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.
JoAnne Weatherford was unanimously selected by our Board of Directors to receive the 2021 Conservationist of the Year award. Joanne retired from retail management and moved to Panama City Beach, Florida in December 2015. However, she didn't let retirement slow her down. Since her arrival to the Emerald Coast, she has become active as a volunteer in numerous local organizations focused on conservation and the environment.
She founded Keep PCB Beautiful and has served as President and Executive Director from February 2018 to present. Keep PCB Beautiful is a local non-profit working to “clean-up and green-up” Panama City Beach. JoAnne and her volunteers lead beach clean-ups every other Wednesday evening and one or two Saturday’s each month at a different public beach access locations. They also participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program and regularly clean their “adopted” stretch of roads.
Their website https://www.keeppcbbeautiful.org and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/keeppcbbeautiful showcases their activities to help beautify Panama City Beach.
JoAnne is a member of St. Andrew Bay Watch and served as a board member from September 2017 to September 2020. She is also a Panama City Beach Turtle Watch steward and has does educational presentations to various organizations about the mission of Turtle Watch. JoAnne has recently become a volunteer at Gulf World Marine Institute. Gulf World Marine Institute (GWMI) serves as the only long-term marine mammal rehabilitation and the largest sea turtle rehabilitation facility in Northern Florida.
She has also done volunteer work with FFWCC monitoring oyster reef in West Bay and building chick shelters for nesting shorebirds and their hatchlings. She has a passion for the environment and has an outstanding record of conservation service.
(RIGHT) Ron Houser presents JoAnne Weatherford the 2021 BCAS Conservationist of the Year plaque. Photo by Diane Houser
BAY COUNTY AUDUBON SOCIETY 2021 CONSERVATIONIST OF THE YEAR
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.