Every year Audubon Florida recognizes the state's leading conservationists with a suite of annual awards. This year awards were presented both virtually and as part of a small, local ceremony in Southwest Florida held at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary on December 2.
President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with the founding of America’s National Park System and making land conservation a core American value. Every year, Audubon Florida recognizes a conservationist who has made significant contributions to conservation in Florida.
A fifth-generation Floridian, Mary Johnson Figg grew up in Fruitland Park, Florida. She had a typical Florida childhood swimming in the nearby lakes, walking barefoot, avoiding sandspurs, and enjoying the citrus from the trees in the yard.
Mary was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 1982, where she served for 10 years. Her interests in the legislature were vast, stretching across public health, the environment, domestic violence, transportation, and the election system. In 1987, Mary co-authored the landmark Grizzle-Figg Act which set high standards for the treatment of wastewater in Southwest Florida, ending the practice of dumping raw sewage into Florida’s waters. Her efforts were the among first steps forward in cleaning up Tampa Bay, which has since become a comeback story for seagrass, fish communities, and an economy geared towards marine resources and activities. She has remained a tireless advocate for the health and resilience of Florida’s natural environment, and this legislation 45 years later remains a cornerstone of Florida conservation.