm that restored seven miles of critically eroded beaches battered by hurricanes inWalton County and the city of Destin in Okaloosa County and has offices in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Destin, Florida. “Restoring wetlands and beaches would help many small business owners in ecotourism, the marine construction sector, and equipment manufacturing, produce jobs and local tax revenue, and grow the economy.”

“Members of Congress from both parties have an opportunity to put aside their differences and pass this bipartisan bill—which doesn’t spend any taxpayer funds—and has huge public support,” said Michael L. Davis, Vice President and Principal, Keith and Schnars, P.A., an environmental, planning and engineering consulting firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Doral, Florida.  “The RESTORE Act will help right the wrong of the BP oil disaster by funding restoration projects that will trigger a value added chain that goes far beyond planning and design firms like mine, benefiting contractors and equipment manufactures as well.”



For Audubon of Florida – Jonathan Webber, 850-222-2473,

Kevin Cate, Cate Communications, 850.320.7189,

Sean Crowley, Environmental Defense Fund, 202.550.6524,

David J. Ringer, National Audubon Society, 601.642.7058,

Emily Guidry Schatzel, National Wildlife Federation, 225.253.9781,

Heather Layman, The Nature Conservancy, 703.475.1733,

David Willett, Ocean Conservancy, 202.351.0465,

Andrew Blejwas, Oxfam America, (617) 785-7047,


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