Parks and nature preserves have often been called America’s great gift to the world. They are, but by themselves, they’re not enough to ensure a lasting future for American’s wildlife. How privately-owned lands are managed has a huge impact on wildlife populations.
Fortunately, America has an equally remarkable legacy of wise land management by private landowners. In Florida, in fact, more than 3.3 million privately owned acres are enrolled in Florida’s Wildlife Best Management Practices for Agriculture and Silviculture. One of the leaders in this effort, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Scott Sanders, was honored this week for a career devoted to working with private landowners to improve wildlife habitat.
Sanders was presented the 2017-2018 Louise Ireland Humphrey Achievement Award by the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida at the FWC’s public meeting Feb. 7. Named for the late conservationist, Red Hills landowner and former FWC Commissioner Louise Ireland Humphrey, the award was created to recognize outstanding service and achievement by FWC staff over the course of their careers.
“We are honoring Scott Sanders today for his career-long dedication to wildlife management on private lands,” said Foundation CEO Andrew Walker. “He has been one of Florida’s most consistent advocates within government for acknowledging the needs and perspectives of private landowners on conserving fish and wildlife. He led the team that created the Wildlife Best Management Practices now in place for 3.3 million acres of private Florida lands.”
Sanders was also an early advocate for “adaptive management,” helping develop and promote a quantifiable approach to land stewardship that adapts the latest scientific information and on-the-ground practices to specific landscapes, adjusting management strategies as needed to maximize habitat quality while meeting the landowner’s other needs. Entire landscapes have benefitted from this landowner-by-landowner approach: Florida’s once-threatened longleaf pine ecosystem, for example, has increased from 2 to 4 million acres during Sanders’ career.
“It’s a great honor to receive the Louise Ireland Humphrey award,” Sanders said. “Working with private landowners for so many years has been very rewarding and has benefitted fish and wildlife everywhere in Florida.”
The nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida supports the work of the FWC and other public and private conservation organizations, with offices in Tallahassee and St. Petersburg. The Foundation has raised and given away more than $26 million for conservation and outdoor programs for youth since its founding in 1994. For more information about the Foundation, visit wildlifeflorida.org and our social media sites.