TAVARES — The Lake County Board of County Commissioners last week approved a resolution applauding the efforts of County residents Bruce and Cathy Brown, who were recently earned the 2006 “Volunteer of the Year” award from the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).
Over the past six years, the Browns have trained a record 125 habitat stewards on behalf of the NWF. Local habitat stewards have helped dozens of homeowners get their properties certified as NWF backyard habitats.
According to the NWF, the Browns’ most noteworthy project is the 12-acre Florida Scrub Jay Trail, which provides a mix of scrub and sandhill habitat preferred by the state’s only endemic bird, a threatened species. The couple got started on the project in 2003 with support from a NWF grant.
“Ninety percent of the scrub jay’s original population is already gone,” Cathy said in a NWF news release. “This puts the species in grave danger of extinction in our lifetime."
To date, hundreds of volunteers have helped with the project, including dozens of local high school students who have earned service-learning credits by researching the bird’s habitat needs and planting beargrass, fringetree and other native species.
“This is just the beginning,” Bruce said. “Our goal is to acquire more land to expand this preservation project for many years to come.”