History of Pelican Island Audubon Society

Brief History & Accomplishments

1900 – First meeting of the Florida Audubon Society (FAS) and, with other state organizations, push for the passage of the Lacey Act to prohibit interstate trade of wildlife killed in violation of state laws. Frank Chapman, ornithologist and curator of the American Museum of Natural History, organizes the first Christmas Bird Count.
1902 – The National Committee of Audubon Societies is formed in November, in Washington, DC.
1903 – Through the efforts of Frank Chapman and FAS, President Theodore Roosevelt establishes Pelican Island in the Indian River Lagoon as the first Federal Bird Reservation, now called Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (PINWR) (our namesake), giving birth to the National Wildlife Refuge System. Audubon hires Paul Kroegel as the first warden of Pelican Island. By the end of his presidency, Roosevelt names nine more bird refuges in Florida.
1961 – Local citrus growers, commercial fishermen, sportsmen and concerned citizens mobilize as the Indian River Preservation Society to stop a bad dredge-and-fill housing project adjacent to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, which then expanded PINWR’s boundaries.
1964 – The Indian River Preservation Society becomes the Pelican Island Audubon Society, a chapter of the Florida Audubon Society and the Voice of Conservation in Indian River County. It is one of 500 Chapters and Centers within the National Audubon Society.
1986 – PIAS organizes the first U.S. coastal clean-up and is recognized by the Department of the Interior, and now these cleanups have spread around the world.
Nighttime beach-lighting ordinances are passed to protect sea turtle hatchlings in Vero Beach and Indian River Shores, resulting in 90 other countries and hundreds of thousands of volunteers annually banning nighttime beach lighting.
1988 – The Environmental Learning Center is started -a dream of then- PIAS President Maggy Bowman.
1990 – The 290-acre Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area is prevented from being developed into condos by bringing the county and organizations together to purchase lands.
1991 – PIAS is a charter member of the IRC Land Acquisition Advisory Committee.
1992 – PIAS leads effort to pass a $26 Million bond issue to purchase county-conservation lands.
1993 – Audubon joined a group of local citizens in cooperation with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Paul Tritaik, Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge Manager, to organize the 90th Anniversary Celebration of the Refuge. This led to the annual Pelican Island Wildlife Festival held in Sebastian each year since including its Centennial in 2003.
1997-2007 – With Pelican Island Elementary students and Principal Bonnie Swanson, 18 lots of Florida Scrub-jay habitat are purchased to become the Pelican Island Audubon’s Martha Wininger Reflection Park.
2004 – PIAS forms a “Friends of Trees” task force to write and then put into effect the strongest protective county tree ordinance in the state. PIAS sponsors a community survey and leads support for voter approval (67%) to help pass Indian River County’s $50 million bond issue for land acquisition.
PIAS with generous donors for the printing, publishes “Reflections of Blue Cypress Lake.” coauthored by Drs. Richard and Juanita Baker, and subsequently raises $50,000 for the chapter.
2005 – First annual “For the Birds” avian art show is held, featuring a dozen local artists who contributed a share of their sales to the chapter organized by Jens and Melissa Tripson
2007 – PIAS leads community efforts to rewrite county’s Landscaping Ordinance.
Another community effort is led by PIAS with IRC to successfully challenge a land swap to trade for exceptional-quality conservation lands to settle legal action threatened by a developer.
First Jay Watch effort in IRC is begun by Board Member Joe Carroll.
PIAS begins fund-raising to purchase land and build a new Audubon House adjacent to ORCA and the University of Florida.
A new subchapter satellite led by Neil Stalter is added at Grand Harbor, a local development including 80 Audubon members.
PIAS joins the Indian River Humane Society Gopher Tortoise Task Force to save tortoises from being buried alive by developers.
2009 – Under the leadership of Board Member Dr. Graham Cox, with the help of 23 advisors from county community organizations, churches, schools, industry, agriculture, and minority-community leaders, PIAS begins an innovative, inclusive process to survey and measure ‘Quality of Life’ indicators to guide the county towards an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable future.
