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

News from Central  Florida Regional  Conservation Committee

Audubon Assembly opened at lunch on Friday, October 20, and concluded following full membership approval of the 2018 conservation action agenda.   Three workshops--Water Policy Bootcamp, Landscaping for Water & Wildlife and Changing Hearts & Minds:  How to Effectively Influence Policymakers—were well-attended and included lively discussions between chapter members, AF staff and State and local decision-makers.   As written in the last RCC update, the new lobbying strategy of educating a legislator about a particular piece of conservation land and arranging a site visit were recommended again and again.

State conservation priorities include

        Coastal conservation and stewardship

        Greater Everglades ecosystem

        Climate Change

        Important bird areas and waterways conservation

        Water for the environment

        Individual goals for 7 Regional Conservation Committee (RCC) geographies

Central Florida RCC obtained membership approval of the following two goals:

Promote Lake Apopka Restoration, Visitor Access, & New Audubon Nature Center

Chapters will focus joint resources and efforts to assure continued progress on restoration of the Lake Apopka North Shore marshes and to increase appropriate public access to the marshes for birdwatching, nature study, and compatible recreation activities. Chapters will work with Audubon Florida and Orange & Oklawaha Audubon Societies to promote the long-term goal of building and operating a new Audubon Center to showcase Lake Apopka as Florida’s most important inland bird habitat.

Monitor and Act on Local & State Government Land Use Decisions Impacting Wildlife Habitat

Chapters will work together to advocate for greater funding for Florida Forever and the Rural and Family Lands Protection Act to secure money to purchase identified conservation property (such as those listed below) by meeting with legislators to build support for specific properties rather than lobbying solely for the umbrella programs.

    1.    Lenholt Farm:  a vital property which links Ocala National Forest and the extensive state holdings along the Wekiva River

    2.    Conlin Lake X/Kirchman Tract:  an 11,000-acre, pristine property at the headwaters of the Econlockhatchee and Kissimmee Rivers watershed

    3.    Purchase of conservation easements on Kissimmee Valley ranchlands where owners are interested and willing to participate  

A copy of the full approved agenda will be posted to the AF website soon, if it hasn’t been posted already.   This agenda will direct AF staff and volunteers on where to place emphasis in utilizing funding, lobbying the legislature and continuing research in the coming year.  Audubon Florida is unique in including input from members when setting action priorities.  If you have an environmental concern or a worthy project that is not covered by the 2018 agenda, contact your local chapter leadership and/or participate in the next RCC meeting so we can discuss it.

And, finally, Central Florida RCC is home to two chapters which received awards at Audubon Assembly on Saturday morning.  Congratulations to Halifax River Audubon for winning the 2017 Best Conservation Project for a Chapter Under 500 Members and to West Volusia Audubon Society for winning the 2017 Best Education Project for a Chapter Under 500 Members.  Well done to everyone in both chapters who work so diligently to achieve success in our communities.

Paula Wehr

CFL RCC Representative on AF Board of Directors