Orange County Green PLACE Program Celebrates New Bird Blind at Johns Lake Conservation Area

Community & Services

While the newest amenity at Johns Lake Conservation Area near Winter Garden might look like a simple wooden box, the 20-foot-long structure is actually the latest effort by Orange County and its Green PLACE program to protect the feathered friends who call the area home.

In celebration of Earth Month, the County’s Environmental Protection Division joined Mayor Jerry Demings and Commissioner Nicole Wilson on April 25, 2024, to unveil the county’s first bird blind for bird watching.

Nestled adjacent to the canal that flows from Black Lake and Lake Tilden into Johns Lake, the 10-foot-high wooden bird blind allows visitors to capture photos and observe bird behavior without disturbing them.

“Birds cluster in wetlands for at least part of their life cycle, but they’re under enormous pressure by encroachment by humans and animals,” said Deborah Green, president, Orange Audubon Society. “The bird blind enables people to view and admire birds, but without getting too close and putting more pressure on them.”

The Great Blue Heron, Common Gallinule, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, Osprey, Limpkin, Swallow-tailed Kite, Belted Kingfisher and Little Blue Heron are among the many bird species that spend at least part of the year at Johns Lake Conservation Area.

The Johns Lake property is one of several environmentally sensitive lands that the Green PLACE (Park Land Acquisition for Conservation and Environmental Protection) Program has preserved, enhanced and restored over the last three decades. These lands amount to 23,903 acres, and of that total, Orange County is responsible for managing 5,900 acres.

Land management activities include controlled burns, invasive species management, restoration, forestry management, and wildlife and vegetation monitoring.

In order to further strengthen protection of valuable wetlands, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners recently voted unanimously to update its Wetland Conservation Areas Ordinance. These updates, which go into effect in June 2024, will strengthen protection of wetlands and surface waters, make permitting processes more streamlined, predictable and consistent for applicants, and ensure that natural resource protections are balanced with property rights.

“Building a sustainable and prosperous community requires a state-of-the-art regulatory framework for development, particularly with respect to Orange County’s environmentally sensitive areas,” said Renée Parker, Manager, Orange County Environmental Protection Division. “Just as we join together as county officials, business leaders, members of the community and nature lovers to celebrate Earth Day, we also have the opportunity to act every day to model creative solutions to the myriad environmental problems facing our wetlands and other natural resources.”

Wetlands are often called the earth’s kidneys because they filter pollutants from the water that flows through them. In addition, they act as giant sponges, capturing large amounts of rainwater and releasing it at a slower rate, thus protecting us from flooding. These delicate environments also are habitats for a diversity of plant and animal species, such as birds.

Dedicated to conserving and restoring natural ecosystems with a focus on birds and their habitats, the Orange Audubon Society is grateful for Orange County’s efforts in hosting these celebration events, educating residents and overseeing important environmental programs.

“Wetlands are an essential ecosystem that must be protected,” said Green. “Thanks to the Environmental Protection Division these protections have always been good here, and now they’ve been strengthened even more.”

For more, go to Orange County Green Place Program, Orange County Wetlands Ordinance, Johns Lake Conservation Area, Orange Audubon Society and Orange County Environmental Division.

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