Improving Florida’s coastal ecosystem is not easy. But sometimes to solve problems, the best thing to do is to get people around a table to have an honest discussion. The Thomas LaDue McGinty Memorial Endowment Fund at the Community Foundation provided a grant this year to the Ocean Research and Conservation Association to offer the platform for such a discussion.
“Just Add Water” was a first of its kind gathering at the Florida Cattleman’s Association Kissimmee headquarters to explore promising conservation strategies for promoting private landowner leadership in Everglades and coastal ecosystems restoration. The day brought together a unique group of more than twenty Upper Kissimmee Basin agricultural landowners representing 100,000-plus acres of private lands along with local and national experts on the region’s ecosystems, as well as tax and public policy issues. Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Charles Bronson attended and summarized much of the feedback when he said “Science and practicality need to come together. Agriculture cannot do this alone. Public-private partnerships will be needed.”
Cattle Rancher Ricky Booth blogged about the experience, explaining he was skeptical coming to the gathering. But he shared, “To my surprise these folks were looking for partners in conservation projects instead of condemning our cattle operations. As cattle ranchers we know that we are great stewards of the land. Now we may go a step further and be part of an environmental restoration plan.” “Just Add Water” was an important first step, thanks in part to the support of the Community Foundation.