The “Bird Photo of the Month” contest to encourage bird appreciation, photography, and learning about birds is started by Dr. Juanita Baker.
2010 – PIAS publishes board member, Debby Ecker’s “Indian River County Water Coming and Going” – a booklet that is available free on the PIAS website.
Help FDEP release the first Brown Pelican at the Pelican Island Wildlife Refuge from the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill.
2011 – PIAS partners with Bob Barbour who along with Juanita Baker collaborate on making a film on a field trip to the Sebastian Inlet State Park to make a “Basic Birding” video for the PIAS and State Park’s websites, and on YouTube, to enable photographers and birders to identify local birds.
PIAS starts monthly lectures at the North Indian River County Library.
PIAS stops a County dredge-and-fill project at the Oslo Rd. Boat ramp.
Members work with USFWS to give away Jane Schnee’s Christmas trees thereby improving Florida Scrub-jay habitat, and people’s donations contributed to the lands maintenance.
2012 – PIAS buys an acre of land from University of Florida Foundation to build Audubon House education center with generous in kind donors: (name all who volunteered their time)
The Square-Foot Gardening School Project is begun by Board Member Peter Sutherland to install with volunteers 90 gardens in 13 schools.
To reduce birds, especially Brown Pelicans from being hooked by fishers and dying from being fed from Fish Cleaning Tables, Juanita Baker encouraged PIAS photographers Donald and Karen Schuster and Ranger Terese Harber at the Sebastian Inlet State Park to make write and design the pamphlet, How To Help Them If You Hook ‘Em. PIAS helped other chapters adopt and use this pamphlet state-wide called “What to do if you hook a pelican!” It has been republished by over 20 organizations in Florida.
PIAS film maker Bob Montanaro partner with PINWR filmed Kevin Lowry, Doug Carlson, Janice Broda, Suzanne Valencia, Dr. Grant Gilmore, and Richard Thomas to produce QR-code signs to provide a quick source of information to visitors.
The Grand Prix of Vero Beach is organized to raise funds for PIAS, thanks to Wayne Sandlin.
2013 – Donor gives 270 piece Porcelain Bird and wildlife collection to PIAS.
eBird.org Tutorial video is made by Yvonne Tso to get people started into using the new Citizen Scientist tool.
PIAS helps form The Indian River Lagoon Coalition and Call to Action to have our county and cities pass strong fertilizer ordinances. Led by Judy and John Orcutt.
The Quality of Life Indicator Project in Indian River County is expanded to Fellsmere and Gifford by Dr. Graham Cox.
PIAS coordinates with member Judy Orcutt to facilitate a Vero Beach Choral Society concert focusing on the theme of Water called” Voices on the Water, Tribute to Lagoon in Song, Sign, and Photography,” a multi-media, multi-sensory event.
2014 – Osprey Watch at Blue Cypress Lake, headwaters of the St. John’s River, is begun as an annual nest-monitoring project thanks to a National Audubon grant. The lake may have the world’s highest Osprey nesting density with 265 active nests this year.
$175,000 Estimated Value Audubon House Pro Bono Project Team A Community Effort: Survey And Civil Engineer: Patrick Walther, P.E., Principal, Carter & Associates, Inc.; Architectural & Design Work: Jeff Ray, AIA, Architect of Record, Richard Bialosky, AIA, Design Architect, Amy J. Thoma, LEED AP, Tierra Verde, Inc.; Project Coordination & Permitting Consultant: Jimmy Sellers, Coastal Technology Corp.; Landscape Architect: Robin Pelensky, ASLA, Surlaterre Landscape Architecture, LLC; Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Engineer: Bob Formica, P.E., Formica & Associates, Inc.; Structural Engineer: Bill Stoddard, PhD, P.E., Schulke, Bittle & Stoddard, LLC; Geotechnical Consultant: Dave Alker, GFA International; Attorney: George Glenn, Jr. Plus Generous Private Citizen Donation.
