Gary Knight Named 2013 McCluskey Fellow

Gary Knight
Image: FNAI
Since the mid-1980s, the state of Florida has acquired roughly 2.75 million acres of land for environmental purposes, conserving large pieces of critical property from the state’s western panhandle to its iconic Keys.
Gary Knight, the 2013 Dorothy S. McCluskey Visiting Fellow in Conservation at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES), says with pride that he’s had a hand in protecting much of that land.
During his career, including the last 18 years as director of the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), Knight has helped document the state’s rich biodiversity, producing an inventory of the state’s natural resources and identifying which pieces of land most urgently require protection.
For decades, these data have been a critical factor in convincing lawmakers, and the general public, to make conservation a state priority.
“Protection of the environment is so important to tourism in Florida, and tourism is such an important part of the economy, so it’s not such a hard sell,” Knight says. “Getting any legislature to spend $300 million a year for 20 years is not an easy effort, but the state has a long history of buying the most ecologically important property, so the public sees they are getting good conservation value for that investment.”
Getting any legislature to spend $300 million a year for 20 years is not an easy effort, but Florida has a long history of buying the most ecologically important property.
— Gary Knight
In addition to providing the information that helps guide conservation priorities and appropriate development statewide, FNAI works with land managers statewide to assure they are effective stewards, and publishes an annual “Conservation Needs Assessment” analysis of Florida’s natural resource conservation priorities.
During his semester at F&ES, Knight wants to explore ways to more effectively measure the successes of conservation and land management — and more clearly illustrate the importance of conservation to the general public.
“Being able to report those numbers, even the very precise numbers, is useful and helpful, but I feel like we ought to be able to do more,” Knight says. “So what I hope to do while I’m at Yale is evaluate and develop new approaches to measure conservation success in Florida — hopefully in ways that can be applied in other places, as well.”
“We are delighted to welcome Gary as the McCluskey Fellow for the fall term.  He is the exactly the type of seasoned conservation practitioner that Dorothy envisioned bringing to Yale F&ES to share their professional experiences with faculty and students, and to have an opportunity to step back from their busy careers and explore new ideas and fresh approaches,” said Sir Peter Crane, Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.
The McCluskey Fellowship allows scientists and managers from nonprofit organizations to pursue academic studies or research at F&ES. Previous Fellows have included Nobel Peace Prize recipients Rajendra Pachauri, chairperson of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the late Wangari Maathi, founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement.
– Kevin Dennehy    203 436-4842
PUBLISHED: September 3, 2013
Note: Yale School of the Environment (YSE) was formerly known as the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES). News articles posted prior to July 1, 2020, refer to the School's name at that time.