ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.— The Center for Biological Diversity announced today that Elise Bennett has been promoted to the position of Florida director.
Bennett, a born-and-raised Floridian who has worked as an attorney at the Center since 2016, will oversee the Center’s conservation work in the state, including recovering endangered species and reducing the water pollution that fuels green algae blooms and red tides.
“It’s such a huge honor to continue working with the countless Floridians who throw their hearts into protecting the wild and natural wonders of this place we love,” said Bennett. “Growing up here I saw firsthand how quickly we can lose our unique wildlife and the places they live to unchecked sprawl and water pollution if we don’t fight for them day after day. I’m committed to that fight.”
She fills the position held for the past decade by Jaclyn Lopez, who is leaving the Center to establish a law clinic focused on democracy and the environment at Stetson University College of Law.
“We’re fortunate to have someone as talented as Elise to step in and continue the ground-breaking legal work and coalition-building that has made Jacki one of the leading conservation voices in Florida,” said Peter Galvin, director of programs at the Center. “We look forward to working closely with Jacki in her pioneering venture to build the next generation of conservation attorneys.”
Bennett spent her early years exploring the state’s forests, wetlands, lakes and coasts. Her love of wild Florida inspired her to become an environmental advocate.
Bennett holds a law degree and a certificate of concentration in environmental law from Stetson University College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and policy from the University of South Florida. Before joining the Center, she served as a judicial staff attorney in Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit while working pro bono to pursue international recognition for the Okefenokee Swamp.
Lopez will become the founding director of the Dick and Joan Jacobs Public Interest Law Clinic for Democracy and the Environment at Stetson University College of Law.
“Working on the front lines of conservation at the Center taught me that a healthy environment depends on a healthy democracy,” said Lopez, who will also serve as an assistant professor of law at the law school. “The clinic will provide hands-on, in-the-trenches education for law students as we defend democracy and explore the strategies that will help define how to best protect wild Florida for generations to come. Conservation partners like the Center will be integral to succeeding in that fight.”