By Rene S. Ebersole
Northern spotted owls can continue to nest undisturbed. And residents can happily continue to sip Seattle’s drinking water. Last summer Seattle-area Audubon chapters teamed up with the Pacific Crest Biodiversity Project and convinced the city not to log its watershed. The city council even approved a plan to decommission 40 percent of the roads within the watershed to reduce sediment load to streams. Now the area is a model for the rest of the nation’s public watersheds.
The Cedar River Watershed, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, provides drinking water to most of Seattle’s residents as well as 90,000 acres of old-growth forest habitat.
Schoolchildren in montana are learning spanish words and songs, tasting Mexican foods, painting pictures of their favorite migratory birds, and writing letters to their pen pals in Mexico. Similarly, children in Mexico are learning about life in the United States and the birds the two countries have in common. "Effective conservation begins with education," says Bob Petty, education coordinator for Montana Audubon. "If we are going to stem the decline of migratory birds, we have to work in partnership with our Latin American neighbors."
Now in its second year, Montana Audubon’s Birds Beyond Borders program links 30 classrooms in Montana with an equal number in Oaxaca, Mexico, reaching a total of 1,200 students. The program teaches the children about birds, conservation, and cultural awareness. It also offers a teacher exchange and the Songbird Kit, a collection of educational tools (see box).
"We have three feeders at our school," says Cheryl George, whose class in a school near Deer Lodge, Montana, joined the program last year. "When the birds come to the feeders, the kids jump up out of their seats to go to the window."
The children particularly enjoy writing to pen pals at their sister
schools. "The first few letters are generally about the birds they love,
the birds they see, why they care about them, and drawings," says Margaret
Manning, Bob Petty’s wife and the teacher who, with Petty, helped start
the program. "Toward the end of the year they are writing about how they
are going to protect
It was in their living room six years ago that Bob Petty and Margaret
Manning pieced together a blueprint for the Songbird Kit, with help from
their biologist friends. Today the colorful treasure chest, brimming with
activities, curriculum, and research projects for students in kindergarten
through fifth grade, is distributed to schools in more than 30 U.S. states.
And it has been adapted for schools in Mexico. The cost of a Songbird Kit
(which several teachers can share) is $600. For more information
Audubon and the environmental movement lost one of their finest ambassadors
when Hazel Wolf died peaceably on January 19, 2000, two months shy of her
102nd birthday and moments after telling her granddaughter, "Don’t weep
over me." With her trademark grace and humor, Wolf spent her life fighting
for the environmental protection of the poor, organized the first Indian
Her understanding of environmental politics verged on the clairvoyant, and her fierce bemusement so disarmed her adversaries that she was able to achieve more in a century than most could in two. Wolf’s goal was to live in three centuries, "Then I’m going," she said. And, in perfect Hazel Wolf style, she did.
Wolf was born in Victoria, British Columbia, on March 10, 1898, and showed her mettle early by fighting her school principal for the right to play soccer with the boys. "I loved to run and be outdoors," she said. "I hated sitting still and doing things girls were supposed to do, like sewing."
In 1923 Wolf moved to Seattle with her young daughter. A single mother, she lived on welfare in a downtown boarding house and worked as a union organizer. She joined the Communist Party because it promoted a new concept called unemployment insurance. Eventually she became a Democrat and took a job as the legal secretary for Seattle civil-rights attorney John Caughlan.
In 1962 a friend talked Wolf into joining the Audubon Society’s Seattle chapter. Environmentalism hit home when she spotted her first brown creeper. "He worked so hard for a living," Wolf recalled, "hopping up and down that log looking for supper." Inspired, she threw herself into both birding and its requisite conservation. She served as secretary of the Seattle Audubon Society for nearly 40 years and founded 22 Audubon chapters. In 1990 she even met with a Soviet delegation to lay the groundwork for the first Leningrad Audubon Society.
It’s anyone’s guess how many people Wolf inspired to join the Audubon Society. Her secret: Just ask. "I asked the last two people who interviewed me on the radio to join, and they did," she recalled. "Why, I could organize the whole country if they’d set me loose!"
Always fusing conservation with politics, Wolf took naturally to environmental
justice. "The environmental community is almost 100 percent white and middle-class,"
she explained. "But it’s the low-income neighborhoods where toxic landfills
and incinerators are found. So we’re lobbying for the enforcement of current
antipollution laws and pushing for stronger ones." A passionate hiker,
camper, and kayaker–activities she continued through her late 90s–Wolf
was also a great traveler and visited
Besides living to see the 21st century, Wolf’s goal was to be arrested again. "The first time was for conspiring to overthrow the government by force of violence," she said with a raised eyebrow. "That was during the McCarthy period. I only got to stay in jail half a day because my friends bailed me out. I was doing a jigsaw puzzle when they showed up. I was so disappointed because I always wanted to be in jail so I could do jigsaw puzzles. So I keep hoping to get arrested for something else."
She probably would have a few months ago if she hadn’t broken a hip. "I really wanted to join the World Trade Organization protests," she told friends in her 1999 Christmas letter. As always, Hazel was thinking about the future.
In that spirit, her family has requested that donations in her memory
be sent to the Kids for the Environment Fund, set up in her honor on her
100th birthday, care of the Seattle Audubon Society, 8050 35th Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98115. –Jessica Maxwell
© 2000 NASI
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