Tuesday, February 23, 2010
On Thursday, Feb. 18th, I attended the Ramsar certification ceremony for Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Panther Island Mitigation Bank. The event was a wonderful celebration for everyone concerned. The designation as a wetland of international importance gives these wetlands an opportunity for partnership with a global community. Adopted in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands promotes conservation of wetland habitats around the world. As our Sanctuary became connected to the wetlands of the world with this recognition, my understanding of conservation work came into focus.
The history of this work was impressive with some of the participants working for the conservation of wetlands for over thirty-five years. Ed Carlson, director of Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, reminded us with a time honored story on the history of CSS. He told us how it began with a group of people working to stop the slaughter of birds for their feathers and later how Audubon purchased the sanctuary to save the last stand of old growth Bald Cypress. The vision and connectedness to the land that those conservationists held then, continues to be passed down now. The foundation of this work like the roots of the cypress that reach out to hold onto other cypress trees has created a webbing that reaches far and wide.
Glenn Olson, the Donal O’Brian Chair for Bird Conservation and Public Policy of Audubon, gave an uplifting speech about the progress in conservation and Eric Draper, the state director of Audubon told the crowd that “We are incredibly fortunate to have this place” as he described Corkscrew as the real Florida. He also reminded us that this is the first time that Ramsar has put a mitigation bank on its list of worldwide sites. Bill Barton, the managing partner from Panther Island Mitigation Bank enlightened us on the physical work that had to be done to transform farm land back onto a wetland with a breakdown of the costs involved and the partnerships that made it happen, an amazing feat to say the least. Now, with the transformation complete the wetland has been given to CSS to manage. Ramsar’s Secretary General, Anada Tiega, told us that for this international recognition a wetland needs to meet one out of nine criteria for acceptance. Corkscrew together with the Panther Island Mitigation Bank met three. Then he presented the certificates naming Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a Wetland of International Importance.
For me as a volunteer at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary I left feeling renewed. I had the opportunity to meet some policy makers from Audubon and an opportunity to witness the partnerships that brought this recognition to fruition. I became more connected to the history of this amazing land and the life that it holds, including mine. Walking the boardwalk again through the uplands, wet prairie and into the Cypress Swamp, connecting with my fellow volunteers, with the flora and fauna, fills me with more than hope. It’s a way of life. And I am so grateful for all of the individuals who have helped and are helping to preserve that way of life.