Ernie’s passion for the environment is rooted in the dirt trails and woods along the northwest fork of the Loxahatchee River, “in the middle of nowhere” back in the early 1970s, where he and his family rode and raced off-road motorcycles. Beyond riding as fast and as often as possible through the woods, time was spent on the water - makeshift rope swings, boats, canoes and rafts - catching crabs, eating fish caught off the dock, and learning about Florida’s plants and wildlife (mostly through osmosis). Jonathan Dickenson State Park was just a few miles away and Trapper Nelson’s place further upriver was a place of exploration and legend, much scarier at night, not that anyone ever snuck up there then.
Racing became a greater passion and plans were made to turn pro on his 15th birthday - plans interrupted by a Sunday morning crash at the motocross track in Clewiston. A run in with a fence post on the front stretch resulted in a severe spinal cord injury. While he was back on a motorcycle as soon as all the braces were off, recovery took time, learning to walk again, switching from right-handed to left-handed and ultimately accepting that his racing career was over. “The Good Lord decided I should not be a motorcycle racer,” Ernie says. “Looking back today, although I would not recommend this path for others, I wouldn’t change the outcome for anything. I have been and continue to be truly blessed.”
His family taught him lessons by example. His parents believed in service and involvement, which resulted in their founding of the Junior Trail Riders motorcycle club back in the 1970’s for kids ages 7 to 16. Run by the kids with adult advisors, the club competed in races, held meetings, created trails, promoted races and instilled in Ernie and the other young riders the importance of family, community, hard work, responsibility, mentoring, winning and losing with sportsmanship – all while having lots of fun with great friends.
After graduating from Jupiter High School, Ernie went to the University of Florida, earning a Bachelor of Science in Geology and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and then later a Law Degree with honors. To be honest, at UF he really majored in fraternity and campus leadership, along the way becoming a Student Senator, President of Pi Kappa Alpha and then in law school President of Florida Blue Key and a member of the University of Florida Student Hall of Fame.
The most important outcome of his time in Gainesville was meeting his wife Mary. Together they are a great team, having raised four incredible kids, helping support Jupiter High School athletic programs and facilities and making a positive impact in their community.
As a practicing attorney for more than 15 years with the prestigious Gunster law firm, Ernie represented clients in a wide variety of commercial, eminent domain, land use and environmental matters. He then transitioned to large and complex environmental, land use, conservation and sustainable development projects as a shareholder in the firm. He chaired the firm’s Conservation, Stewardship and Rural Development group, helped to develop Florida’s Rural Land Stewardship Program and was part of the team that created Babcock Ranch.
Meeting Bud Adams and nature photographer Carlton Ward at Adams Ranch in Ft. Pierce, working to preserve that iconic Florida landscape with great partners, along with other conservation projects such as the Lost Tree Village Islands and Babcock Ranch, led to a major professional change. Family Lands Remembered, LLC was founded in 2006 to focus on innovative conservation and environmental protection, sustainable agriculture and development in the right places and done the right way. The firm is loosely named in homage to the beloved historical fiction novel, A Land Remembered, written by Patrick D. Smith, which covers a hundred-year history of “Old Florida" from 1858 to 1968. For Ernie it speaks to the need to make different decisions in order to have different outcomes.
Through Family Lands Remembered, Ernie has tried to combine his knowledge of and love for Florida with his legal background, creativity and passion for making a difference. The result is a strategic consulting company focused on the protection of Florida’s environmental, cultural and agricultural resources, with economic development and creative public-private partnerships.
The firm works with farmers, ranchers, foresters, other landowners, governments, conservation organizations, citizen activists and others to create and implement plans for large-scale conservation, sustainable development and innovative water resources.
Some of the firm’s conservation projects include Hatchineha Ranch, which established the Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife National Refuge and Conservation Area, and Green Heart of the Everglades.
Creative conservation and sustainable development projects include the 91,000-acre Babcock Ranch in Charlotte and Lee Counties and the 70,000-acre Farmton-Deering Park in Brevard and Volusia Counties.
Innovative water resource projects include the C-51 Reservoir in South Florida and the 4G Ranch Beneficial Reuse Project in Pasco County.
Ernie’s involvement with the Florida Wildlife Corridor from the earliest corridor expedition, service with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission Cooperative Conservation Blueprint and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Landscape Conservation Cooperative, and the creation and ongoing production of the Florida Ranches Calendar are other examples of his commitment to the big picture and efforts to protect and enhance Florida’s lands and waters.
Mentorship is another key focus for Ernie. Throughout the state and nation are folks who have been mentored by Ernie somehow, through Gunster, Family Lands Remembered, Jupiter High School or the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity where he currently serves as House Corporation President. Having had many great mentors himself, Ernie tries to emulate their example. Family Lands Remembered has an active mentorship program as well, providing an opportunity for real world experience and a chance to make a positive difference working on projects and initiatives.
Growing up in Jupiter, FL, Patrick has seen firsthand the effects that climate change can have on an environment. An avid diver in his youth, Patrick saw changes in his local coral reefs, and this has inspired him to protect and conserve our natural ecosystems, for those who will dive the reef in the future. Along this path, he has participated in political campaigns and environmental research, shaping his understanding of the systems, both natural and manmade, which our world thrives on.
Patrick has a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from Florida State University, and a Master of Public Administration degree from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where he specialized in corporate sustainability and environmental, social and governance (ESG) finance.
He is Vice President of the Columbia MPA-ESP Alumni Association, and a longtime supporter of the Real Madrid football club.
Anne Cox PhD
From her years of racing motorcycles cross-country with her husband and three children all over the state, Anne Cox knows the Florida landscape from a very intimate perspective. First with the Florida Trail Riders and then with the Junior Trail Riders Club that she and her husband founded for young people, Anne and her family were in the woods every weekend, exploring back trails and learning about the landscape they all came to love.
Anne earned a Master’s degree from Florida Atlantic University and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Florida International University while working with environmental groups including the Pine Jog Environmental Sciences Center at FAU, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Florida Park Service at Jonathan Dickinson State Park. Her doctoral dissertation was the study of the reproductive biology of two Florida Pawpaws, one of them a federally endangered native species. Even now, Anne agrees with a bumper sticker she used to sport: “I’d rather be Pawpaw Hunting!”
The company Anne founded, Ecolo-G Inc., is a private woman-owned corporation committed to providing quality services in environmental consulting, ecological research, habitat restoration and ecotourism. It provides a range of ecological services including field research, environmental project management, data analysis and technical report writing.
Both as a volunteer and a plant ecologist, Anne has been active with the Florida Native Plant Society for nearly 40 years, serving as President of the organization and its 4,000 members throughout the state. In environmental circles, she is known as the go-to person for native plant care and selection.
Anne now serves as Plant Ecologist for Family Lands Remembered, where she consults on native plant restoration, vegetation assessments in native plant communities, native plant selection for urban and residential areas, and ecological and biological research support.
Crediting the mentors who urged her to further her education, Anne returns that favor by encouraging young people to become interested in their environment and environmental issues. A grandmother of ten and an advocate for youth, she is likely to have a group of students with her when she attends environmental meetings so they can develop the passion she feels about the world around us. Some of her “kids” have themselves gone on to earn Master’s and Ph.D.’s in Ecology.
Dr. Anne Cox has an extensive record of publications, and her client list reads like a Who’s Who in Florida environmental efforts.