Audubon is an organization like no other. Truly. This year’s Audubon Assembly in St. Augustine reminded me of that. I enjoyed the exchange of ideas, the diversity of perspectives, and the single-mindedness of purpose shared by those in attendance.
Government leaders including Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, and St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle mixed with Audubon chapter leaders and attendees from across the state. Bright-eyed college students participating in Audubon’s Conservation Leadership Initiative sat side-by-side with Audubon Florida’s board in sessions on solving Florida’s biggest conservation challenges. Together, we all cheered conservation award winners and challenged each other to do more for water, wildlife, and wildlands we hold dear.
And from more than one newcomer to the Assembly—guest speakers, business sponsors, new members—I heard an awestruck “I had NO idea!”
That is the thing about Audubon: Because we have always been a melting pot of skills and experiences, professionals and volunteers, scientists and advocates, we have been able to borrow the best of each of us and exceed expectations. Our diversity in both skills and backgrounds make us stronger. It’s the same audacious conservation that made the women of the early 1900s think they could pass sweeping international bird protections before they even had the right to vote.
In that same tradition, Audubon Florida has had a remarkable year advancing the restoration of America’s Everglades and our Gulf of Mexico, standing up for springs and beaches, water and wildlife, and working to save the places that make Florida special. Hurricane Irma threw us all a curveball. But we are using it as an opportunity to drive restoration and resilience, so that Florida’s resources are better than they were before.
As we look back on all that we have accomplished together this past year, I thank each of you for your dedication and investment in this important work. I look forward to the coming year and the opportunities it brings to audaciously make Florida better for birds and people alike.
Interim Executive Director, Audubon Florida
P.S. – I hope you enjoy flipping through the pages of the Winter 2017 Naturalist. If you’ve enjoyed this edition, please consider making a gift to Audubon Florida using the included envelope. It would mean a lot to the birds and to all of us at Audubon. Thank you.