Dear FWF Members, Supporters and Friends,
It has been a privilege and a great joy to serve the Florida Wildlife Federation membership and volunteer board these past 32 years as your President and CEO. I am honored to have worked with you, the FWF membership, including many outstanding volunteer Board Members and Chairs, wonderful colleagues, dedicated FWF staff members and an outstanding group of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts who are my dearest friends.
I am grateful to have had a job that I truly loved practically every day, from the beginning to the end of my tenure. You have been my mentors in conservation and we have together accomplished a great deal in fulfilling our mission of “Keeping the Wild in Florida.” There will be much more to do as you carry on facing this great state’s conservation challenges.
I have decided to leave my position with FWF, opening up new leadership opportunities for the organization. While my last day of FWF employment will be February 1, 2019, I will continue to actively support the organization as a volunteer member of the FWF family. I will be returning to my native North Carolina to help lead the North Carolina Wildlife Federation’s conservation initiatives as their Vice President of Conservation Policy. I will be assuming my duties there as soon as I complete my transition with FWF. Preston Robertson, who has served FWF as a leader for years, will become Acting President and CEO upon my departure. Preston and the FWF Board of Directors will determine future staff leadership together. FWF has a talented and dedicated staff, contractors and volunteer board and thousands of members like you who will effectively continue to do the hard work of conservation because we share a passion for the lasting health of Florida’s natural resources.
During my 32 years serving FWF, it has been my primary responsibility to advance the often-challenging task of conservation, management and protection of Florida’s fish and wildlife and their beautiful vibrant myriad habitats. To further conserve our natural heritage on both land and water, FWF has built a lasting conservation legacy focusing on the protection and sound management of fish and wildlife as public resources, we have formed numerous partnerships to protect habitat on private and public lands, found common ground with diverse groups interested in a healthy environment, promoted common sense conservation, and when necessary, have taken strategic legal actions to protect Florida’s, wetlands, forests and waters in this rapidly growing state. It has been gratifying to have represented an organization that has often played a key leadership role in advancing many critical conservation causes including but not limited to our work to strengthen conservation within the State’s Constitution as follows:
- prohibiting coastal oil and gas drilling (2018);
- providing for a major 20-year state conservation lands acquisition funding (2014);
- providing for tax relief for landowners placing their properties under permanent conservation easements (2008);
- supporting the unification of the State’s fish and wildlife agencies into the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (1998);
- providing more stringent conditions for surplusing State conservation lands (1998);
- providing for “polluter pays” standards in the Florida Everglades (1996);
- and providing limitations on entangling nets in State waters (1994).
Together, we helped expand and link many outstanding conservation and recreational properties statewide including the Big Cypress National Preserve, Osceola National Forest, St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge, Wakulla and other iconic springs across the state, North Key Largo and Topsail Hill State Parks, Tate’s Hell and Point Washington State Forests, and a number of State Wildlife Management Areas. FWF has been a consistent defender of public conservation properties when threatened by developmental political pressures. We have successfully protected many wetlands across the state by supporting regulatory programs and by modification of projects to eliminate or diminish destructive impacts. FWF has also been a strong advocate for the Coastal Barrier Resources system, which helps protect over 750,000 acres of Florida’s coast by removing federal subsidies from low-lying flood and storm water- vulnerable habitat.
We have for decades strongly and consistently supported strategic conservation lands acquisition and ecological restoration efforts statewide for the Florida Everglades, the Ocklawaha and Apalachicola Rivers, and Wakulla Springs and our other iconic springs and waterways across Florida from Pensacola to Key West. FWF also spearheaded efforts to build landscape-scale linkages of public and private conservation lands across Florida, including the placement of wildlife crossings where they can be most effective. And together, we championed conservation of marine forage fish and protection of reef fish spawning aggregations, protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as the ban on importation of deer and other cervids to reduce the serious threat posed by the expanding Chronic Wasting Disease to Florida’s wild deer populations.
Florida Wildlife Federation’s conservation reach extends far beyond Florida through our active participation in many National conservation and environmental issues. FWF is a founding and active member of the Everglades Coalition. FWF and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) have been closely linked since the founding of both organizations in 1936. The FWF-NWF partnership is strong and multifaceted. FWF also maintains a close relationship with our sister affiliates in the region and across the United States. I am proud that we have recently initiated a forest stewardship program with NWF to advance Long Leaf Pine forest restoration and management with willing private forest landowners in Peninsular and Panhandle Florida.
We are working with private landowners in southwest Florida to protect critical habitat linkages for panthers, bears and other wildlife there. In 2019, FWF is also embarking on a program to educate people about the importance of maintaining vital habitats such as the sea grass meadows of the Gulf Coast.
FWF has been and continues to be a forceful advocate for Florida’s natural environment and for peoples’ enjoyment of sustainable, nature-based outdoor recreation, including fishing and hunting with science-based regulations, nature observation, boating, hiking and other enjoyable outdoor activities. It is so important for people to have experiencing the natural world as a major part of their lives and FWF is a strong proponent of that. The future of conservation requires people who are both knowledgeable and who love nature. Personal experience in the outdoors is critical to being a passionate and effective conservation advocate. FWF has worked hard to educate decision-makers as to the tremendous values of Florida’s nature-based economy and the need to protect our waters as well as wildlife habitat through appropriate regulation and strong enforcement of our laws.
Together, we have accomplished a great deal. I love this organization and all that it stands for, and I will continue to actively support its critical conservation mission as a regular donor, volunteer and proud member. I have included FWF in my planned giving and urge all of you to also continue to support FWF as a sound investment in an organization that places at the top of its priority list, the lasting conservation of Florida’s natural heritage and places for people to continue to enjoy nature in this beautiful state that we all cherish.
Thank you for all you have done and continue to do for conservation in Florida and for your loyal support of Florida Wildlife Federation. It has been an honor to serve you.
Manley K. Fuller