Environment Day began at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida headquarters. Chad Crawford, host of popular TV show How To Do Florida, started the morning with a passionate presentation about his mission to spread appreciation for his native state through his series of award-winning television programs. Conservancy President and CEO, Rob Moher; Keith Laakonen, Director of the Rookery Bay Reserve; and Nick Penniman, the incoming board chairman of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, discussed the importance of the preservation of the Everglades, our mangrove and aquatic preserves and indigenous wildlife, as well as current strategies to make all these things happen.
The second part of the morning session consisted of presentations on the drainage of Lake Okeechobee, and important water-flow issues into the Everglades and southwest Florida. Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds of the Army Corps of Engineers; Frank Jackalone, Florida director of the Sierra Club; and Judy Clayton Sanchez, director of corporate communications for US Sugar, explained the complexity of various solutions to deal with Florida’s complex water challenges. A spirited but civil Q&A discussion of the important questions around this issue then ensued.
Lunch followed at the Naples Grande resort, where Chad Crawford presented his new television show, Flip Your Yard, an energetic series about transforming conventional properties into self-sustaining oases of indigenous and Florida-friendly plants. The keynote speaker of the day, Henk Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, gave a mesmerizing presentation on how thinking outside the box and emphasizing mutual benefits for all parties can change the grim outcome of sea level rise. Mr. Ovink was accompanied by Nathalie Olijslager, Consul General of the Netherlands, and Deputy Consul General, Mina Kallenberg.
Kathy Worley, Director of Environmental Science at the Conservancy, led an excursion to Clam Pass and discussed the effects of erosion, dredging, and pollution on mangroves, sea-grasses, and oyster beds. Finally, the class returned to the Conservancy, where nature photographer John Brady presented his beautiful regional nature photos, and answered questions on his techniques and resources available to all of us.