The second edition of “Reflections of Blue Cypress” is published, supported by two major donations.
2015 – PIAS celebrates the opening of Audubon House and its 51th Anniversary.
Board members Bonnie Swanson and Donna Halleran started our Audubon Advocate Program at four county fifth grade schools for 22 weeks and Summer Adventure Camp.
Taught first New Intensive Birding and eBird Classes by Dr. Juanita Baker and David Simpson
Surveyed quadrants for the Breeding Bird Atlas thanks to Billi Wagner and Tim Towles.
USFWS donates to Audubon House a large museum-quality display of mounted birds at our Nation’s first wildlife refuge, PINWR, depicting common birds among mangroves in a natural-like setting.
Florida’s Water and Land Conservation Amendment 1 is passed with help from PIAS membership.
PIAS and members strongly oppose down-listing of Manatees.
Art Classes by Elise Carter are begun at Audubon House.
2016 – Audubon House wall mural by painter Deanna Delosia depicting local habitats and 75 plants and animals is started.
Fundraiser “A Taste of Honey” with First Vice President Donna Halleran is a success.
Citizen-science program, Spoonbill Watch, is begun by Board Members Drs. David Cox and Bill Loftus at the Stick Marsh, with funding from National Audubon Society.
PIAS supports Trail of Trees with Tom Womick at county schools.
Seminar presentations held at Indian River Estates. (2016-17)
PIAS holds additional monthly lectures at the Riverhouse in Vero Beach
2017 – Great Air Potato Roundup and Contest is held at Audubon House.
Pelican Island Elementary School and Alternative School Garden Clubs are started by First Vice President Donna Halleran
PIAS starts Art Classes by artist Elise Carter for home-schooled students.
Swarovski Optics presents a Digiscoping Workshop at Audubon House.
PIAS helps FL Power and Light plan Solar Farms.
Members and volunteer led by David Cox, refurbish Pelican Island Audubon’s Martha Wininger Reflection Park native plantings.
PIAS hosts U of FL Master Gardener training by Nickie Monroe at Audubon House.
2018 – The first annual “Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future” Conference takes place at Emerson Center with keynote speaker, Dr. Doug Tallamy. Major community sponsors backed this effort.
Oslo Boat Ramp issue is finally laid to rest after testimony by PIAS members and associates.
Biosolids dumping from outside the county is stopped after testimony at County Commission meeting.

1989 National Winner “Take Pride in America” Award.
1992 U.S. Department of the Interior in 1992 for the first coastal cleanup in 1986.
1996 Vero Beach Jaycees Labor Day Parade “Best Overall.”
1997-2002 The Ocean Conservancy “Outstanding and dedicated commitment to the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program and the protection of our ocean environment.”
2003 Audubon Florida President’s Award for Exceptional Accomplishment by a chapter in Conservation, Community and Educational Outreach.
2003 Indian River County School Board Golden Apple Award.
2004 17th Annual Commissioner’s Business Recognition Awards; Florida Education Foundation Education Award.
2006 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Display.
2007 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Award.
2011 National Audubon Society, The Charles H. Callison Volunteer of the Year Award to Dr. Richard H. Baker.
2011 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Award.
2013 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Award.
2015 Indian River County Chamber of Commerce Industry Appreciation Award
2016 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Conservation Award.
2016 Keep Indian River Beautiful Best Environmental Organization
2017 Audubon Florida Best Chapter Conservation Award
2018 Audubon Florida Outstanding Education Program Award

$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Bird Drawing Training Kit
$2,000 Cultural Council IRC
$25,000 Volvo donation in honor of Bonnie Swanson who as a finalist in the Volvo for life Awards. PIAS worked with Bonnie and students at Pelican Island Elementary School Eco-Troop to purchase 18 residential lots on vital Florida Scrub-jay habitat.
$235,000 USFWS grant to purchase Florida Scrub-jay habitat, named Pelican Island Audubon’s Martha Wininger Reflection Park in Sebastian.
