TALLAHASSEE, FL – More than 300 participants from across the state met at the 2019 Audubon Assembly in Gainesville, Florida to celebrate the conservation successes of the past year and collaborate on the challenges of 2020. Field trips, learning sessions, a plenary panel, and keynote presentation by Dr. Tom Frazer, Chief Science Officer for Florida, focused on science-based strategies for clean water and healthy watersheds, while awards recognized individuals and organizations that have created a more resilient Florida and inspired others to do the same.
This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to Melrose-area resident Joyce King. Joyce has been with Audubon since the 1980s, when she became a critical leader with St. Petersburg Audubon Society, serving multiple terms on the Audubon Florida Board of Directors as well as the board of National Audubon Society. She pioneered the protection of imperiled coastal birds with volunteer stewards, led the charge on conservation of vulnerable public lands in Pinellas County, and pioneered the creation of “Audubon Academies,” learning weekends focused on growing the power and effectiveness of Audubon’s essential grassroots chapters. After relocating to Melrose in 2007, she found there was no local Audubon chapter—so she created one, which today is the thriving Santa Fe Audubon, named for the region’s eponymous river. In lieu of an ordinary photo plaque presented to Joyce, all 320 banquet attendees were given native wildflower seeds in her honor, to spread statewide her relentless advocacy for gardening with native plants for birds.
Audubon also presented Mark Middlebrook with its 2019 Special Places Award for a career dedicated to the protection of Northeast Florida’s iconic natural landscapes. Most notably, his leadership on former Mayor John Delaney’s Preservation Project Jacksonville resulted in the protection of nearly 50,000 acres of environmentally sensitive land. He also oversaw the design and construction of Camp Milton Historic Preserve and Castaway Island Preserve. Mark served as an appointed member of the state’s Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC) as well as St. Johns County’s Land Acquisition and Management Program board (LAMP). He has also served in leadership capacities with the St. Johns River Alliance and the Timucuan Parks Foundation. Northeast Florida public lands have been Mark’s life’s work, and the region is better for it.
Additional award recipients recognized at the Assembly included:
- Rathmann Family Foundation received the Philanthropist of the Year Award, for visionary investment in the restoration of Southwest Florida wetlands
- Charlie Causey received the Theodore Roosevelt Award for leadership on the protection and restoration of Florida Bay and the Florida Keys.
- The City of Orlando received the Guy Bradley Award for ambitious leadership on meeting the challenge of climate change.
- Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz and Senator Marco Rubio received Champions of the Everglades Awards for ensuring essential funding for the River of Grass.
- Dick and Sharon Stillwell received the Volunteers of the Year Award for their long and expert service at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
- Lt. Evan Laskowski with FWC received the Law Enforcement Award for his service to Pinellas County’s imperiled coastal wildlife and their habitat.