Clay Henderson Books

Forces of Nature: A History of Florida Land Conservation

Winner of the Stetson Kennedy Book Award from the Florida Historical Society "that casts light on historic Florida events in a manner that is supportive of human rights, traditional cultures, and the natural environment."


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.


Christopher F. Meindl, University of South Florida:

“Anyone who wants to learn more about Florida’s struggle to conserve its many unique natural landscapes will want to read this book. In addition to introducing the historical cast of characters who engaged in land conservation in Florida, Henderson reviews recent land conservation history in the state and provides a treasure trove of stories about strategies, struggles, and successes.”

Will Abberger, Conservation Finance Director, Trust for Public Land:

“If you care about protecting Florida’s unique natural areas and wildlife habitat, Forces of Nature is a must-read. Henderson’s account of how Florida’s most important parks and ecosystems were preserved and the passionate individuals who made it happen will be an inspiration for those who will write the next chapters of our state’s conservation history.”

Orlando Sentinel:

“Clay Henderson [is] the undisputed expert on land conservation law in Florida:

Mark Lane, Daytona Beach News Journal:

“The book tells the backstory of the Floridians who fought against overdevelopment, sprawl and exploitation of resources to save choice sections of natural Florida.”

Craig Pittman, “Welcome to Florida Podcast”:

“[The book] is a valuable resource that tells the stories about the property we managed to save.”



The Floridas 


Landscape photographer Ian Adams teams up with environmentalist Clay Henderson to explore the many Floridas that rub shoulders and bump heads inside the borders of the Sunshine State.

Two hundred and eighty color photographs, closely supported by Adams’s extended captions and Henderson’s main text, take the reader on a grand tour of Florida’s natural and cultural beauty spots: seashores, springs, forests, wetlands, prairies, gardens, groves, and man-made structures ranging from prehistoric shell mounds to the mansions and roadside attractions of the last century.

Woven into the geographic fabric of the book are Henderson’s authoritative essays on Florida’s geology, hydrology, climate, wildlife, prehistory, history, population growth, immigration patterns, cracker culture, eccentric erections, notable naturalists, and battles royal among developers and environmentalists. Adams joins to every one of his photographs a deeply researched caption calculated to illumine and expand the main text.