A welcome from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas (BBA) is an enormous accomplishment and a tribute to the passion and energy of Florida's birdwatchers. I know the atlas well, because I had the pleasure to help coordinate some administrative components of the project, I participated in the project as an atlaser, and I contributed to the species accounts. I worked, discussed, and occasionally argued aspects of the project with Herb Kale and have worked with Herb's successors, who have invested themselves tirelessly into the final product. There is no one more pleased than me to see this monumental work completed!
With that said, I feel I owe each of you who participated in the project, or who will use the fruits of this effort in your research, a few words of explanation. First, this product is obviously much delayed. Certainly Herb Kale's untimely death set back completion of the project, but even a loss that large does not fully explain the amount of time that has passed. There were many other contributing factors, but the most significant, frankly, was me. The decisions to undertake quality checks of the atlas data and to reformat species accounts for consistency were mine. Collectively, those decisions added several years to the production time. While I would make those same decisions again today, I do wish I had been able to bring those facets of the project to a close sooner. I apologize for my part in the delay.
The second point of explanation relates to the format of this final product. Those who conceived Florida's BBA project envisioned the final product as a hardcover book. Unfortunately, even after considerable work to reformat the original drafts, our prospective publisher determined that the species accounts were too dissimilar in their complexity and rigor to pass scientific muster. Based on input from several key people with ties to this project, and after consultation with Florida Audubon, it was decided not to delay the final product further by massively revamping the accounts. Instead, we opted to make what we had - as is - available in electronic format.
While there are certainly disadvantages to the electronic medium, there are also many advantages. Perhaps most important, our incorporation of a custom search engine on the website now enables anyone to search and extract atlas data in ways they find most useful. I hope this feature offsets the disappointment that some of us may feel in not having a book for the shelf.
All the setbacks and delays should not lessen the sense of accomplishment that project participants ought to feel. Florida's BBA project posed unique challenges, many of which Herb addresses in his introductory chapter. Florida's birdwatchers persevered and delivered a wealth of data that will fuel ornithological research in Florida for years to come. My thanks and congratulations to you all!
Chief, Bureau of Wildlife Diversity and Conservation
23 August 2002