Founded in March of 2010, South Florida Wildlands Association is rapidly gaining recognition as a forceful and effective group working to protect south Florida’s public lands and remaining wildlife habitat.
Meet our board and staff below:
Brion Blackwelder, President. Brion has played an active role in environmental organizations for over 40 years. In 1979, he became one of the founders of the Environmental Coalition of Broward County where he played a key role in preservation of wetlands, pollution control, and the establishment of parks and nature centers, including the Ann Kolb Nature Center. Brion has served on many governmental committees such as the Water Advisory Board of Broward County and the Broward County Climate Change Task Force. For the past 20 years, Brion has been a law professor at Nova Southeastern University where he teaches ocean and coastal law and directs a legal clinic on family law. He received the Sierra Club Joseph LeConte Award for efforts that led to the creation of Congaree National Park in South Carolina.
Patrick Kerr, Secretary. Patrick is an Assistant Outings Leader with the Sierra Club, and regularly conducts trail maintenance with the Florida Trail Association. He is an avid hiker, photographer, and Everglades naturalist. A surfer for over 40 years, Patrick is also a member of the Surfrider Foundation. Patrick was born in Miami, and attended Miami-Dade Community College and Florida State University. He received a Master in Social Work from Barry University in Miami Shores. For more than 30 years Patrick has worked with children, adolescents and families in private practice and in various hospitals in south Florida. He retired in 2010 and now devotes much of his time to environmental advocacy and promoting outdoor recreation.
Leigh Buckner, Treasurer. Leigh has served as a board member of the Broward Group of the Sierra Club where she is currently an Assistant Outings Leader and contributing newsletter writer on outdoor recreation. She is an active volunteer with the South Florida Wildlife Center and has helped organize beach cleanups in the Ft. Lauderdale area. Leigh is a native south Floridian and spends much of her free time hiking, bicycling, and kayaking in the Everglades. She is currently employed by the Department of Homeland Security and holds a Master of Business Administration degree in Environmental Management from Florida Atlantic University.
Mara Shlackman, Legal Director. A lifelong resident of south Florida, Mara received her bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Miami. She has been the Legal Chair of the Broward Group of the Sierra Club since 2006, and previously served as co-chair of the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Legal Committee. A committed environmentalist, Mara has been active in local clean energy issues as well as growth management and sprawl, public lands management, and the protection of wildlife habitat and endangered species. Mara has a strong interest in sustainable agricultural practices, and the impact of toxic substances in our environment. She has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1993, and is a sole practitioner in the areas of civil appeals and constitutional litigation.
Matt Schwartz, Executive Director. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Matt has made his home in south Florida since the mid-nineties. His environmental work began with various volunteer positions with the Sierra Club – serving as the Broward Group’s Political, Everglades, and Conservation Chairs and representing Florida Sierra on management plans for Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, and the Florida panther. Matt holds master’s degrees in counseling and sociology and has worked as an educator, researcher and counselor. He has achieved a number of local environmental victories including reducing the number of damaging off-road vehicle trails in portions of the Big Cypress National Preserve, aiding in the creation of a “poll and troll” (no motor zone) in Florida Bay, and facilitating the cancellation of a massive immigration detention center on the edge of Broward County’s Everglades. He writes and speaks frequently on Everglades topics, especially the importance of public lands and endangered species protection, and his conservation work has been featured in many local and national newspapers, as well as radio and television. Matt is also well known in south Florida for his guided “swampwalks” to the Big Cypress National Preserve and other public lands.