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February 20h, 2014

Izaak Walton League gives top honor to conservationist Lloyd Miller

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iami area residents and visitors have a lot for which to thank Lloyd Miller.
Instead of dazzling skylines and pristine shorelines across Biscayne Bay, we could be looking at an oil refinery. Instead of undisturbed wilderness between South Florida’s two precious assets – Biscayne and Everglades National Parks – the land could have been the site of a commercial airport.
Miller has worked relentlessly to protect and improve public access to South Florida’s natural resources, and that effort has not gone unnoticed. His colleagues at the Izaak Walton League of America Mangrove Chapter and the Florida Keys Chapter recently hosted a luncheon where Miller was awarded the League’s highest recognition for his unique accomplishments – the Fifty-Four Founders Award.
Author and outdoorsman Izaak Walton, born in the late 1500s, lived to the ripe old age of 90, which was practically unheard of in that era. Walton is probably best known for his book, The Complete Angler, but he was also a fly-fisherman and wrote about the art extensively.
In 1922, 54 citizens in a small Maryland town became concerned about pollution in their fishing streams, and they formed The Walton Club. Now the Izaak Walton League of America is 40,000 members strong, and is still actively involved in clean air and water issues and soil and wildlife conservation.
The Fifty-Four Founders Award was presented to Miller at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club by current national IWLA president Robert Chapman, who said, “I’ve heard so much about you over the years, and I am honored to finally get to meet you. Personally, I’d like to thank you for your great work, and I want you to keep it up for years to come.”
Miller, who is in his 90s, smiled broadly as he rose slowly and haltingly from his seat.
“I have to do this in parts,” he joked as he made his way to the podium. “I’d like to keep up.”
After accepting the award and a standing ovation, Miller said, “That all of you would take time from your busy day to come here and honor me is very humbling.”
Miller, himself an avid fisherman and president of the League’s Mangrove Chapter, led the fight to stop a refinery proposed for South Biscayne Bay in the 1960s. He worked closely with renowned ecologist Arthur Marshall, Miami Herald columnist Juanita Greene and many others to create a campaign to turn public opinion against the refinery and for protecting the fragile resources of the Bay.
His efforts at the time, aided by Izaak Walton League of America Executive Director Joe Penfold, who introduced Miller to critical members of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, led to the designation of Biscayne Bay – first as a national monument and later as Biscayne National Park.
A number of esteemed dignitaries took the podium during the luncheon to speak of Miller’s accomplishments and to thank him for his encouragement in conservation battles on the political front and for being a longtime mentor to many.
Former longtime Miami-Dade Commissioner Katy Sorenson, who is known for championing environmental causes and in fact led the charge to stop the commercial airport from being built between Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, said, “I remember you coming before the Commission way back when and me looking at you and knowing I was going to hear something really intelligent and very right. Unfortunately, a lot of my colleagues were not paying attention. It didn’t matter. It was still important to have your voice there.
“It’s great to be here celebrating Lloyd’s accomplishments and having a great group of environmentalists under one roof,” she said. “Your voices are needed more than ever. It is so important that you continue to communicate with your elected officials.”
Miller’s colleague and fellow Key resident Robert Skinner, who arranged the event, held a map and pointed to the continuous green line all around Biscayne Bay.
“Look at the density of Miami and look at the green at all the parks we’ve created over the years: Biscayne National Park, the Everglades restoration, Key Largo and so many other places that wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for Lloyd,” he said. “All the people in this room can be very proud. We’d done so many things to preserve the green outside of Miami and all around South Florida.”
John Adornado, regional director of National Park Conservation Association, also thanked Miller and said, “Biscayne Park has an incredible history because of people like you. A lot of folks in this room really made it happen. It is the people that make our parks.
Adornado reminded those in attendance to continue to speak up to their elected officials and to each other. “It’s important for people to know what’s right in their back yards and that they have a voice in its future. NPCA is really happy to be a full-fledged partner in the efforts.”
Many other dignitaries and conservationists took the podium to give similar messages of thanks, praise and appreciation.
Brian Carlstrom, Biscayne National Park superintendent, said, “I am also very humbled to be working in a national park that truly would not be what it is today without the foresight and dedication of Lloyd and the rest who advocated for the park more than 40 years ago. Without that, none of us would be here today.
“Look around,” said Carlstrom to a room of mostly over-50s. “We have to do a better job as environmental leaders to reach out to the next generation. We want to infuse that enthusiasm and stewardship for the next generation.
“It’s right out the front door of more than 4 million people, yet most people don’t even know it’s there,” he said of the parks.
Michael Chenoweth, chapter president of the Florida Keys Chapter of IWLA, reiterated the importance of communicating with elected officials and with each other. “We have a number of people who have been singularly important in these accomplishments, but it’s always done by a lot of people working together.”
Miller got involved in conservation efforts in the 1950s. He started various organizations dedicated to saving the environment, including salt water conservation.
Miller and his wife Dottie compiled a book entitled Biscayne Bay National Park: It Almost Wasn’t outlining the evolution of the park. They donate all proceeds back to the park.
The Izaak Walton League of America publishes Outdoor World, a quarterly magazine.

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