Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;   president@SEVolusiaAudubon.org


November 2014 Conservation Notes

 

2014 Audubon Assembly


"Become a climate messenger on behalf of Florida’s birds and wildlife. Get involved in your local and regional climate change planning efforts and provide input with local governments, regional planning agencies, and state agencies whenever opportunities present. Thank you in advance for relaying the message that Florida’s natural environment must have a future that goes hand-in-hand with the future of our built environment."

Eric Draper
Executive Director
Audubon Florida

The 2014 Audubon Assembly took place on Hutchinson Island this past October 17th and 18th.  Of the 44 chapters in Florida, 40 were represented by one or more chapter members.  Including Audubon Florida staffers and presenters, there were around 250 attendees at the Assembly.


There was a full two-day program of  informative presentations related to Amendment 1 (Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative), habitat restoration and maintenance and the effects of climate change on avifauna  that were open to all attendees.  There were several sessions that were directly linked to Audubon’s national initiative regarding the effects of climate change on bird populations.  These sessions included “Communicating Climate Change, Sea Level Rise and the Future of Birds” and “Setting Audubon’s 2015 Conservation Action Agenda”.  These programs included Audubon-produced documentaries and slide shows which provided visual support to the message of climate change in Florida. 


The concept of Climate Strongholds was often mentioned during the programs.   These are defined as “geographic areas that will provide shelter against the onslaught of climate change.”  In the Audubon report on climate change and bird populations in North America the entirety of Florida is considered a major Climate Stronghold.  The identification and designation of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) has been an on-going initiative of Florida Audubon for the past 15 years, and there are now over 100 separate IBAs totaling 10.2 million acres in Florida.  The enhancement and maintenance of these IBAs/Strongholds that provide “essential habitats for migratory and resident birds” areas will be further supported by passage of Amendment 1, which will direct a third of Florida real estate transaction tax revenues to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. 


These funds [from the Land Acquisition Trust] would be expended to acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites, lands protecting water and drinking water resources and lands in the Everglades Agricultural Areas and the Everglades Protection Area. The fund is designed to manage and restore natural systems and to enhance public access and recreational use of conservation lands. (Quoted from here.)


A final and important activity for the Assembly was to introduce the draft of the Audubon Florida 2015 Conservation Action Agenda (CAA).  The CAA defines statewide and regional issues that Audubon Florida has identified for active stewardship, legal advocacy and study.   There are seven regions encompassing 69 ecosystems in Florida.  Locally, SEVAS is within the Central Florida Region.  The agenda for this region includes:

During the Assembly, there were also additional programs for the students involved in the Audubon Conservation Leadership Initiative (CLI).  The CLI mentors and trains college students to become “leaders in conservation at their schools or in their communities.”


Involving students in the environmental and legislative initiatives of Audubon Florida and the local chapters was an often-remarked upon challenge, and the subject of a workshop, “Engaging the Next Generation of Conservationists to Protect Land and Water Resources”.   As one member noted, “Younger people have told me they feel intimidated when they attend a chapter meeting.  They see the older members as highly-experienced authority figures which the younger person is reluctant to approach. “


Attendees had several ideas for involving students in Chapter business and projects.  These included setting up internships with local HS Science classes and Scouting groups, and calling upon the younger persons’ expertise in social media to enhance Chapter communications. 


In brief, there was a full range of educational and inspirational activities, including numerous early morning field trips, on the agenda for the two-day Assembly.  The yearly Assemblies are a good place to meet fellow members, learn about initiatives from the State and National offices, and explore ecological and legislative issues in a supportive and informative environment.



Lamont Ingalls

Conservation Chair