Audubon Florida News

Topic: President's Notes



President’s Notes: An Island View

posted on April 9, 2012 in President's Notes

Please enjoy this recent update from Audubon Florida executive director Eric Draper as he explores Bingham Island:

I was excited the other day to take Hillie Mahoney, Bob Merrill and Bob’s family on a boat and waking tour of Bingham Island, an Audubon Sanctuary located in Lake Worth immediately across from Hillie’s beautiful home.  Audubon holds a long-term lease on the island from the Bingham Family and is charged with maintaining it for its natural beauty and bird habitat value.

Our first sight on nearing the island was a dancing Reddish Egret.  Although it retreated to the treetops during the boat tour, Hillie told me that she has seen the bird many times.  Arriving at the island, part of which forms the causeway of the Southern Boulevard Bridge to Palm Beach, I could see why Hillie wanted her grandsons to see and explore the island.

After working our way through a well-worn cut through the island and noticing the oysters on the roots of the mangrove trees we pulled around to a sandy bank on the lagoon side.  Bob and his sons were quickly moving along a trail through the island while our captain and guide, Audubon biologist and sanctuary manager Ann Paul picked shore litter.

Lake Worth Lagoon in that area receives considerable discharge from the C-51 canal, which carries stormwater drainage and a lot of debris from as far away as the Everglades.

I was very excited to see the boys captivated with crabs on the island.  They seemed to sense that Bingham Island is indeed a special place, part of a very special water body – Lake Worth.

Hillie and Bob have taken a special interest in Audubon and have helped ensure that our Everglades science staff have safe boats to carry out their research duties.  Thank you!

President’s Notes: Celebrating North Florida Farmers’ Environmental Stewardship

posted on July 1, 2011 in Chapters,President's Notes

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper reports from the CARES dinner at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research Center in Live Oak. Enjoy:

Last night under stormy skies I enjoyed the company of hundreds of North Florida farmers and others at the CARES celebration of the Suwannee River Partnership at the IFAS Center near Live Oak.  The Suwannee River Partnership was put together by the Suwannee River Water Management District to help agricultural landowners protect water resources.

The program has been a major success, with many farmers voluntarily reducing nutrients and improving water quality.  CARES, which stands for County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship is a joint project of the Florida Farm Bureau and the Suwannee River Partnership.  Last night CARES recognized many of the farmers who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to protect the environment.

I enjoyed talking to some old and new friends.  Rod Land, a fifth generation farmer from Lafayette County, told me that people and especially environmentalists do not understand or recognize the importance of agriculture.  He said we need to work together better so that his son, who has joined him in the business can prosper.  We agreed that private landowners provide important habitat.  Rod told me that Bobwhite Quail were until recently plentiful on his farm.

I also enjoyed seeing my old friends John Finlayson from Jefferson County who used to sit on the Suwannee River Water Management District Governing Board along with Auley Rowell.  Auley was chair for years and championed much of the rules and programs that are used to help successfully protect wetlands and springs in the Suwannee watershed.  We talked about how disappointed we are with Governor Scott’s attack on Florida’s water management districts, which Auley believes are the best in the nation.

Loy Barnard, a leader of the Four Rivers Audubon Society, helped get me invited to the CARES event.  It is exciting to know that our local conservation leaders are tied into efforts to work with farmers to protect the Suwannee.

Florida’s elected leaders were out in force.  Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam spoke and said that water is the biggest problem facing Florida’s farmers.  I also got a chance to say hello to Representatives Elizabeth Porter and Leonard Bembry along with Senator Steve Oelrich.

President’s Notes: New Governor and Cabinet Members Take Oaths

posted on January 4, 2011 in President's Notes

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper reports from the inauguration of Florida’s 45th governor, Rick Scott:

I managed to snag a VIP ticket to Rick Scott’s swearing in ceremony and was treated to the sight of four new members of Florida’s Cabinet begin their jobs in Tallahassee.  Just after the cannons boomed and the jet fighters flew over, Governor Scott delivered a speech that promised new jobs and a review of every state regulation.  The themes are not new to Scott or his predecessors.  Scott did not mention Florida’s heritage of clean water, natural lands and diverse wildlife.

I listened and wondered just how the pressure to promote development will affect our hard won environmental laws.  It is not really the new Governor I worry about.  Lobbyists for special interest groups are lining up to promote water supply for new development, ending state wetlands regulation and giving away public lands.  If Scott does nothing more than refuse to go along with these bad ideas, his four year term will be successful.Old Florida Capitol

The other Cabinet members hold some promise.  New Attorney General (AG) Pam Bondi retained some seasoned staff that may help her understand the Florida AG’s traditional role as defender of submerged lands.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is strongly committed to the Everglades and Florida Forever and stopped the rush to oil drilling in state waters.

Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has a good sense of conservation lands and the importance of protecting water resources.  He is schedule to speak at the Everglades Coalition Conference this Friday. We are hopeful.

Audubon, its members and allies will work hard to make sure that Governor Scott, the new Cabinet and all members of the Legislature stay balanced as they look to reduce the role of government.

From the Road: Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper Explores Florida’s First Coast

posted on November 17, 2010 in Northeast Florida,President's Notes

Fort Matanzas National Monument's Beach - After Beach Driving Ban - October 2010Last Friday, I had the opportunity to stop in Northeast Florida for a sunset walk at the Fort Matanzas National Monument’s beach before attending a wonderful fall buffet at the historic home of outgoing Audubon of Florida Board Chairman John Hankinson and his wife Gail. The dinner was organized to thank supporters of our Northeast Florida Program and to show them some of the good work we are completing.

