Karen Ahlers named Executive Director of Florida Defenders of the Environment


June 12, 2014

Melrose, FL – Florida Defenders of the Environment has named Karen Ahlers Executive Director of the non-profit research organization. FDE board president Steve Robitaille has been interim executive director since October 2013.

Robitaille noted Ahlers is a life long champion of Ocklawaha River restoration since witnessing as a child the destruction wrought by the Cross Florida Barge Canal project.  FDE was founded in Gainesville in 1969 by Marjorie Harris Carr in an effort to halt the canal project.

Former Florida governor Buddy MacKay said, “Like Marjorie Carr, Karen is knowledgeable, totally fearless, with a passionate concern for Florida’s environment. Her selection is great news. I look forward to a revitalization of FDE.”

As FDE’s Ocklawaha Restoration Coordinator Ahlers has led the charge to protect the river from massive water withdrawals and to minimize nutrient pollution from the proposed 30,000 acre Adena Springs Ranch grass fed beef operation in the Ocklawaha Basin and Silver Springs springshed.

“Florida’s water resources are under tremendous pressure and I can think of no better place to fight for their protection and restoration than FDE,” Ahlers said.   “The foundation laid by Marjorie Harris Carr is still strong with many seasoned environmental warriors ready to step up and be counted.”

A Putnam County native, Ahlers earned statewide recognition for the Putnam County Environmental Council where she served nine terms as president.  Her Rally for the Rivers events brought participants from all over Florida to celebrate the state’s natural resources and focus on the continued existence of the detrimental dam on the Ocklawaha.  Sandra Kokernoot, founder of Putnam County Environmental Council and former FDE board member, praised Ahlers for her organizing skills and her will to take on enormous challenges. “She made Putnam County Environmental Council one of the leading voices for protecting water resources in Florida,” Kokernoot said.

“Karen has been a long time and effective advocate for restoring the free flowing Ocklawaha River and preserving the purity and quantities of Florida’s natural water sheds,” said Joseph Little, FDE vice president. “She knows and is respected by all the players on both sides of the issues and assumes the role of executive director with no need for orientation.  FDE’s executive committee is pleased that she has agreed to undertake this role.”

“It has been a privilege to serve as interim executive director, and in that capacity my respect and trust in Karen Ahlers as an environmental leader and steward continued to grow,” Robitaille said.

She is the ideal person to carry on the legacy entrusted to us by Marjorie Carr, and I look forward to working with her, the board and our members in the months and years ahead,” he added.