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Florida Gulf Guardian Award Winners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Nov. 18, 2002

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – Four Florida projects received Gulf Guardian Awards recently at the annual awards ceremony held at the Clean Gulf 2002 Conference in Galveston, Texas. Florida organizations received two first place awards, one second place award, and one third place award.

The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Inc., or FISH, received a first place award in the civic and nonprofit organization category for The FISH Preserve in Cortez, Fla. The Preserve is the result of many private individuals working toward a common goal. In December of 2000 Louise Schewe agreed to sell 95 acres of undeveloped land situated between Sarasota Bay and Cortez Road in Bradenton, Fla. This land consists of 72 acres of mangroves and 23 acres of uplands. Schewe’s asking price from FISH was $250,000. She accepted a $1000 down payment and financed the remaining principal for four years at eight percent interest. Local newspapers referred to it as “the deal of the century.” Fish has received donations from $1 up to $10,000.

First place in the partnership category went to Tampa’s Florida Aquarium for Fantasy Island: A Cooperative Conservation & Education Project. The island is a small, three-acre, man-made cay -- an offshoot of two larger islands created by the deposition of dredged bay bottom. Owned by the Port of Tampa, the island was overrun by invasive vegetation and was experiencing problems of erosion. The Florida Aquarium has been working in partnership since 2000 with the Tampa Port Authority and multiple other organizations to rehabilitate and enhance the small island. The site will be incorporated into the Aquarium’s local eco-tour programs and has been designed for the purpose of educating the public and school groups about the habitats that are found in the bay.

The volunteers of the Florida Bay Watch Program, sponsored by The Nature Conservancy of the Florida Keys in Summerland Key, Fla., took a second place award in the civic and nonprofit organization category. Since 1994, The Nature Conservancy has trained volunteers to collect water samples and environmental data in the nearshore waters of the Keys and Florida Bay. Volunteers collect samples one day a week and have helped scientists document ecological changes in Florida Bay and the Keys during the last ten years.

The Clearwater marine Aquarium in Clearwater, Fla., took a third place award in the civic and nonprofit organization category for Magnificent Mangroves. Utilizing a challenge grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Marine Life Adventures! began to remove invasive Brazilian pepper plants from more than 1100 acres of wildlife preserve, state and city parks, and bordering private lands.

“The Gulf Guardian Awards take on special significance in 2002 as we celebrate 30 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act,” said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. “The efforts of those being recognized as Gulf Guardians are key to our success as we address water issues. These award winners accepted the challenge and have joined us as we restore and protect our nation’s waters for future generations."

“Three years ago the Gulf of Mexico Program developed the Gulf Guardian awards as a method of recognizing and honoring the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive,” said Bryon Griffith, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Program. “These award winners today exemplify the exceptional level of quality of effort being undertaken cooperatively by the public and private sectors to address critical issues that face Gulf coastal communities,” he added.

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in six categories – individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, and partnership efforts.

The Gulf of Mexico Program is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

For more information about the Gulf Guardian call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. Photos (5) of the award winners accepting their awards, with accompany cutlines are below.

Terry Hines Smith, APR
Gulf of Mexico Program
Office of Public Affairs
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center MS 39529-6000
(228) 688-1159
Fax: (228) 688-2709
Email: hines-smith.terry@epa.gov
Web Site: http://www.epa.gov/gmpo

The mission of the Gulf of Mexico Program is to facilitate the protection and restoration of the coastal marine waters of the Gulf of Mexico and its coastal natural habitats; to sustain living resources; to protect human health and the food supply; and to ensure the recreational use of Gulf shores, beaches and waters in ways consistent with the economic well-being of the region, through a network of citizens and institutions.

Fantasy Island:
Julia Stack, senior horticulturalist at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Fla., accepted a first place Gulf Guardian Award in the Partnership category for Fantasy Island: A Cooperative Conservation and Education Project. She accepted the award at the Nov. 6 ceremony in Galveston, Texas, at the Clean Gulf Conference. Other partners in the project included the Tampa Port Authority. Pictured from left to right are: Bryon Griffith, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Program and event host; Julia Stack of the Florida Aquarium; and Phil Wieczynski, award presenter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Volunteers of the Florida Bay Watch Program
Mary Enstrom of the Florida Bay Watch Program in the Florida Keys, accepted a second place Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic and Nonprofit Organization category for the organization’s volunteer program. She accepted the award at the Nov. 6 annual awards ceremony in Galveston, Texas, at the Clean Gulf Conference. Pictured from left to right are: Bryon Griffith, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Program and event host; Mary Enstrom of the Florida Bay Watch Program; and Phil Wieczynski, award presenter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Magnificent Mangroves, Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Terrie Weeks of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, accepted a third place Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic and Nonprofit Organization category for Magnificent Mangroves. She accepted the award at the Nov. 6 annual awards ceremony in Galveston, Texas, at the Clean Gulf Conference. Pictured from left to right are: Bryon Griffith, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Program and event host; Terrie Weeks of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; and Phil Wieczynski, award presenter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Group Shot of Florida Winners
Several Florida Gulf Guardian Award winners accepted their awards at the Nov. 6 annual awards ceremony in Galveston, Texas, at the Clean Gulf Conference. Pictured from left to right are: Bryon Griffith, deputy director of the Gulf of Mexico Program and event host; Mary Enstrom of the Florida Bay Watch Program in the Florida Keys; Julia Stack, senior horticulturalist at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, Fla.; Terrie Weeks of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; and Phil Wieczynski, award presenter from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Not pictured is a representative from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, Inc., (FISH), who was unable to attend the ceremony but won a first place Gulf Guardian Award in the Civic and Nonprofit Organization category.

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
228-688-3726
FAX: 228-688-2709


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