From left to right: Karen Fraley, Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida, Jeanne Dubi, Sarasota Audubon, Saskia Janes, Jacqui Sulek, Audubon Florida, Maureen Arnold, Barbara Sheen Todd, Alice Tenney, Janica Johnson, Judi Hopkins, Mark Rachal, Audubon Florida, Dave Kandz, John Hood, Clearwater Audubon, Bob Keim, Irene Keim, Wanda Dean, Dave Howard, Tampa Bay Wildlife Refuges. Other Audubon members who attended not in the photo: Harold Albers, Mary Brazier, Brad Cornell, Pete Quasius, George Willson, Suzi Fox, Joy, Sarasota Audubon.
The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council completed its public listening tour with a stop in Saint Petersburg. SPAS decided to cancel their board meeting so more members could attend. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, comprised of federal agencies and the five Gulf States, will control 30% of BP's fines, hopefully to be used to restore the Gulf and protect natural resources. After opening remarks by Dr. Perran Ross (UF) and Gil McRae (Director, FWRI) , we listened to a presentation about BP's buckets of money, how large those buckets might become and how Florida might spend them. Then it was our turn, and we took to the podium to advocate for different pieces of Audubon's plan—an ecosystem approach to Restoration.
About 40 people spoke, at least 6 from Audubon, and we made up about one third of the people present. I was encouraged by the absence of infrastructure related proposals and that every project proposal directly enefited the environment.
The next step is for the council to produce a draft plan and to accept public comment on it. For more information about the RESTORE process, please visit http://fl.audubon.org/restorefloridasgulf.The RESTORE Act, which passed Congress last year, directed the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Science, Observation, Monitoring, and Technology Program to “carry out research, observation and monitoring, to support, to the maximum extent practicable, the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Researchers and advocates at the University of South Florida, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and I worked hard to ensure the inclusion of a robust Gulf observation and monitoring initiative in the RESTORE Act. Unlike other areas across the country, the Gulf of Mexico has never had a broad-based observation and monitoring program.
I have a letter from NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenko that outlines the initial framework of the Gulf Observation and Monitoring program. I encourage you to contact me and NOAA with your suggestions for future development.
Thank you for your past and future advocacy. Each step forward brings hope to the millions of people whose livelihoods depend on the health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. Stay tuned for additional announcements relating to the RESTORE Act and resources for the Gulf coast. In the meantime I encourage you to check out http://www.restorethegulf.gov/task-force.
Florida – District 14
Dave Kandz presented the Conservationist of the Year Award to Ron Smith at the Joint Meeting with Clearwater Audubon and Pinellas Chapter of the Native Plant Society.
What is the “go to” site to find out about Birds and Birding in Pinellas? Ron Smith’s Pinellasbirds.com. This site has introduced more people to the birds of Pinellas County than any other medium. Ron maintains the bird list and sighting records for Pinellas County. If you want to know the date of the earliest Palm Warbler sighting, you ask Ron.
But Ron is about more than just birding. Ron organizes the trips to Shell Key Preserve for the Salt Marsh and Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrows project. This five-year study is led by Dr. Jon Greenlaw and lead bander Lauren Deaner to collect data on wintering sparrow habitat.
He also does the monthly winter
shorebird surveys for Pinellas County
at Shell Key, the five summer FSA / SSP shorebird counts, and the “First Friday” in February shorebird census. Don’t forget he’s the south county CBC compiler too.
Then there is Ron’s book, Birders Guide to Pinellas County, which is a compilation of years of dedicated bird study—a gift to all bird lovers—given with no compensation.
In addition, Ron has been leading field trips at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve on the first Saturday of each month since March 1989. January 5th was his 195th field trip. June 1st will be his 200th trip, if no Saturdays are missed. St. Pete Audubon started including these field trips in their schedule four years ago. Since then 1,732 participants have attended with 72 people for a single trip.
When workers and Rangers were cut back at Ft. De Soto County Park, Judi Hopkins and Mauri Dietrich asked Jim Wilson (park manager) what could St. Pete Audubon do to help. He remarked if we could be responsible for an area, such as the Fountain/Mulberry tree, it would be very helpful. Who took on this task? Ron was soon out there with his own lawn mower and tools grooming the area, with the intention to create the perfect habitats for birds. He turned in over 200 volunteer hours just this past year, gave more time than that, plus again received no compensation for gas
It is no surprise that such a well-known dedicated and committed person is our Conservationist of the Year! Congratulations, Ron.
Join St. Petersburg Audubon Society and Florida’s Water and Land Legacy campaign!
Photo by John Moran
Help support the Water and Land Conservation Amendment and how it will ensure permanent funding for acquiring, conserving and restoring Florida’s cherished water and natural areas that is not subject to political maneuvering. The type of maneuvering that has essentially eliminated funding for Forever Florida and other conservation programs. Signup to add your name to the 500,000 signatures to place this important citizen’s amendment on the November 2014 ballot. Visit http://floridawaterlandlegacy.org/ for more information.
Please contact Jason Bradycat (850) 629-4656 or Jason@FloridaWaterLandLegacy.org
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission needs our help in monitoring bird electrocutions from power lines ()
and poles so that faulty facilities may be repaired. Please be sure to
indicate electrocution as the cause of death when that is the case. Go the Surveillance for Wild Bird Die-offs above to fill out online form or write a letter.
Download your petition at http://www.saveourfloridabeaches.net/, or pick up a copy at our monthly meetings.