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Okaloosa Environmental Council active again after 10 years

Okaloosa County Sunset
Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department
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Okaloosa County Sunset

Okaloosa County environmental groups and citizen activists have formed a new community-led Environmental Council. The council, which is open to the public, aims to provide local organizations and citizens with a place to organize, coordinate, and carry out environmental efforts and initiatives.

Okaloosa County disbanded the previous Environmental Council in 2017, which hadn’t been truly active in around a decade. While the former council was affiliated with Okaloosa County, this one is community-led.

Alex Fogg, a participant, and coastal resource manager for Destin and Fort Walton Beach, describes the council’s key function.

“There are a lot of folks doing very similar things, and the council is also a mechanism for people to talk about what they are doing,” Fogg said. “They aren’t duplicating efforts. It allows folks to join each other to make it a more effective event.”

Notable organizations in the group are Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department, Keep Florida Beautiful, Earth Ethics Inc., Erase the Trace Okaloosa, Nonie’s Ark Animal Encounters, Choctawhatchee Bay Estuary Program, Trees on the Coast, Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance, and the city of Destin.

The council has already sparked new initiatives and action, Fogg said.

“There was a major push recently by a lot of local environmental groups to try to organize a council again; which was a great idea,” Fogg said. “It's been successful so far with kick-starting some new initiatives from the beach baskets, to larger beach cleanups, to pier cleanups.”

Trees on the Coast and Okaloosa County Resources will carry out the Sand Dune Fencing Project on Nov. 6 to help establish habitat and build a storm-resilient shoreline.

With funding from Keep Florida Beautiful, Okaloosa County Coastal Resources and Trees on the Coast are seeking local businesses and individuals to help make Okaloosa County a “Certified Community Wildlife Habitat.” The National Wildlife Federation’s Community Wildlife Habitat program partners with communities of all kinds to become wildlife and ecology-friendly through native-plant-life introduction, pesticide reduction, and other sustainability projects.

Another initiative discussed was encouraging local businesses to reduce waste and start a “green seal of approval” the council could grant to businesses willing to make eco-friendly changes.

In addition to taking action on new projects, the council also supports the motivation and morale of its members.

“It's good to know there are people who care about the same things you care about and have the drive and initiative to go out and make something happen and do something about it, instead of sitting and waiting for someone else to do it,” Fogg said. “When people have that kind of a drive it makes you feel like you are also doing the right thing. I think there is a lot of potential for us to do a lot more.”

Fogg is also hopeful about the council’s future: “More diversity, getting more groups involved. In the past, it's been a really small number of environmental initiatives that were tackled. I think with the diversity of groups that we have now it may be an opportunity for us to really expand. Whether it be including some community aspects or more wildlife, it will be interesting to see.”

If you or your organization are interested in attending and joining the email list, contact coastalresources@destinfwb.com for more information. Meetings are open to the public as well as organizations and people outside of Okaloosa County.