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Longtime Environmentalist Named State Parks Director

Eric Draper
Photo Courtesy Florida Audubon
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Rick Scott has appointed one of Florida's leading environmental advocates to run the state park system.

Eric Draper has been executive director of Audubon Florida for 18 years. At the end of the month, he'll take over as director of 164 state parks. It's a bit of a switch for a service that has been criticized in the past for proposals such as logging and grazingin state parks.

Julie Wraithmell, Draper's deputy at Audubon, will  take over his post as interim director. She says Draper understands the balance between recreation and habitat management that's needed to run the park service.

"There are rare and endangered species and communities that occur nowhere else in our state anymore, except in our refuges. So he will take that responsibility very seriously and he has when he was with Audubon," she said. "He's arguably Tallahassee's best-known and most influential environmental advocate, and his knowledge is extraordinary. We're looking forward to him doing really great things for Florida State Parks."

Draper will remain Audubon Florida’s executive director through November 27. David Yarnold, National Audubon Society president and CEO, released the following statement in support of Draper’s new role:


“Eric leaves Audubon with a legacy of real accomplishments. From partnering on the restoration of the Everglades, to working with the State on designating or expanding 18 Florida Critical Wildlife Areas, Eric has been a model state director for Audubon. Eric’s achievements also include being able to see the big picture, including protections for larger Gulf Coast conservation efforts as well as being a lynchpin for birds in the Atlantic Flyway. The State of Florida is fortunate to have his commitment to conservation and his consummate political skills.”



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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.