??$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Adopt-A-Tortoise
$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Initial steps to begin a quality of life survey and indicator project
$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Indian River County Water; Coming and Going,” a booklet
$3,000 Fund for Wild Nature for legal action to save the Indian River Lagoon and Oslo Boat Ramp from a dredge-and-fill project.
$9,890 National Audubon/Toyota Together Green innovation grant for installing 90 square-foot gardens in the 13 elementary schools of Indian River County.
$1,000 National Audubon to produce interpretive signs using QR technology for PINWR to provide habitat and wildlife education.
$5,000 National Audubon/Toyota Together Green Grant Program for planning grant for Quality of Life Indicators for Gifford and Fellsmere to work in cooperation with IRC Health Department, Gifford Progressive Civic League, and Fellsmere City Manager and City Council.
$1,250 Garden Club of Indian River County for Audubon House Landscaping.
$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Square Foot Gardening Project
$11,000 Impact 100 merit award for Audubon House Programs.
$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Mapping of Osprey and other bird-species nests on Blue Cypress Lake, Indian River County
$5,000 National Audubon/Toyota Together Green Spreading the Word: Impacts of climate change and sea-level rise on Treasure Coast birds and their habitats
$18,000 Impact 100 merit award for Audubon Advocate Program.
Indian River County School Board,donated a used school bus for Audubon Advocate Program.
$5,000 Indian River Community Foundation, Summer Adventure Camp
$500 Scotts Miracle Grow grant for school gardens.
$62,500 Indian River Lagoon Council National Estuary Program for Audubon Advocates.
$20,000 Indian River County Children’s Service Advisory Council for Audubon Advocates after school lagoon science program.
$7,000 Impact 100 merit award for Audubon Advocate Program.
$1,000 Audubon of Florida, Mapping of Osprey and other bird-species nests on Blue Cypress Lake, Indian River County
$50,000 Indian River Community Foundation for Audubon Advocates after school lagoon science program.
$20,000 grant from the IRC Children’s Services Advisory Committee for continuing the Audubon Advocates after school lagoon science program.
$35,000 John’s Island Foundation, for a new15-passenger GMC van to transport our Audubon Advocates.
$800 National Audubon Society grant to partially support the new 49 ft. X 12 ft. mural at Audubon House by artist Deanna Derosia.
$1,500 FPL for Butterfly Garden plants. Ken Gonyo leading volunteers establishes the Butterfly Garden.
$14,800 Sponsors for the Transforming Landscapes for a Sustainable Future. Sponsors were $1,500 each from the following: Florida Power & Light, Grand Harbor Audubon Society, National Estuary Program/EPA; Sunrise Rotary Club $1,000 Environmental Learning Center, Dr. Richard Sakai $500 Friends of the Carr Refuge, Garden Club of IRC, Ken Gonyo, The Law Office of George Glenn, Indian River Neighborhood Association, Marine Resources Council $250 Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition, Conradina Chapter – Florida Native Plant Society, Friends of St. Sebastian River, Steve Goff , Frances Graves, Indian River Land Trust, Mandala Village & Resort, National Audubon Society, Native Plant Horticulture Foundation, Pelican Island Preservation Society, Dr. John Orcutt, St. Johns Riverkeeper Save the Manatee Club, Sierra Club – Turtle Coast Group, Marie Stiefel.
$25,000 IRNEP for Audubon Advocate Program.
$5,000 IRNEP for Green House to propagate native plants.
$5,000 from National Audubon Society towards construction and equipping green house to propogate native plants.
$20,000 grant from the IRC Children’s Services Advisory Committee for continuing the Audubon Advocates after school lagoon science program.
$400 Moorings Sea Oats Garden Club for White boards for Audubon House.
$600 National Audubon Society for Donna Halleran to attend NAS Utah meeting
$500 from Audubon Florida to educate Pelican Island Elementary School students about Florida Scrub-Jays
$5,000 from National Audubon for birds & climate change project.( We initiated the Spoonbill Watch with this grant)
$1,500 from FPL for Sensory garden grant.

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