Are we ever lucky at The Florida Aquarium to have our blogger, Joe Guidry, be the winner of such a prestigious award! And as you’ll find out, he gets to designate $2,000 toward a project or park of his choice. We gave Joe a pass on writing this next blog so we could share some more great news about this hero for our environment. It is written by Stacy White, chairman of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (pictured right of Joe). He represents District 4, and we are grateful for his words of insight, so please, read on …
Recently, I championed the creation of a new award, to be awarded annually by the County Commission, that recognizes conservation efforts in Hillsborough County. In working with stakeholders from Hillsborough County’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP), we decided to name the award the Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award. We chose to make Theodore Roosevelt the namesake because of his conservation record and because of his connection to Hillsborough County made through the time he spent here with his famed Rough Riders regiment. The “Hillsborough Forever” portion of the name is modelled after the state level “Florida Forever” program name and indicates the importance of preserving our finite natural ecosystems into perpetuity.
The inaugural award was presented at the County Commission meeting on April 19th to Joe Guidry, former Opinion Editor of the Tampa Tribune and editor of this very blog. As the commissioner that championed the creation of this award, I cannot think of a better person to be the inaugural recipient. The media is often referred to as the fourth branch of government. Recognizing this, Joe was skillful and persistent in using the editor’s pen to raise awareness of the importance of and advocate for conservation efforts in Hillsborough County and in Florida. More importantly, he utilized his platform as editorial chief of a major newspaper to hold elected officials and other leaders accountable. It also is worth noting that Joe was a staunch supporter of the creation of the Florida Forever program and certainly advocated for a “Hillsborough Forever” policy framework.
During Joe’s tenure as an editorial writer, the Tampa Tribune was known as the more conservative newspaper in the region. For some reason, which frankly I don’t understand, conservation initiatives are often viewed as being liberal, but as Joe put it during his acceptance of the award, there is nothing conservative about squandering away our precious natural resources. As a self-professed conservative, I couldn’t agree with him more. Conservation efforts provide for a sense of place through preserving our natural heritage and provide countless other benefits, such as the protection of our water resources. Conservation should be viewed as a nonpartisan issue of importance to us all.
I have gotten to know Joe over the course of the past several years and I know that he enjoys the great outdoors. It is my understanding that he is doing plenty of fishing and other outdoor activities during his retirement years. It must be incredibly gratifying for him to be enjoying the fruits of his labor as he is doing those things here in the Tampa Bay Area. We have leaders like Joe Guidry to thank for our beautiful bay and the many thousands of beautiful uplands and freshwater wetlands that have been preserved here in Hillsborough County. Without the foresight and leadership of people like Joe Guidry it is quite possible that these efforts wouldn’t have come to be. What a loss that would have been for both our current citizens as well as future generations. I commend Joe for the role he has played in these efforts.
In recognition of his receipt of the award Joe was awarded a trophy, a framed picture of a beautiful pine flatwoods scene from one of our ELAPP preserves, and the ability to appropriate $2,000 towards a park or ELAPP project of his choice. It is worth noting that the $2,000 project appropriation was made possible by a gracious gift from a private philanthropist that is a strong supporter of our ELAPP program. In fact, $20,000 was gifted for this purpose, which will support this award for at least the next 10 years. I can’t wait to see which site Joe decides to appropriate this year’s funds towards!
If you know of someone worthy of receiving Hillsborough County’s Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award next year, or beyond, please be sure to submit a nomination. Individuals or groups are eligible for nomination. Please visit the county’s website, call the county’s Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department, or contact my office for information on how to submit a nomination.
Once again, I offer my heartfelt congratulations to this year’s winner: Joe Guidry.