A message from the President, Shari Anker:
As the Conservation Alliance builds upon its storied past, and the next generation takes up its honored mantle, it is worthwhile to reflect upon what made us who we are. The legacy that the Conservation Alliance has created is truly astounding.
By way of introducing the Alliance to the reader, I thought it useful to share a modified excerpt from an article I wrote for its newsletter, The Conservationist. It was written at the time I was first becoming active in the organization and discovering the amazing breadth of its achievements. My hope is that the reader, too, having started here on our new website, will be impressed by the Alliance’s past, become excited for its future as you explore the rest of our website, and will consider joining us.
The past as prelude
In more ways than one, I am an environmental refugee from Broward County. I arrived in 2004 and it wasn’t until I found the Savannas Preserve State Park and spent days of serenity there did I feel that I could comfortably live in Port St. Lucie.
Little did I know that this beautiful Preserve had been slated to be dealt the fate of so much of Florida: its hydrology altered, its wetlands filled, it native vegetation ripped out, its animals silenced, its land sealed with roads, highways, and buildings, its starry night replaced with a dome of artificial light, its local climate hotter due to ubiquitous asphalt.
Little did I know that my soul could be nourished at the Savannas because decades ago citizens from a variety of community groups formed the Conservation Alliance of St. Lucie County.
Their first project was to protect the Ft. Pierce Inlet from condo development. Today, this area is a 340-acre state park. The following year, in 1973, they embarked, with an alliance of individuals and groups, upon a multi-year effort to “save the Savannas.” Today at more than 6,000 acres, it’s celebrated as the largest remaining freshwater coastal marsh in the southeastern U.S.
Love for native Florida beauty combined with the passion and commitment of numerous wonderful people like Marjorie Silver Alder, Walter and Lace Vitunac, Pat Pazara, Carol Herzog, Grace Stock, John and Jane Brooks, Betty Lou Wells, and others, built a remarkable organization that has achieved remarkable goals.
From land preservation their mission expanded to a whole span of issues, including: protection of the Indian River Lagoon, establishing it as an Aquatic Preserve and an Estuary of National Import, pollution and destruction of mangroves in the North Fork of the St. Lucie River, other water quality issues, passage of a no-gill-netting amendment, fought against the deepening of Ft. Pierce Port and Inlet, urban growth issues and the hiring of a county planner, developer impact fees, nuclear power, wildlife corridors, spoil islands as nature preserves, sea turtle protection and John Brooks beaches, tree protection, exotic plant control and more.
You name the issue and the Conservation Alliance was omnipresent - and potent. Government and business leaders paid attention to its demands and locally media faithfully followed every move.
After receiving a request for a video interview in which I would need to know about the Alliance’s history, former President Bob Bangert dropped off three huge (and heavy) 3’ X 3’ archival scrapbooks at my door. It took me over two days to leaf through it all. Wow!
As I read I wondered if Broward County would have turned out differently if the likes of these people had engaged their talents there. Instead, most people that loved and understood native Florida packed up and moved north to find what they lost again. As a consequence, that knowledge by and large is lost to Broward County. (I worked on a restoration plan for a park there and had to bring in out-of county expertise.)
Not so here. Our founding members planted their feet and took a stand. Though we have sadly lost some of them, some are still with us. They are eager for the next generations to take up the work they so painstakingly built year after year.
It has been my delight to tap into the knowledge, experience, and kindness of the Conservation Alliance network, including past presidents Lace Vitunac, Kevin Stinnette, Charles Grande, Bob Bangert, George Jones, and Andy Brady.
If past is prelude we are indeed fortunate in St. Lucie County. The Alliance made a huge difference in the quality of life here. Our challenges, however, will only intensify in this era of panicked short-term thinking overlaid by climate unpredictability, but we really do have a sturdy pair of legs to stand on, thanks to the dedication of some very lovely people.
IT’S TIME FOR THE NEW GENERATION TO MAKE THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS.