• 09/26/2018 4:08 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida’s award-winning parks attract about 32 million visitors a year. The vast majority of these guests are responsible and do respect the environment. They follow the ‘leave no trace’ rule of ‘pack it in and pack it out’, or at least they find a trash can to dispose of their litter.

    Unfortunately, though, some people are not as considerate and they scatter their trash without regard for the damage it does to the environment or for the eyesore they are creating.

    That is why a few good pickup lines come in handy when you see someone littering. For instance, “please pick up that cigarette butt--did you know it can take up to 12 years to decompose?” Or, “please pick up that plastic bottle--did you know it takes over 450 years to decompose?” We can all benefit from a refresher course in personal pollution solutions.

    It is sobering to learn that every year we use approximately 1.6 million barrels of oil solely for producing plastic water bottles. Plastic waste is one type that takes far too long to decompose. Plastic bags that we use in our everyday life take up to 1,000 years to decompose. However, one bag I do urge all of you to carry in your pocket is one to use for picking up pieces of trash you find while out hiking or enjoying the countryside--and dispose of it responsibly!

    Once in the water, plastic never fully biodegrades, but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually being dubbed a "microplastic"—something that is less than 5mm long but can cause significant problems for marine life.  In the Pacific Ocean, there is one area of plastic waste debris that is twice the size of Texas and there are many others like it in the oceans of the world.

    Even glass waste can be problematic. While glass is made basically from sand, it takes millions of years to decompose. The list goes on to include: monofilament fishing line - 600 years, disposable diapers - 250-500 years, plastic cups - 50 years, tin cans - 50 years, wool clothing - 1-5 years. And Styrofoam and foil never biodegrade!

    Do you know that every minute, every day, more than 120,000 aluminum cans are recycled in the U.S.? But, at the same time, in every three-month period, enough aluminum cans are thrown away in America that could rebuild the entire American commercial aircraft fleet. Aluminum cans take 80-200 years in landfills to fully decompose, so please recycle them!  

    Most, if not all parks have recycling bins and benefit from selling the cans for money that can be spent on projects in the park. Recycling is the foremost pollution solution, in conjunction with responsible and accountable trash disposal, in our parks and everywhere.

  • 09/26/2018 4:04 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Savannas Mint, also known as Savannas Balm, (Dicerandra immaculata var. savannarum) is a rare species of flowering plant in the mint family.  It’s an ancient species which evolved when Florida was mostly underwater except for a ridge running down the center of the state from the north through the mid portion and a few island points high enough to stay above the water line.  The conditions were sandy, hot, dry, and desert-like with little to no tree canopy. When the water levels receded these habitats, which we now call “scrub”, remained and continued to be the natural home of thriving species of animals and plants.  Some of these can be found nowhere else on the planet!

    Savannas Mint is one of these endemic plants and a small population was discovered in 1995 in a scrub area close to a border of Savannas Preserve State Park (St. Lucie County).  This scrub habitat where these plants evolved and had been living for many thousands of years was being cleared for development.

    Seeds and cuttings were taken from the doomed plants and grown at the Rare Plant Conservation Program at Bok Tower Gardens, managed by Cheryl Peterson.  The new plants were placed back in the protected scrub habitat of Savannas Preserve State Park where they’ve been thriving and will remain protected.  

    Many of Florida’s state parks are a refuge for rare and endangered plants and animals - another reason to support and protect our Florida State Parks!

    To learn more about the rescue of Savannas Mint visit:

    Scrub habitats:

    Savannas Preserve State Park:

  • 09/26/2018 3:53 PM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    One of the Florida State Parks Foundation (FSPF) primary areas of interest is supporting children's education programs in our state parks.  We believe taking children off campus on field trips allows them to get a broader view of their community. It helps give them a sense of place and place attachment but must, at the same time, help with their educational goals.

    Florida State Parks are tremendous adjunct classrooms and have a cadre of staff and volunteers who have developed excellent educational programs on Florida's environment, history, and culture.  These programs enhance required studies in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as well as Social Studies. Teachers are eager to take advantage of these resources, but school budgets often fall short of the funds needed to pay the bus transportation costs - that's where Yellow Buses in the Parks can help.

    Yellow Buses in the Parks is a grant program that helps fund bus transportation costs for student field trips to Florida State Parks.  Another Foundation program, LIFE-Learning In Florida’s Environment, assists with funds for supplies and equipment that the parks need like microscopes, dip nets, nature guides, etc., to enhance the learning experience.

    Educating Florida’s children is a team effort that requires caring and dedicated teachers, park rangers, volunteers and generous people willing to help finance programs.  

    Become part of the team!  Visit our website to donate and to join our organization.

  • 08/23/2018 11:21 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida State Parks Foundation has a new name and a new source of financial support that will provide transformational opportunities for Florida's award-winning state parks. Founded in 1993 and formerly known as Friends of Florida State Parks, the Foundation is celebrating 25 years of service.

    The bequest is from a Wisconsin land owner who occasionally spent his winters in Florida and loved visiting the state parks. "We are obviously delighted and deeply grateful because we are now able to do so much more for our parks, staff and volunteers, and the millions of people who visit them. The majority of the money has been placed in an endowment fund to provide long-term support," said Russo.

    The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and is dedicated to enhancing and perpetuating the Florida state park system for the people of Florida and its visitors. Its mission is to support Florida's state parks through programs that preserve and protect them, educate visitors about the value of state parks, encourage civic engagement through Citizen Support Organizations and volunteering, and by providing financial support.

    Florida has 175 state parks and trails and is the only state to have won the national Gold Medal for Excellence three times. The Foundation supports the work of the 83 local Friends Groups and the 14,000 volunteers who annually donate 1.2 million hours working in the parks. Last year Florida's state parks attracted about 30 million visitors and contributed $3.2 billion to the state's economy.

    The Foundation's main focus areas are supporting all the volunteer Friends groups, increasing accessibility for all and expanding environmental and educational programs.

    The Foundation runs the LIFE program – Learning in Florida's Environments – which encourages schools throughout the state to use their local state parks as open air classrooms for curriculum-approved science labs. To date, 34 state parks offer the LIFE program or are working to offer it within the next year. The goal is to have at least 50 state parks offering the LIFE program by the end of 2019 which will mean between 75,000 and 100,000 schoolchildren being introduced to science in the parks.

    Florida State Parks Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, volunteer organization, supporting Florida's 175 award-winning parks and trails.

    "It is amazing that as we celebrate our 25th anniversary with a new name, we also receive a bequest of over $18 million to provide support services to our state parks," according to Paula Russo, President of the Foundation. 

  • 08/23/2018 9:33 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    We are all proud of the fact that Florida is the only three-time winner of the Gold Medal honoring the nation's best state park system. The Florida Park Service is one of the largest in the country with 175 state parks, trails and historic sites spanning nearly 800,000 acres and 100 miles of beaches. From swimming and diving in Florida's rivers and springs to birding and fishing or hiking and riding on natural scenic trails, Florida's state parks offer year-round outdoor activities for all ages and abilities. Battle re-enactments and Native American festivals celebrate Florida's history, while art shows, museums and lighthouses offer a window into Florida's cultural heritage.

    The goal of the Florida Park Service, supported by the Florida State Parks Foundation and thousands of volunteers, is to create a sense of place by showing park visitors the best of Florida's diverse natural and cultural sites. Florida's state parks are managed and preserved for enjoyment by this and future generations through providing appropriate resource-based recreational opportunities, interpretation, and education that connects visitors to the real Florida.

    What most people do not know, however, is just how much long-range planning and work is needed to achieve this goal. On a day to day basis, parks carry out repairs and make improvements to enhance the visitor experience and maintain the infrastructure. But it is the long-term planning that requires the most effort and often goes unnoticed by the millions of visitors to the parks. Florida Forever is one of the long-term land protection programs that conserves valuable environmental lands. 

    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. 

    The Florida State Parks Foundation with the more than 80 local friends groups (citizen support organizations) and the thousands of volunteers are working diligently to support both the day to day work and the long-term efforts that make Florida's state parks the best in the country.

  • 08/23/2018 9:26 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Florida Forever is Florida’s premier conservation and recreation lands acquisition program, a blueprint for conserving natural resources and renewing Florida’s commitment to conserve the state’s natural and cultural heritage. Florida Forever replaced Preservation 2000 (P2000), the largest public land acquisition program of its kind in the United States. With approximately 10 million acres managed for conservation in Florida, more than 2.5 million acres were purchased under the Florida Forever and P2000 programs. Since the inception of the Florida Forever program in July 2001, the state has purchased more than 770,279 acres of land for over $3 billion.

    Through Florida Forever, the state has protected:

    • 628,860 acres of strategic habitat conservation areas
    • 595,270 acres of rare species habitat conservation areas, including 1,004 sites that are habitats for 335 different rare species, 138 of which are federal- or state-listed as endangered, 63 federal- or state-listed as threatened, and 7 species of special concern
    • 748,490 acres of ecological greenways
    • 130,730 acres of under-represented natural communities
    • 515,960 acres landscape-sized protection areas
    • 414,770 acres of natural floodplains
    • 760,610 acres important to significant water bodies
    • 419,180 acres minimize damage from flooding
    • 9,490 acres of fragile coastline
    • 304,890 acres of functional wetlands
    • 735,640 acres of significant groundwater recharge areas
    • 535 miles of priority recreational trails
    • 393,440 acres of sustainable forest land
    • 1,070 archaeological/historic sites
    • 11,920 acres in urban service areas


  • 08/23/2018 9:18 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    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. 

  • 08/23/2018 9:00 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    When it comes to identifying animals by the tracks they leave behind most people don’t think of sea turtles.  But, when sea turtles come ashore to nest, each species leaves its own distinctive marks in the sand. 

    Nesting season in Florida is between March and October.  A fun activity is to walk the beach in the early morning looking for turtle tracks and identifying which species of turtle made them.  There are many resources online but here is some info to get you started on the 3 most common species nesting on Florida’s shores – plus a little track identifying challenge you can do right now.  

    This is a photo of a recent sea turtle crawl at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Which species made this track and which side shows going into the water and which is going out?

  • 07/14/2018 10:15 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    In response to recent sightings of the endangered snail kite at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection surveyed the park and discovered a nest containing three chicks.

    Declining snail kite populations led to protection of the species under federal and state law in 1967. In 2016, Alachua County residents spotted a snail kite for the first time in nearly 20 years. Since then, estimates have put the snail kite population in the Paynes Prairie basin in the single digits.

    Last year, Hurricane Irma destroyed dozens of snail kite nests around Lake Okeechobee, the more common nesting area for the imperiled species.

    The Paynes Prairie sightings sparked the interest of the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Florida. Wildlife biologist Brian Jeffery led the survey expedition along with Florida State Park Environmental Specialist Keith Morin.

    “The habitat of this bird has improved a lot with our recent efforts to reduce wetland trees, which crowd the areas where these birds hunt,” Morin said. “Water quality also has improved over the past decade as the park has improved treatment marshes. Those factors, coupled with weather conditions that have helped drive up the apple snail population, the snail kite’s primary food source, have benefited the bird greatly.”

    The state park also partners with the Alachua County Audubon chapter. “They provide us valuable location information on a number of species, including snail kites, through their monitoring and surveys,” Morin said. “Audubon volunteers often alert us when they see a new species present in the area. We can then investigate and survey the area as needed.”

    "We are absolutely thrilled to see the number of snail kites increase at Paynes Prairie," said Debbie Segal, President of the Alachua Audubon Society. "Not only is this great news for the species, but it is also good for Gainesville's ecotourism industry. Bird watchers from around Florida, Georgia and other southeastern states are visiting Gainesville, specifically to see this iconic bird species."

    DEP also partners with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Fletcher Lab at the UF Wildlife Ecology and Conservation school to help monitor sensitive wildlife in the Paynes Prairie basin.

  • 07/13/2018 10:05 AM | Florida State Parks Foundation (Administrator)

    Records are always worth talking about and the Florida Park Service has just chalked up another one.

    Land management is one of the most important missions of the Florida Park Service and it is essential if our state parks are to be protected and preserved for future generations. In fact, many of the land management policies now being enacted will not produce visible results for many years but our children and their children will be able to enjoy what is being done today.

    One tool of land management is prescribed burns and more Florida State Park acreage has been managed with prescribed fire this fiscal year than in any other previous year. In June, park staff broke the previous all-time record for managing prescribed fires on more than 80,837 acres within state parks. 

    Prescribed fires are one of Florida's most effective land-management tools, applying a natural process to improve ecosystem health, biodiversity and wildlife. Any prescription for fire takes into consideration fuel type, fuel moisture, relative humidity, air temperature, wind speed, wind direction and many other planning factors.

    "We are proud of Florida State Parks staff for setting a new record for protecting park habitat with prescribed fire," said Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper. "Florida is fortunate to have such dedicated people working in state parks reducing risks of wildfire and restoring natural systems."

    Prescribed fires are planned, set and extinguished by specialized staff. The training is rigorous for prescribed burners, who are tested for physical stamina and trained in fire safety protocols, fire behavior and related issues.

    Florida State Parks staff play varying, important roles to conduct prescribed fire. From providing information to park visitors, to managing the burns and walking the fire line, all staff participation is recognized as helping DEP reach resource management goals. 

    More than 390 prescribed fires at 67 state parks have been conducted so far this year. Training staff, managing fuel levels, constructing new firebreaks, upgrading fire equipment and building partnerships with other agencies have helped contribute to this year's success.

    Specific benefits of prescribed fire:

    • Dead plants are removed, reducing the risk and severity of wildfires

    • Open space created by the thinning of underbrush benefits plants and wildlife

    • Nutrients are returned to the soil increasing plant growth

    • Wildlife benefits from abundant food resources

    As the year continues, staff will continue conducting prescribed fires throughout state parks. Florida State Parks have partnered with The Outsiders Club to develop educational material for youth to learn about Florida's natural resources and what DEP is doing to protect and preserve those resources for current and future generations.

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