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North Florida Land Trust Celebrates 25 Years of Land Conservation at its Annual Meeting

March 19th, 2024 · Leave a Comment

North Florida Land Trust was joined bypartners, supporters, members, and potential members at its Annual Meeting and 25th Anniversary celebration at TPC Sawgrass. The event, presented by the Doolittle Family, was a chance for the nonprofit land conservation organization to update everyone on its accomplishments and its goals for the future as well as to recognize some very important people dedicated to conservation.

President and CEO Allison DeFoor and Board Member Lisa Barton presented the inaugural Charlie Commander Land Conservation Award to Atlantic Beach Holding Co. and the Bull Family. The award is given to a landowner who is dedicated to conservation and was named after Charlie Commander, a longtime supporter of NFLT and a true champion for conservation who passed away last year. The Bull Family and the company are descendants of Atlantic Beach’s first mayor, Harcourt Bull. The family donated nearly 217 acres along the Intracoastal waterway near Atlantic Boulevard to NFLT. The preserve is now known as the Harcourt and Florence Stolbrand Bull Memorial Preserve.

The NFLT Legacy Award was presented to two men dedicated to conservation, NFLT Founder Bill McQuilkin and former NFLT President Jim McCarthy.

David Strickland, who accepted on behalf of McQuilkin, delivered a statement from the land trust founder who said, “My family and I are appreciative of the NFLT team who have more than fulfilled our early conservation vision and efforts. Thanks for continuing the work and great wishes for the next 25 years.”

DeFoor talked about what the nonprofit has been able to accomplish since McQuilkin started the organization in 1999. He said this year, NFLT is celebrating the protection of more than 37,000 acres over the last 25 years. The nonprofit continues to raise funds to help preserve even more, and in 2023, they were able to raise nearly $2.5 million for conservation. These funds are needed as a required match to state and federal funds and for stewardship of conservation lands retained by the trust. These lands currently total over 17,000 acres with the balance of lands protected passed along to partners in conservation such as Florida Forever.

DeFoor said they have 100% contributions from the board and staff, who not only work to preserve these lands but also financially support the efforts. He spoke about the move last year to become a membership organization. He announced that the first-year membership goals had been exceeded, with approximately 280 members joining in less than a year. He also announced some milestone gifts from supporter Delores Barr Weaver.

“Delores Barr Weaver is the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and has been very supportive of us,” said DeFoor. “Last year, she provided half a million dollars to support our membership program marketing and to purchase equipment for our stewardship department. This year, she pledged $1 million over the next ten years to support our land-buying efforts. In addition, Delores gave a gift of $25,000 in support of our 25th anniversary. This gift in honor of our anniversary will be a matching 1:1 grant to create an endowment at The Community Foundation.”

The funding provided to the stewardship department has allowed Stewardship Director Rianna Elliott and her team to better manage the land in the nonprofit’s portfolio. The team has increased their prescribed fire capabilities and burned about 320 acres last year and has already been able to burn 100 acres this year which helps restore habitats. They planted 82,500 long-leaf pine seedlings and have been able to restore lands to eventually become gopher-tortoise recipient sites.

Director of Conservation Acquisitions Ramesh Buch said his department is focusing on six preservation priority areas as part of the NFLT strategic plan. Those include the Ocala to Osceola (O2O) Wildlife Corridor; military readiness and base buffering; salt marsh and climate resilience; springs, aquifer recharge, and water quality improvement; working lands and community conservation.

The event ended with a call for everyone to join NFLT in its mission through membership, donations, estate giving, and protection of land. For more information on how to get involved, visit nflt.org.

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