2017 FNPS Conference: Connections: Above & Below

submitted by Donna Bollenbach

Connections: What an all-encompassing term! It implies links, associations, bonds, assemblies, and networks. But it also refers to the way things relate and interact. So, when destiny took us to Westgate River Ranch Resort, a venue in heart of the state and the historic Everglades Watershed, choosing “Connections” for the theme of the 2017 Florida Native Plant Society seemed natural. 
Historically, the Headwaters of the Everglades watershed flowed like a sheet of water that moved through grasslands and prairies to the Everglades. This flood plain filtered the water of its impurities, like the heart oxygenates blood, before delivering it to the other parts of the land body. But the natural path of water has been greatly altered resulting in water that is nutrient-contaminated and being rechanneled to our east and west coasts, causing a host of environmental problems that have a negative impact on plant communities, wildlife, our health and economy. 

Waterflow in the Everglades in historic conditions, current conditions, and predicted conditions Source:http://www.geog.ucsb.edu/events/department-news/769/frank-davis-heads-everglades-restoration-project

 Restoration of the Everglades has long been recognized as an environmental priority in Florida, and no place in Florida is more connected to the health of the Everglades than the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge, which includes Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, Avon Park U.S. Air Force Bombing Range, Three Lakes Wildlife Management Area, Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Disney Wilderness Preserve, Lake Kissimmee State Park, KICCO Wildlife Management Area, Lake Arbuckle State Park, and South Florida Water Management District’s Kissimmee River Restoration Project. The preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands and plant communities in these areas protects the health and stability of our regional ecosystems and of our rivers and beaches.

The 2017 FNPS Conference will explore Connections on many levels:

Connections to the Landscape:  We will explain how the acts of preservation, conservation, and restoration of natural lands in central Florida safeguard the health of our entire state.

Connections at the Edge:  We will show how to improve and manage the interface between developed landscapes (urban, suburban, and agricultural) and wild ecosystems.

Connections of Plants, Wildlife and People:  We will learn why life, from single-celled organisms to human beings, is dependent on connections to nature.  And, in turn nature is dependent on us to protect natural areas for the benefit all living organisms in our state.
    Connections from Roots to Canopy:  We will examine networks that connect plants above and below the ground.  
    * Imatge: Natural roots, d'Angela Vandenbogaard

    Connections in the Field: Our venue is in the center of the historic Everglades Watershed. Conference Fieldtrips will demonstrate what is being done to support landscape-level ecological function and connectivity and what more needs to be done. There are many examples of natural landscapes and corridors. Participants will experience examples of intact habitats that filter our water, support biodiversity and thriving populations of native species, provide food and cover for wildlife, and give us reason to pause and appreciate the beauty of Florida and the need to sustain these lasting connections in our state.
    Don’t miss your Connection, make your lodging reservations now: Westgate River Ranch Resort is an upscale but secluded resort is just off SR 60 south of Lake Kissimmee. You have a choice of 3 rustic lodge accommodations, or if you prefer an outdoor feel, you can go “Glamping” in a luxury air-conditioned tent. There are also RV and tent camping spots on site. Would you like to extend your stay to enjoy the other activities offered by the resort, such as the Rodeo, Horseback Riding, Swamp Buggy and Airboat rides? The special FNPS lodging rates are extended for three days before and after the event. There are a limited number of each room type available at our special rate, so to make sure you get the accommodations you prefer, make your room registrations now.

    To reserve your room and view conference updates, go to the 2017 Conference  page on the FNPS website. Fieldtrips will be posted by January 1st and registration for the conference will begin in early 2017. 


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