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The Force for Natural Florida

John Clark Jones (1932-2010) and Mariana Blach Beebe (1934-2015)

Johnny and Mariana Jones are celebrated for their political foresight, skills and stamina in identifying and preserving more than a million acres of Florida's wild lands and for initiating restoration of the Kissimmee River. They were ardent fishing and wildlife conservationists, enjoyed the outdoors and devoted to protecting public lands and maintaining recreational access to them.

The "Jones team" led a statewide campaign to gain Florida voters' approval to buy "environmentally endangered lands," including the Holey Land and Rotenberger on the northern border of Water Conservation Area 3. The initial Kissimmee River restoration project, which many thought could not be done, is now coming to a successful conclusion. Johnny pushed Florida's Legislature into authorizing Kissimmee River restoration and doggedly pursued its implementation. Today it's "the proof" providing credence to restoration projects throughout the nation, including Florida Everglades.

Johnny and Mariana, grew up in West Palm Beach and were high-school sweethearts. They were married for 61 years and had five children, six grandchildren, five greatgrandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. In 1953, they bought five acres on a dead-end, dirt lane and built their life-long homestead, just north of what is now an intersection of two heavily traveled five-lane roads, Haverhill and Roebuck roads.

It was in their "back yard" that Arthur R. Marshall, then head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Florida, laid out the first Everglades Restoration plan to supporters. The Marshall plan "to repair" the Everglades envisioned re-establishing the slow flow of freshwater south from the Kissimmee River, through Lake Okeechobee into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. To provide flood protection for a rapidly growing area, the flow had been interrupted by construction of the Centeral and South Florida Flood Control Project, which established the Everglades Agricultural Area and three water-conservation areas.

The "Jones team" were strong advocates for the restoration of what author Marjory Stoneman Douglas had called "the River of Grass."

For 16 years (1970-1986) Johnny and Mariana jointly led the Florida Wildlife Federation. Their daughter Diane served as operations manager (1975-1987).

The Joneses continue to receive recognition and accolades for their numerous accomplishments, most recently the naming of the John C. and Mariana Jones Hungry Land Wildlife and Environmental Area, which sprawls across northern Palm Beach and southwestern Martin County.

Johnny Jones was the first inductee into the Florida Wildlife Federation Hall of Fame, created in 1990, and also the first inductee into the Everglades Coalition's Hall of Fame, created in 2003. In 1999, The Palm Beach Post included Johnny among its list of 100 people "who changed the way we live." He met three times with President Carter in the White House. He and Mariana were invited in 1996 to welcome President Clinton at the Palm Beach International Airport. Both were in poor health, and unable to meet with Clinton. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) honored the couple with proclamations for Johnny in 1994, and in 2015 for Mariana, soon after her death.

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Florida governors and others have said:

"Johnny was one of those people who set very high standards... the only person in the world -- in the world -- who thought you could restore the Kissimmee River. He was agile, mobile and hostile in getting others to share his beliefs." -- former Gov. and Sen. Bob Graham on June 16, 2012, at the 75th annual meeting of the Florida Wildlife Federation.

"Generations to come will enjoy countless acres of wild places because he cared." -- former Gov. Charlie Crist, July 10, 2010

"Mariana and Johnny, in the years to come, people will stand along the banks or perhaps canoe an oxbow of the Kissimmee and credit the foresight of those who were so bold as to insist on a higher level of environmental achievement... no two people deserve more credit." -- the late Gov. and Sen. Lawton Chiles, April 13, 1994

"Johnny Jones is indefatigable." -- the late Gov. Reuben Askew, 1973

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"Few people have left such a large, favorable mark on Florida... every time I drive that 10 mile stretch of the Turnpike that runs through Three Lakes Ranch, I look out the window and think 'Johnny saved this for us'... But, there is hardly a sign to tell them what wonderful place it is, much less to indicate how the persistence of one man succeeded in saving it. - We would not be seeing or even be talking about restoring the Everglades without the things Johnny was able to accomplish. He was a leader and mentor for all of us." - Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida, July 16, 2010

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Follow the links below to read more about John Clark Jones and Mariana Blach Beebe:



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Last updated: 12 October, 2017 @ 09:53 AM(KP)