Each year, Audubon Florida recognizes a person or agency for extraordinary efforts to protect the places that make Florida special. This year, Audubon Florida presented the award to the Palm Beach County Natural Areas Program during the 2014 Audubon Assembly at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Resort & Marina on Friday, October 17. This is the first time in 15 years that the award has gone to a local government.
"No local government program deserves recognition more or has accomplished so much as Palm Beach County's Natural Areas Program," said Eric Draper, Audubon Florida Executive Director. " I visit these beautiful places whenever I am in Palm Beach County and urge residents and visitors to appreciate their natural heritage."
In March 1991, Palm Beach County voters approved a $100 Million environmentally sensitive lands acquisition bond referendum. Within a few years, more than a dozen sites had been purchased - from the sensitive and southern most Yamato Scrub to the beautiful Pine Glades.
In 1999, voters recognized the good results of the first wave of spending and approved another issue of bonds. In all, 31,000 acres has been preserved and is now managed primarily to preserve and restore environmentally sensitive lands in Palm Beach County and protect wildlife and endangered species.
ThePalm Beach County's Natural Areas Program operated by the Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resource Management (DERM) has enjoyed support from the Board of County Commissioners.Learning of the recognition Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal R. Valeche said, "I am so very proud of the team at DERM and know how hard they work and how committed they are to these projects. I feel fortunate to have a large proportion of these natural areas in my commission district and I know the public are as well."
Audubon Florida is the state's most respected conservation organization and is affiliated in Palm Beach County with the Audubon Society of the Everglades.