The Center for North American Herpetology
19 March 2008
RAY ASHTON RECEIVES AWARD FROM THE ENVIRONMENTAL & LAND USE COMMITTEE OF
THE FLORIDA BAR FOR HIS WORK ON BEHALF OF GOPHER TORTOISES
Ray E. Ashton, Jr., President of the Ashton Biodiversity Research & Preservation Institute,
Inc., in Newberry, Florida, and one of the founders of the activist group, The Gopher
Tortoise Conservation Imitative, was awarded the 2008 Citizen's Award at the 14th Annual
Public Interest Environmental Conference held at the University of Florida Law School on
28 February 2008.
The award was presented for his outstanding contributions on behalf of Florida
environmental and land use policy. Some of the contributions that Ashton has made
include work with local county governments in developing policies that support local
conservation of Gopher Tortoises and their habitats. Over the past two years, he has
worked with seventeen counties to establish programs that will help protect tortoises.
Meanwhile over the past ten years, he has been a strong voice attempting to change the
old policies of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission from Incidental take to
one of long term management and protection through up-listing the tortoise to
threatened status in Florida and to encourage relocation of tortoises to well-managed and
protected lands. He has proposed reasonable financing of tortoise management that
would insure perpetual monitoring and management for generations to come. He and
members of The Gopher Tortoise Conservation Imitative proposed a tax exemption to
landowners that maintain natural lands. Today farmers cannot maintain their agricultural
exemptions on these lands and pay the highest taxes on them. Thanks to the Florida
Wildlife Federation and other stakeholders, this tax bill and many changes have been
brought forward to create an entirely different way of doing conservation for a species.
All though Ashton is not totally pleased with the current rules being presented to the
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission in April 2007, he supports the direction
they are going and hope that the Commission will follow up on promises to strengthen
what is being presented in the near future. If they do not then we will see a continued
decline of Gopher Tortoises and the need for them to be federally listed.
Those wishing to congratulate Ray Ashton or wishing to contribute financially to the
efforts of his foundation can reach him at:
Ashton Biodiversity Research & Preservation Institute, Inc.
14260 W Newberry Road, #331
Newberry, Florida 32669
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