About Clay

Clay Henderson is an environmental lawyer, educator, and writer long involved in environmental policy.  He has served as president of Florida Audubon Society and Florida Trust for Historic Preservation.  His previous public service includes Florida Constitution Revision Commission, Florida Communities Trust, and election to two terms on the Volusia County Council.  Until his retirement, he served as Executive Director of the Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience at Stetson University.

He has been recognized with the national public service award from The Nature Conservancy, lifetime achievement awards from the Marine Resources Council, Florida Trust, and the Environment and Land Use Section of the Florida Bar. His previous book is The Floridas, and his new book, Forces of Nature, is an environmental history of Florida. 

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Forces of Nature: A History of Florida Land Conservation

Stetson Kennedy Florida Book Award 2023 — Florida Historical Society

The activists and victories that made Florida a leader in land preservation.

Despite Florida’s important place at the beginning of the American conservation movement and its notable successes in the fight against environmental damage, the full story of land conservation in the state has not yet been told. In this comprehensive history, Clay Henderson celebrates the individuals and organizations who made the Sunshine State a leader in state-funded conservation and land preservation.

Starting with early naturalists like William Bartram and John Muir who inspired the movement to create national parks and protect the country’s wilderness, Forces of Nature describes the efforts of familiar heroes like Marjory Stoneman Douglas and May Mann Jennings and introduces lesser-known champions like Frank Chapman, who helped convince Theodore Roosevelt to establish Pelican Island as the first national wildlife refuge in the United States. Henderson details how many of Florida’s activists, artists, philanthropists, and politicians have worked to designate threatened land for use as parks, preserves, and other conservation areas.

Drawing on historical sources, interviews, and his own long career in environmental law, Henderson recounts the many small victories over time that helped Florida create several units of the national park system, nearly thirty national wildlife refuges, and one of the best state park systems in the country. Forces of Nature will motivate readers to join in defending Florida’s natural wonders.