For immediate release: November 17, 2016
Media contact: Andrew Walker, Foundation President & CEO, 941 809-7805 or awalker@wildlifeflorida.org
Photos available

Foundation Announces 2016 BlueGreen Awards

2016 BlueGreen Conservationist of the Year Alto “Bud” Adams Jr.

Bud Adams

FWC Commissioner Liesa Priddy and Foundation Board
Member Tucker Frederickson present Bud Adams Jr.
with the 2016 BlueGreen Conservationist of the Year award

St. Petersburg, FL – The non-profit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida has announced its annual BlueGreen awards for Conservationist of the Year and Volunteer of the Year.

Florida rancher Alto “Bud” Adams Jr. of St. Lucie County, is this year’s BlueGreen Conservationist of the Year, announced Foundation President and CEO Andrew Walker. A former president of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association and named a landowner of the year by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Adams is also a member of the Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame and well known for his pioneering work breeding cattle especially adapted to Florida’s environment.

Bud Adams

2016 BlueGreen Conservationist of the Year award

The Adams Ranch covers 40,000 acres of northern Everglades habitat in western St. Lucie County and is the 12th largest private cow-calf operation in the United States. The Ranch has been managed sustainably throughout Bud’s life to enhance its natural values and wildlife. In recognition of his family’s 75-year stewardship of the ranch, Adams received Florida Audubon’s 2014 Sustainable Rancher award.

“The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is pleased to bestow the BlueGreen Conservationist of the Year Award on Bud,” said Foundation Board Chair Rodney Barreto. “The Adams Ranch is an outstanding example of how a thriving cattle operation can coexist with the conservation and management of the Everglades ecosystem. It’s wildlife values are spectacular.

Bud Adams has been a leader in advocating for the use of conservation easements to keep ranches intact to preserve Florida’s landscape and 500-year legacy of ranching. Over the years, he’s turned down many offers to sell the ranch for development, and has placed key portions of his ranch under conservation easement, hoping eventually that the entire ranch can be protected for future generations.

2016 BlueGreen Volunteer of the Year Connie Sweet

Connie Sweet

Photo credit: Courtesy of FWC

The Fish & Wildlife Foundation also named Lakeland resident Connie Sweet as Florida’s 2016 BlueGreen Volunteer of the Year. Ms. Sweet has been a tireless volunteer for the FWC, according to Anne Glick, leader of FWC’s Public Access & Wildlife Viewing Program.

Ms. Sweet’s many activities at FWC include helping monitor and improve nesting success in Polk and Hernando counties for the American Kestrel; locating, surveying and protecting gopher tortoise burrows and coordinating the work of other volunteers; and removal of a 450-foot boardwalk at Little Gator Creek Wildlife Management Area north of Lakeland.

She has also been involved in projects managed by the Ridge Rangers along the Lake Wales Ridge. These included:

  • Removal of sand pines at Highlands Hammock State Park
  • Invasive plant surveys at Crooked Lake Wildlife Management Area
  • Restoring native scrub habitat for scrub jays at Avon Park Air Force Range
  • Removal of wire fencing to enhance habitat at FWC Royce Ranch
  • Removing debris at FWC Carter Creek
  • Annual demographic monitoring of Scrub Lupine at Lake Blue Scrub, Auburndale
  • Planting scrub oak sprouts to restore habitat at FWC Royce Ranch
  • Planting pine seedlings in Lake Wales Ridge State Forest
  • Project Acorn Planting survival rate survey at FWC Royce Ranch

“A tireless volunteer like Connie is an inspiration to everyone who works with her,” said Foundation CEO Walker. “Public agencies – and nonprofits – would be far less effective if they did not have people like her who dedicate so much of their lives to conservation and nature.”

Connie is an Ohio native with a B.S. in Zoology. Her working career took her to Virginia and California for 32 years where she worked in the captive animal field, spending 11 years at the Virginia Zoo starting as a zookeeper and ending as general curator, then moving to Santa Ana, CA where she was general curator at the Santa Ana Zoo for 21 years. After moving to Lakeland in 2007, a friend introduced her to the Ridge Rangers group. She subsequently discovered the FWC Southwest FL Region volunteer group and became involved with the kestrel and gopher tortoise programs.

“My zoo career resulted from an intense interest in animals I have had since childhood. After moving to Florida to be near family, I was looking for an outlet for my interest in conserving wildlife. The FWC Volunteer programs are a perfect match. I am constantly learning about the FL habitats and the work is extremely rewarding. FWC Volunteer Coordinators, Bill Parken and Brendan O’Conner are the icing on the cake making volunteers feel welcome and appreciated” Ms. Sweet said.

The awards were announced at the Nov. 16 – 17th FWC Commission meeting in St. Petersburg. Last year’s awards for conservationist of the year and volunteer of the year went to Carlton Ward Jr. and Bishop Wright Jr., respectively.

About the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida

The Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and many other public and private partners to conserve Florida’s outstanding fish and wildlife resources and the lands and waters they need to survive. More information can be found at FishWildlifeflorida.org.