The Beulah A. Laidlaw Preserve is 272 acres of land in Washington County, about four miles north of Vernon and west of State Route 79. The Preserve is owned by Florida Audubon Society has a Memorandum of Agreement to manage and oversee the property. There are complications on access across private lands, so the property is only open to the public or to Audubon’s membership by appointment with one of the keyholders if the gate is locked. Ed Keppner and Neil Lamb wrote an Adaptive Management Plan for the Preserve in June 2009 and have updated the Plan periodically as part of the ongoing work at the Preserve. Dawn Barone is the Preserve Manager with assistance from Neil Lamb and numerous volunteers. We have received various grants for projects such as boardwalks, a pole barn shelter, and other amenities. The management plan is designed to promote wildlife through enhancement of the natural topography of swamp, bog, uplands, and clearings that support a rich and diverse flora and fauna. Three signature species of the Preserve, the Swainson’s warbler, flame azalea, and gopher tortoise, are present in good numbers on the property.
An Eagle Scout Project and another Boy Scout Project by Troop 562 of Santa Rosa Beach, FL
provided benches for the shelter and an outstanding photography blind overlooking the central
bog and beaver pond. The trails and points of interest are sign-posted and mapped for use.
Management strategies include clearing old man-made trails and game trails to allow easier
access while at the same time maintaining more of the edge habitat that supports the species
richness of the property.
Brush piles created by the clearing are intentionally and strategically located to offer harborage
and shelter to many species, especially over-wintering sparrows. Winter mowing of meadows
instead of using fire maintains the open areas that are so critical to many species. Purple martin
nest boxes, wood duck nest boxes, and Easternbluebird nest boxes have been installed and are
A barn owl nest box is located in the shelter in the hope of attracting a barn owl. Trail cameras are used to augment daytime sightings and have proved most informative about the gopher tortoise activities, wild turkeys, active movements of the alligators around the property (using our cleared trails!), river otters, beaver, bobcats, Eastern woodrats, armadillos, raccoons, deer, and opossum.
The BCAS Conservation Committee Chair is Candis Harbison. Members include CoChair Lisbet Canteli, Ron Houser, Neil Lamb, and Norm Capra.
ALL MEMBERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND MEETINGS AND WRITE LETTERS AND EXPRESS THEIR PERSONAL CONSERVATION RELATED OPINIONS AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. ALL OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THE NAME OF BCAS MUST BE APPROVED BY THE PRESIDENT OR THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS.
BAY COUNTY AUDUBON SOCIETY 2022 CONSERVATIONISTS OF THE YEAR
The Scouts and Leaders of Boy Scout Troop #302
The Conservation history of Troop 302 began when Nathan Beaucage contacted BCAS in August 2017. He was just about to earn the rank of Eagle Scout in Troop 302. For his Eagle Service Project, he placed monofilament recycling tubes along fishing spots in Tyndall Air Force base to facilitate the proper disposal of fishing line and hooks, He also established a protocol to have the tubes checked and cleared periodically and return the used line for proper disposal/recycling.
Because of his interest in Conservation of Wildlife and Natural Resources, he contacted Bay County Audubon Society to define an additional project that could be applied toward the William Hornaday Conservation Award. Nathan designed a project whose overarching goal was to provide education and equipment to anglers to prevent and to respond properly to accidental hooking or entanglement of seabirds (most commonly pelicans). This project was a logical extension of his Eagle Service Project but involved a degree of complexity in design and planning far exceeding his first efforts. Together we applied for and received a Collaborative Grant from Audubon Florida. Nathan completed the project prior to Hurricane Michael but was not able to complete the Hornaday Award on a timely basis. As a sidenote Nathan, and outstanding student and graduate of Bay High School was accepted to Harvard University.
After hurricane Michael, the Scouts of Troop 302 regrouped and began to participate in several workdays to help clean up the Parker Preserve. These workdays led to the generation of two Eagle Scout Projects which were quite beneficial in our restoration efforts of the Parker Preserve.
Cole Mahler and his dad Scoutmaster Jon Mahler designed, raised funds, and constructed the work shed for storage of our tools at Parker. This project was supported in part by one of our collaborative grants. Just a few months ago, Noah Vaden designed a project to repair and replace damaged boards from the front fence and Gateway of Parker Preserve. Noah, his fellow Scouts and the troop leadership raised all of the funds and done all of the work for this project. In addition to the individual projects to help wildlife and restore Conservation land, the Troop leaders should be commended for helping develop a sense of commitment and leadership in Environmental Conservation.
While there are many others who helped with the restoration of the Preserve, the continuous commitment paired with measurable tangible outcomes make Troop 302 worthy of our Conservation of the Year Award. In addition to the Troop Award Cole and Noah will receive certificates for their efforts in planning and completion of their Eagle Service Awards.
AUDUBON ISLAND NESTING MATERIAL
Our chapter has a long history of involvement with this small spoil island next to Port Panama City in St. Andrew Bay. The island is the only nesting place for brown pelicans in Bay County and it is a critical nest location for the entire western Panhandle. Besides the 300+ brown pelicans, several hundred laughing gulls, great blue herons, and a few other species nest on the island. Various storms over the past few years have washed away much of the vegetation on the island, so through the initiative of Dr. John Himes of the FL FWC, some volunteers hauled boatloads of tree branches out to the island for use by the brown pelicans to build nests among the rip-rap and jumbled concrete. The pelicans grabbed the branches even as they were being unloaded.
BCAS Co-President Pam Overmyer (right) presents a $1000 check to Joan Paprocki, owner of Birds Gone Wild, LLC. Joan is one of the only bird rehabbers in the area. BCAS helps support her efforts in bird rehabilitation with an annual donation.