REGIONAL CONSERVATION PRIORITIES: SOUTHWEST FLORIDA 2024
Each year at the annual Assembly meeting, the regional Conservation Committees set priorities for the upcoming year. The state priorities are compiled with the regional priorities and published in a pamphlet. Below are the priorities for the SW regional chapters: Peace River Audubon, Audubon of the Western Everglades, Audubon of the Southwest (Ft. Myers), Sanibel-Captiva Audubon and Hendry-Glades Audubon.
Florida Audubon has a long history in the Western Everglades region, beginning with hiring wardens to protect wading bird colonies from plume hunter, later creating the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (now a vital partner for these chapters), and lately helping to secure federal and state public lands. Audubon Florida and its five affiliated Southwest Florida local Audubon chapters are committed to working together to protect and restore the Southwest Florida watersheds and downstream coastal ecosystems in the face of rapid human population growth and increasing anthropogenic climate change impacts.
Among the climate impacts, increasing termperatures and poor water quality that feeds harmful algal blooms remains a major threat in this region. This climate issue also intersects regional wetland protection, restoration, stormwater and pollution prevention policies.
Coinciding with and quite related to climate impacts is the crisis of species declines and extinctions. Audubon organizations see these amongst avian species, but their food base of insects and plants are just as concerning. It seems that our local communities are powerless to address these declines, but this is not so.
Regarding the vitally important issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion, Audubon and its chapters recognize the underrepresentation of diverse communities in our leadership, membership, programs, and staff. This lack of diversity, including not only in race, but also age and socioeconomic status, is a challenge to be addressed for everyone’s collective benefit. Our regional work could benefit immensely from collaboratively working with disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities.
Therefore be it resolved:
The five local Audubon organizations in the Southwest Florida Region, using sound science, professional policy guidance, and in complement to Audubon Florida’s statewide conservation priorities, will mobilize volunteer and staff leadership, members, allies, community leaders, elected officials, and government agencies to cooperatively advance four regional priorities:
1. Reduce Harmful Algal Blooms
Priority one is to reduce harmful algal blooms in Southwest Florida through nutrient source control, watershed restoration, wetland preservation, and protection of connected coastal and inland habitats from Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee River, Peace River/Charlotte Harbor, and Big Cypress and Corkscrew Swamps to their downstream estuaries and beaches,
Support Audubon calls for advocacy relating to issues such as improvement of stormwater treatment infrastructure and removal of septic systems in densely populated areas. Additionally, SW Florida chapters may elect to engage in some or all of a variety of supportive activities on several levels — individual homes, neighborhoods, streets, municipalities, and counties. Examples could include: community science such as collection of water quality data, establishing rain gardens and cisterns, support for Low Impact Design strategies, and support for seagrass restoration.
2. Conservation/Enhancement of Wildlife Habitat and Land of Environmental Value
Support Audubon calls to advocate for purchase of environmentally sensitive land, conservation easements, and similar measures especially in Southwest Florida.
Chapters may also wish to support local initiatives such as Plants for Birds Campaigns, native tree planting, urban wildlife habitat creation, turf grass conversion to native plants, and reduction of risk to birds from the built environment.
3. Enhanced Regional and Local Sea Level Rise/Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
Encourage local government participation in the Southwest Florida Regional Resiliency Coalition,
Assure governments fairly evaluate the University of Florida/Florida Gulf Coast University ACUNE+ and other models of sea level rise and climate impacts in planning actions required to protect human and wildlife communities at risk in Southwest Florida,
Promote local and regional measures to lower greenhouse gas emissions and increase resiliency through nature-based strategies such as watershed restoration (e.g., Horse Pen Strand and Charlotte Harbor Flatwoods purchase and restoration), offshore and oyster reef creation, coastal bird and habitat stewardship, or mangrove and sea grass restoration.
Increased Diversity of Chapter Membership and Leadership, and Support for Environmental Justice in All Our Communities
In cooperation with diverse communities, support efforts to reduce negative environmental outcomes which differentially afflict under-represented groups.
Assure that such activities as Plants for Birds, urban wildlife support, environmental education programs, and native tree plantings benefit all communities.
Increase membership and leadership diversity by implementing above strategies.
Peace River Audubon's Progress toward
SW Regional Priorities
Progress toward priority 1
A few PRAS members attended the 2023 October 3PR meeting and the last Mosaic Workshop in
Arcadia to rally against radiation road surfaces. Several members participated in the 3 minute
public hearing opportunity to speak for the water quality of the Peace River and perils of
phosphate mining. A few members have attended talks and fund raising for the newly formed
“Heal our Harbor” group. President, Bren Curtis gave a talk on the Conservation of The Peace
River including bird species within the spillway at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.
PRAS has many outreach programs including support for local resolutions to commissioners and
legislators toward avoiding herbicides, fungicides, pesticides (other ‘cides that have the purpose of
killing something) in addition to excess fertilizing which pollutes water quality. PRAS supports
many resolutions and legislature positions through the Everglades Coalition and 1000 Friends of
Florida. Bren Curtis successfully proposed a session for the 2023 Everglades Coalition Conference
as part of the Wildlife Team: Climate Change Perils of Wildlife Management Plans with moderator,
Jaclyn Lopez, Stetson University, formerly Center for Biodiversity and panelists Brad Cornell,
Audubon Western Everglades; Craig van der Heiden, Miccosukee Tribe; and Kim Dinkins, Save the
Manatees. The session was well attended!
Progress toward priority 2
PRAS started a new Florida Scrub Jay initiative to create a Sand Live Oak Tree Corridor from
Charlotte County to Archbold Biological Station. PRAS supports the Florida Wildlife Corridor and
protection of the Florida Panther and Ghost Orchid.
Our chapter worked with the Environmental Conservancy Of North Port & Surrounding Areas on
fund raising projects for purchase of lots with or near existing FL Scrub Jay Populations. PRAS
members participated in Surveys of Jays undertaken in Charlotte County in addition to exploration
expeditions to Archbold Biological Station. PRAS gave conservation presentations about FL. Scrub
Jays at CHEC and the Cape Coral Library’s Childen’s Scrub Jay Art Project. PRAS explores grant
opportunities like the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative: Land Trust Small Grant
Program (6 $5000 grants for capacity and partnership projects and the 8 $25,000 grants for
management & restoration projects). PRAS has received the $2,500 FPL/Audubon Plants for Birds
Grant four years in a row to start a Charlotte County Native Plant Nursery at CHEC, publish and
distributed 3,000 the Birds Talk and Plants Listen Children’s Activity Booklets during the Covid
Pandemic, coordinated a Native Plant Giveaway Day with UF/extension and created a Native Plant
Yard Certification Program. PRAS advocates for Pelicans at Skyline Pier and the state bird to be
the Florida Scrub Jay. Bren Curtis and Cathy Olson are contracted Shorebird monitors.
Progress toward priority 3
Charlotte County is still in the SW Florida Resiliency MOU. Members of our committee attend
resiliency webinars and conferences like the CHNEP Climate Summit. Several members attended
Stanford University’s Nobel Laureate professor, Dr. Terry Root, talk in Punta Gorda on Climate
legislation March 2023.
Progress toward priority 4
Our past chapter President Caniff was awarded a US Presidential award for creating CHEC with community collaborations. Our local chapter continues to support a bird blind, educational activities and fund raising events both monetarily and with member volunteering. PRAS encourages diversity, equity and inclusion by donating annually to CHEC summer camp scholarships in Title 1 areas. Our current president, Bren Curtis has mentored three of Audubon’s CLI college students majoring in environmental studies from FGCU and is currently mentoring a fourth student.