The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bestowed the regional Honors Award for Conservation Partners to the team that collaborated to accept the 27,000-acre DeLuca Preserve, gifted to the university in 2020.
Each year, the Honor Award is given to volunteers, partners and employees who have made significant contributions that honor the FWS mission and vision in the South Atlantic-Gulf and Mississippi Basin Interior region. This year, award recipients included UF/IFAS faculty and staff, among others.
The DeLuca Preserve gift can serve as a blueprint for conservation success that can be replicated with other private landowners in the future, FWS officials said.
“With so much of Florida’s wild places disappearing, it’s more important than ever that this land is cared for and protected,” said Margaret Atherton, a team member from UF Advancement. “We’re grateful that the FWS recognizes the significance of Elisabeth DeLuca’s gift to all Floridians — and we’re forever indebted to Mrs. DeLuca for her generosity of foresight. This beautiful property is much more than a last refuge for rare animals and plant life, it’s a living outdoor laboratory and classroom. What we learn and teach here will influence how lands across the world are managed. None of that would be possible without a commitment from Mrs. DeLuca and Ducks Unlimited.”
“Recognition from FWS is a tremendous endorsement of the commitment the university and its partners share to manage this precious land responsibly and with integrity,” said Atherton.
“It is an honor to be recognized,” said Brent Sellers, award recipient and UF/IFAS agronomy professor. “It says a lot about our work as a team to receive this award. There are so many people in the background working on this that deserve recognition. This was made possible by a collaborative effort within UF/IFAS, with Ducks Unlimited and more.”
The preserve, which includes wetlands, forests, cattle ranchlands and citrus groves, serves as a living classroom and laboratory for students and faculty throughout the university.
“There are a breathtaking number of opportunities for research, Extension and teaching on the property,” Sellers said. “The preserve provides opportunity to develop and foster partnerships in Florida and beyond.”