Despite the windy evening, Fort Matanzas National Monument’s beach allowed us good looks at a variety of shorebirds and seabirds. We had a special treat when some Wood Storks flew in to rest on the beach, close enough for us to admire their pink feet.

Further down the beach we saw two Piping Plovers, among other feeding shorebirds, and got a first hand experience of disturbance issues when an off-leash dog flushed a large group of gulls resting on the beach. We all witnessed how easily the birds got frightened by the dog.The magnificent orange and white beach, no longer scarred by tire ruts from automobiles, is an incredible natural Fort Matanzas National Monument's Beach - Scarred from Beach Driving - 2009resource for wildlife and citizens.

Later, we headed up to the Hankinson’s home and warmed up with oyster soup, music and lively conversation. It is with some sadness for Audubon that we bid John good-bye from his Audubon of Florida Board chairmanship position, as he begins his new appointment leading the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force.

As the night drew to a close, I could not help but think about how special Florida is to so many people.  Audubon’s Northeast Program is a great example of staff, volunteers, chapters and members working together to help protect our state’s special places.

My sincere thanks go out to everyone involved in Audubon’s Northeast Program.  It is your support that makes our success in this area possible.

From the Road: Visiting the Publix Bakery Where Sustainability and Jobs Come Together

posted on November 9, 2010 in President's Notes

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper blogs from around the state:

Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper Gets a Tour of the Publix Bakery in Lakeland, FloridaOn Friday I joined fellow board members of Sustainable Florida – the Collins Center on a tour of the central Publix bakery in Lakeland, Florida. Sustainable Florida is a wonderful little organization with a big mission – recognizing and promoting sustainable practices among Florida’s businesses and governments.

Publix executive Michael Hewett took us on a tour of the huge bakery where Publix makes so many of the baked goods we love.  Dressed in blue smocks and hairnets – which certainly leveled members of the distinguished Sustainable Florida board – we toured the huge complex where truck after truck of flour and sugar and flavors are turned into cakes, muffins, cookies, and more.   I have to admit that one of my favorite breads is a multi-grain baguette from our local Publix bakery, so I was as excited as a little boy about this tour.

What we learned about Publix and sustainability was even more exciting.  Publix recycles just about everything that enters the bakery that is not used in its food. And extraordinary effort goes into careful use of water and electricity. Moreover, Publix seems to treat their workers well with emphasis on ergonomics and safety.

We hear a lot from politicians about creating jobs.  Here in pretty Central Florida, Publix is sustaining a sizable workforce making food that many Floridians enjoy every day.

It doesn’t stop there for Publix.  Much of what they are doing in their stores is now oriented to saving energy and water. Please click here to learn more.

From the Road: Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper Reports from the Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative

posted on October 28, 2010 in Birding,President's Notes,Wildlife

J Dickinson SP - Osprey in Pine FlatwoodsOctober 27th – Today I joined other conservation leaders and representatives of private and public landowners and environmental agencies at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound for the second discussion on formation of the (Peninsular) Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative.  The basic idea is to bring landowners together for a look at strategies that may lead to an overall conservation plan for Florida with an emphasis on the Peninsula.

One proposed idea is to use the Florida Wildlife Action Plan as the basis for discussions.   I proposed greater emphasis on coastal conservation, especially in light of Gulf Recovery efforts.  I also suggested that a landscape plan would need to take into consideration state water resources.   The Cooperative is open process and is still evolving in its purpose.  Audubon will continue to participate and work to make the plan a vehicle for protection of birds, wildlife and water resources.Consultant Tom Logan offers comments about biological resources on private lands at the Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative

The entire day was informative and interesting, but my favorite part came when I happened to catch a glimpse of an American Kestrel chasing after a Red-bellied Woodpecker (unsuccessfully) through the pine flat-woods of the State Park.

From the Road: Audubon of Florida Executive Director Eric Draper Blogs From Around the State

posted on October 7, 2010 in Chapters,President's Notes

For an Audubon road warrior, yesterday was a treat.   I spent the morning in the Ocala National Forest, then had a discussion on sustainable energy with the famous Hazel Henderson,  gave a talk on the Wildlife Impacts of Light Pollution and ended the day by meeting legendary Florida painter Jackson Walker.

In Ocala, we saw Wild Turkeys in the woods, which always makes me excited about the beauty and surprisingly diverse Wild Turkey by John James Audubonlandscapes of the Ocala National Forest.

Hazel Henderson was the best part of the day.  From her headquarters of Ethical Markets Media, Florida Audubon board chair John H. Hankinson and I listened as Ms. Henderson laid out an alternative economic vision:  one of emphasizing local investments in green technology, energy efficiency and solar power.   I left with a copy of her book Ethical Markets.

Later, I had the opportunity to speak to a panel at the University of Central Florida Daytona Beach on Dark Skies and the challenges of light pollution.  The event was sponsored in part by the Walter and Betty Boardman Foundation and was attended by nearly 100 people,  including a good dozen Audubon members from:

Does Eric know his Night-Herons?The talk, with the exception an embarrassing on stage gaffe of mislabeling a Night Heron on a slide, went very well.  And, I walked away with a nice t-shirt.

The day ended with a meeting at the Deland studio of Jackson Walker, the legendary painter of Florida history.   I got a sneak look at his latest work in progress, a stunning portrait of Guy Bradley.

Many thanks to everyone for a great day around Florida!