Land management is the most important aspect of the Florida Park Service’s mission. Yet protecting and preserving the land and restoring habitats to their original nature requires patience and dedication. A habitat restoration project that starts this year may take one or two generations to complete. What starts out looking like a scene of devastation after trees have been chopped down and ground vegetation cleared, slowly – very slowly – is coaxed back to its original habitat and as it does so, the flora and fauna associated with that habitat also return.
This work usually goes unnoticed by the public, but it is recognized at state level. Earlier this month, Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet honored Scott Spaulding, manager of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park, with the Jim Stevenson Resource Manager of the Year Award for his dedication to habitat restoration and stewardship of state lands.
Each year, land managers from DEP, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Florida Forest Service, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are selected for this award — one of Florida’s highest environmental honors.
The Resource Manager of the Year Award was established by DEP in 1992 to recognize the employee who is judged to have made the most significant progress in the stewardship of state lands. It has since expanded to recognize one recipient from each of the three state agencies that manage and protect Florida’s conservation lands.
"Scott's tireless work restoring and protecting land for three decades will leave a legacy of environmental stewardship in Florida,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “I commend Scott for his dedication and service to our state and park system. DEP’s greatest resource is our talented staff, and the commitment and determination of land managers like Scott are essential to the protection and preservation of Florida's natural resources."
Scott Spaulding has dedicated 31 years to protecting, improving, restoring and managing Florida's precious ecosystems. His work has identified restoration needs, implemented management practices and monitored progress at Lake Louisa State Park, Colt Creek State Park, Tosohatchee State Reserve and the Wekiva Basin state parks. Scott also focused on implementing prescribed fires on over 19,500 acres in Central Florida and has led efforts to restore natural communities by replacing non-native plants with native, rare and endangered endemic plants. His partnerships with FWC, Bok Tower Gardens and the Florida Native Plant Society fueled these achievements.
The award is named for James A. Stevenson, who led the state's ecosystem management, prescribed burning, non-native plant control and springs protection during his long career with DEP’s Florida Park Service and Division of State Lands.
The other award recipients are Keith Mousel of the Florida Forest Service and Kathleen Smith of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Recipients are selected by a committee of environmental professionals representing the Sierra Club, Audubon Florida and the Nature Conservancy.