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RESIDENTS FROM ACROSS THE STATE CREATE SUPPORT ORGANIZATION FOR AQUATIC PRESERVES

Florida DEP Banner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 27, 2014

CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

RESIDENTS FROM ACROSS THE STATE CREATE SUPPORT ORGANIZATION FOR AQUATIC PRESERVES

~The Aquatic Preserve Society is the first statewide organization for Florida's 41 aquatic preserves~

TALLAHASSEE – A new statewide citizen support organization (CSO), the Aquatic Preserve Society, has been formed to promote the protection of Florida's 41 aquatic preserves.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Coastal Office has long made use of the volunteerism and fundraising capabilities of citizen support organizations from around the state. These CSOs work in conjunction with regional staff to hold events and provide operational support throughout the year.

“We are very excited to see how the Aquatic Preserve Society develops,” said Kevin Claridge of the Florida Coastal Office. “CSO groups have been instrumental in our efforts across the state, and we look forward to adding more strength and stability to this network.”

After gathering a list of nominees to create this new CSO, a two-day meeting was held in April to gauge interest in the concept. This meeting was designed to determine the wants and needs of the existing CSO network, as well as solicit feedback from the group. As a result of this meeting, the group decided a statewide CSO could vastly increase the effectiveness of the existing network and enhance awareness of aquatic preserves.

During the April meeting, participants performed various visioning and brainstorming activities that established both short- and long-term goals, along with a name for the statewide CSO. Some of the main goals included fundraising and improving the overall support for the existing network.

The Aquatic Preserve Society has now gained the Florida Nonprofit Status and is currently working on filing internal documents with both the IRS and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The next big steps for the statewide organization will be to draft bylaws and a memorandum of agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Upon completion and signing of the memorandum of agreement, the Aquatic Preserve Society will become an official CSO for the Florida Coastal Office.

The Florida Coastal Office is eager to have a support system for all 41 of its aquatic preserves. Several of the existing CSOs have shown support for the Aquatic Preserve Society and are ready to positively shape the new organization.

Aquatic Preserves are sovereign submerged lands protected under the Aquatic Preserve Act of 1975. There are 41 aquatic preserves in Florida totaling about 2.7 million acres. The preserves protect bird rookeries, fish nurseries, freshwater springs, salt marshes, mangroves and sea grass meadows. Some preserves contain cultural heritage sites of civilization that lived there for a time. While the preserves protect the beauty and landscape, visitors are encouraged to enjoy swimming, fishing, boating and paddling in designated areas.

Anyone interested in becoming a member or looking for information should contact Brian Powers at Brian.powers@dep.state.fl.us.