In 2019, Audubon Florida launched the first FPL/Audubon Florida Plants for Birds grant program, providing an opportunity to engage Audubon members and new audiences through projects that directly put native plants in the ground. This year, through support from FPL’s charitable arm, the NextEra Energy Foundation, 12 grants – a $25,000 investment in Plants for Birds – went to 13 Audubon chapters representing communities across the state of Florida.
“We are proud to partner with Audubon Florida and local Audubon chapters in the Plants for Birds program and educate the public about the importance of using native plants in bird-friendly landscaping,” said Kate MacGregor, FPL Vice President of Environmental Services. “As an industry leader in environmental protection and stewardship for decades, we understand the importance of not just coexisting with, but fostering, the native flora and fauna across our great state.”
This collaboration between FPL and Audubon Florida has energized the volunteer chapter network in Florida.
“Projects have put thousands of native plants in the ground, created demonstration gardens, educated teachers and students, and built community with new and often non-traditional partners,” said Jacqui Sulek, Audubon Florida’s Chapter Conservation Manager.
Below is the list of this year’s 12 grants to 13 Audubon Florida chapters and their projects:
• Alachua Audubon is partnering with Gainesville High School to increase science engagement through outdoor education and nature journaling. The grant will fund the conversion of approximately one acre of the campus into a teaching garden that contains native trees, shrubs, and plants.
• Apalachee Audubon will use the fund to install native trees and accompanying educational signage in Southwest Tallahassee’s new Debbie Lightsey Nature Park, a stormwater infrastructure conversion to a wetland nature park.
• Audubon Everglades will offer the “2023 Plants for Birds Teacher Workshop” to empower local educators to use native school gardens to give their students essential access to nature while achieving their academic goals. Its focal point would again be the Plants for Birds Native Habitat Teaching Garden at FAU Pine Jog Environmental Education Center in West Palm Beach, generously established through two previous FPL/Audubon Florida grants.
• Four Rivers Audubon will host a day of education with master gardeners of Columbia and Suwannee counties on the importance of introducing Florida native plants into backyard landscapes. Free native plants and gift certificates to local native plant nurseries will support local growers and help build a community of “native habitat enthusiasts.”
• Halifax River Audubon (Daytona) & West Volusia Audubon (DeLand) will collaborate to run a county-wide contest to award winners $500 to purchase Florida native plants for installation in their yards. Applicants must submit a proposal to be reviewed by a committee of local experts. Five grants will be awarded.
• Hendry-Glades Audubon is piloting a program called “Native Plants for Pollinators.” In collaboration with the Hendry Soil and Conservation District (Hendry and Glades counties), native pollinator plants will be grown to be given to schools, landowners, homeowners, parks, churches, or students who will plant them in an area that will attract birds, bees, and butterflies.
• Hernando Audubon will revitalize the Florida Native Wildflower component of the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens in Spring Hill. A water feature, bird feeders, and educational signage will complement the display to emphasize the importance of creating habitat for birds.
• Peace River Audubon will establish a native plant nursery at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEC) located in Punta Gorda, providing the only Florida Native plant nursery in Charlotte County. CHEC has more than 100,000 visitors each year.
• Pelican Island Audubon will design and install their second Education and Demonstration Native Plant Garden at the United Against Poverty (UP) building in Vero Beach. This garden will demonstrate the importance and value of native plants as well as beautify the community.
• Southeast Volusia Audubon will work with the 4th grade science and Advanced Placement teachers at Chisholm Elementary to plant a native garden and launch an educational program for students that includes planting and maintenance of the garden. Activities will integrate with the environmental studies curriculum regarding birds and their native habitats. Chisholm Elementary is located in an underserved neighborhood of New Smyrna Beach.
• South Florida Audubon will establish/create a Demonstration Bird Sanctuary/Butterfly Garden at Richardson Historic Park and Nature Preserve. This is a heavily visited 5.4-acre site in Wilton Manors, Florida on the bank of the Middle River and will host thousands of people each year.
• Venice Area Audubon will continue efforts to restore the Venice Area Audubon Rookery Park. Venice Audubon has already completed native plant projects on pond banks and shores, and additional funding will be used for understory plants, bioswale enhancement, and interpretative signs to educate the thousands of visitors to this popular park and inspire them to “re-wild” their home environments.
In 2016, Audubon launched the groundbreaking Audubon Plants for Birds campaign touting the critical need to reintroduce native plants into our landscapes. Not only do native plants require less water and fertilizer than ornamentals, but they also support the beneficial Florida insects we need to pollinate our crops and birds need to feed their young. What makes the Plants for Birds resources unique? The information is readily available at a gardener’s fingertips: https://www.audubon.org/plantsforbirds.
While urbanization’s footprint on the landscape is daunting, communities can make a real difference for birds in the landscaping choices made in our yards, parks, and public spaces.