News From the National Audubon Society.
TogetherGreen, a new initiative created by Audubon with support from Toyota, is giving grants totaling $1.4 million to 41 projects in 24 states. These funds—the first awarded for the five-year, $20 million initiative—support proposals that address local environmental problems and engage residents. The TogetherGreen projects may seem small, but they can make a significant difference, says John Flicker, National Audubon’s president. “We can solve our biggest environmental problems by beginning in our communities.”
Dredging Up Solutions
One TogetherGreen grant is poised to help conserve Louisiana’s marshes, which are disappearing at the rate of 10,000 acres a year. “Many people in southern Louisiana feel most comfortable on a boat in the marsh,” says Melanie Driscoll, the director of bird conservation for Audubon’s Gulf Coast Initiative, the lead group of more than a half-dozen focused on the project. “They’re losing their homes, their marsh, and their playground.” One solution is to dredge mud from the bottom of canals and pile it onto adjacent sinking marshland, but maneuvering dredge barges through narrow canals is costly and difficult. The TogetherGreen funds are earmarked toward building an affordable mini dredge that can be towed behind a pontoon boat. The machine will be used in wildlife sanctuaries first; later it will be available to landowners who occupy sinking marsh properties.
On any given morning during migration season, an unfortunate sight is all too common in Minnesota’s Twin Cities: dead birds littering the sidewalk outside skyscrapers. Minneapolis and St. Paul sit smack in the middle of the flyway that connects Canada’s boreal forests to the U.S. Gulf Coast. As birds, particularly songbirds, make their way south, exterior lights illuminated at night cause them to crash into buildings or to circle confusedly till dawn. Since volunteers began monitoring these collisions in 2007, they’ve collected birds from more than 80 species. Now a program dedicated to convincing building managers to flip the switch at night during migration season will expand its efforts with a TogetherGreen grant. “We’re not saying people should stop using glass or take their buildings down,” says Mark Martell, Audubon Minnesota’s director of bird conservation. “We’re just saying, after midnight, turn your lights off.”
Let It Rain
In Pittsburgh even minor downpours can cause aging sewer lines to overflow into creeks and rivers, resulting in fish kills and public health advisories. A TogetherGreen grant will help homeowners funnel rainwater from roofs and driveways to native-plant gardens, each of which can keep as much as 500 gallons of water out of the sewer system during a typical storm. Working with groups like the Pennsylvania Environmental Council and 3 Rivers Wet Weather, the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania plans to plant 150 gardens this year and build a website that offers support for residents who want to build their own.
A group of Denver middle schoolers are about to learn firsthand how to save electricity by designing and implementing projects that could cut annual energy use in their schools by about 80,000 kilowatt-hours, or 20 percent. Energy industry leaders will lend students their know-how, and green businesses and organizations will host an environmental career day. Audubon Colorado and FrontRange Earth Force will administer the curriculum.
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