“I am extremely proud of the fact that so many new properties have been protected, now up to 18,000 acres, and the organization has prospered with professional staff. The NFLT is a legacy which gives me great pleasure and satisfaction.” -Bill McQuilkin, April 2017
North Florida Land Trust was founded in 1999 by Bill McQuilkin, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach at that time. Bill was actively involved with the Audubon Society, first as a board member of Florida Audubon, then National. Through his work with Audubon, he became more interested in land protection issues. He vacationed every year in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where he discovered the premier land trust in the country at the time – Jackson Hole Land Trust. Bill recalled, in a conversation with Staff in 2017, “We did not have a land trust in north Florida at the time. . . and I was convinced that land conservation was urgently needed,” he said. “This became a calling for me.”
Bill attended a Land Trust Alliance (LTA) meeting and got excited. The LTA is a capacity-building resource and uniting force for its membership of over 1,000 land trusts working to preserve land in their localities across the United States. After several meetings with the LTA, Bill filed with the IRS to become incorporated as a nonprofit, and thus founded the North Florida Land Trust.
With the goal of finding an office and hiring paid staff, Bill established a Board of Directors and began to fundraise. Through the guidance of Bill McQuilkin and early Board Members, David Strickland, Bill Dresser, Mark Allen and others, NFLT established itself at the Jacksonville Beaches and St. Augustine. After several short-term Executive Directors, Bonnie Barnes was hired in 2007 and would manage the organization for almost seven years. In 2014, Jim McCarthy was brought on as the current President of NFLT, and the organization has since grown to eight full time and one part-time staff, three interns, and many wonderful volunteers.
The early achievements of NFLT were helped through many partnerships. One of the earliest accomplishments was to preserve Pescatello Island, a 30.5-acre natural, uninhabited island located in northern Duval County, Florida, on Clapboard Creek. North Florida Land Trust purchased the property in 2002, with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land, and continues to preserve the island in its natural state.
Since those original thirty acres, NFLT has preserved many more natural areas throughout our seven-county region – up to 18,000 acres. From natural lands to historic and agricultural resources, NFLT is actively working to preserve the integrity of our native north Florida landscape.