Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Preserving Paradise Seeks Leaders for Advocacy Program

June 11, 2024
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The new Preserving Paradise leadership program’s equation for success is simple: thriving ecology equals a thriving economy. A partnership between four organizations — the SanCap Chamber of Commerce, Captains for Clean Water, The Everglades Foundation, and SCCF — aims to involve local, high-amp business leaders in water-quality advocacy through intense networking and educational immersion into the complex issues.

“This is a first-of-its-kind program to involve proven leaders in a fashion that supports maybe the most important ingredient for keeping Southwest Florida financially viable,” chamber President and Chief Executive Officer John Lai said. “Never before has an initiative razor-focused on water quality and the environment as a teaching moment for improved business climate. Now that we’ve lived firsthand the perils of tainted waters and sea level rise, the need for a program such as this has become abundantly apparent.”

mangroves at sunset

It invites decision-makers and influencers in the Southwest Florida realm of non-profit organizations, the hospitality industry, and other commercial enterprises to apply for a course of seven daylong sessions designed to familiarize them with the importance of a clean environment to the region’s future as a sustainable model for ecotourism and lucrative destination looking forward to guaranteed economic success.

“It is imperative that local business leaders are empowered to advocate for the natural environment that supports Florida’s economy,” The Everglades Foundation Chief Executive Officer Eric Eikenberg said. “This program will provide an array of educational opportunities for those leaders to engage more effectively in protecting the environment upon which their businesses rely. The Everglades Foundation was founded more than 30 years ago by two businessmen, who recognized the connectivity between the Everglades and Florida’s economy. We are proud to partner with these organizations to enrich the advocacy of today’s leaders.”

Interested leaders can apply online to be considered for 20 available slots in the biweekly educational program running from August to October. It will include relevant, dynamic on-site and in-classroom involvement, such as on-the-water excursions to critical Everglades and Caloosahatchee sites, in concert with government entities, to personally experience the importance of clean water and the threat of pollution to the future quality of life.

A graduation ceremony will follow the program completion, whereupon participants become official wildlife and habitat ambassadors at an elevated advocacy level informed by front-row involvement.

sanibel lighthouse on may 20, 2024

“We founded Captains For Clean Water because we were frustrated with how water was being managed in Florida and the negative impacts of Lake Okeechobee discharges and red tide on our businesses,” Executive Director Capt. Daniel Andrews said. “We are proud to partner with these organizations to empower business leaders to make a difference in the fight. This is an opportunity to make a tremendous impact on the future of our waters and help build a more resilient economy in Southwest Florida.”

Preserving Paradise graduates will go forward as community spokespersons for clean water and role models for other businesses, setting examples for how businesses can effectively impact the environment in a positive way and become the “good guys” in the overarching water-quality drama.

“Water is the lifeblood of our communities in Southwest Florida,” SCCF CEO James Evans said. “To preserve our paradise, it is essential to understand the connection between our natural systems and the ecology of our waters, our quality of life, and our local economy. SCCF is proud to partner with these fine organizations to educate our business leaders on the importance of clean water.”

Applications are being accepted through mid-July, with the first class beginning on Aug. 6.

For more information or to apply, visit


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