Victory at Sea
It's been a four-year fight, but Audubon can now celebrate a major victory. In August, Norman Y. Mineta, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, proposed that more than 1,500 square miles of Delaware Bay be set aside as a horseshoe crab preserve--good news for both horseshoe crabs and the migratory birds that eat the crabs' eggs each spring.
The announcement follows proposed federal and state regulations meant to stem the overfishing of the bay's plummeting horseshoe crab population. Audubon had already convinced governors in the Atlantic coastal states to reduce their catches or declare moratoriums. Virginia, however, remained a stubborn holdout and continued to allow fishermen from surrounding states to land their catch in the state.
Virginia's intransigence, plus pressure from a coalition of the National Audubon Society, state offices, and local chapters, forced the federal government's hand. In particular, New Jersey Audubon, Delaware Audubon, and Richmond [Virginia] Audubon were active on this issue. "All participated in the process of going to hearings and contacting government officials in their states," says Perry Plumart, senior policy analyst for the NAS.
The preserve would ensure a critical food source for migratory shorebirds, such as red knots, ruddy turnstones, and sanderlings. Each spring the crabs' eggs sustain these birds on their migration to their Arctic breeding grounds.
Audubon's persistence has won plaudits from federal and state officeholders. "We appreciated the support and initiative from both the National Audubon Society and the Delaware Audubon Society," says Delaware Governor Thomas R. Carper. "They have been strong partners and have exhibited real leadership in making this horseshoe crab preserve a reality."
Building Partnerships For Nature
A new kind of environmental classroom is rising along the banks of the Dungeness River, on Washington's rugged Olympic Peninsula. In fact, some educators are touting the Dungeness River Audubon Center as a blueprint for the future. The new center has united Audubon, the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, and the Rainshadow Natural Science Foundation in what Woody Wheeler, director of Audubon centers in Washington State, calls a "dynamic, exciting partnership."
None of this would have happened if not for the gritty determination of volunteers from Olympic Peninsula Audubon, who began teaching environmental classes in a local history museum almost 20 years ago. In 1997, after several attempts to land a more permanent location in a local park fell through, Audubon joined with the S'Klallam and the Rainshadow Foundation to create a collaborative nature center on tribal property along the Dungeness River. Drawing from federal, state, and private-sector grants earmarked specifically for the new center, the three groups have since pooled their resources to obtain 20 additional acres of riverfront land and will eventually hire a full-time environmental educator. "It's an ideal situation because we come from diverse backgrounds, which all meld together," says Annette Hanson, president of the Rainshadow Foundation.
The new interpretive center, due to be completed in November, will showcase the unique interests of each group. Audubon will head environmental education; the S'Klallam will promote awareness of their heritage and the importance of salmon conservation; and the Rainshadow Foundation will focus on advancing a better understanding of the region's natural history. "Each group brings resources which will help in the center's long-term success," says Wheeler.
The Low-Rent Birder
Hunched behind a spotting scope, his eyes turned toward the sky, the Pete Dunne of today is not far removed from the 24-year-old kid who first landed in Cape May, New Jersey, more than two decades ago. As a cold October wind sweeps across the hawk-watching platform, Dunne raises his head to yell, "There's a harrier just over the cedars."
Since the age of seven, Dunne has been hooked on birding. Today, as the director of the New Jersey Audubon Society's Cape May Bird Observatory, the vice-president of New Jersey Audubon's natural history division, and the author of several books about birding, he never has as much time for scanning the skies as he would like.
Dunne's passion for the environment, embodied in his writing and his nature walks, has opened the window of birding for many nature enthusiasts. And the very hawk-observation platform he's standing on is just one result of the years he has spent working at the Cape May Bird Observatory, a division of the New Jersey Audubon Society.
It was a twist of fate that brought Dunne to Cape May in 1976. After only six days studying ornithology at the University of Alaska, he decided that he wanted to pursue his interest in birds in a less traditional manner. While searching for an alternative plan, he visited Pennsylvania's Hawk Mountain for the first time. "It boggled my mind that you could view birds of prey with such intimacy," he says. "I didn't know how to make it happen, but I knew for the rest of my life I was going to be watching hawks."
The next year Dunne visited Cape May for the first time. He discovered that it, too, was the site of a spectacular hawk migration. The following fall he built a four-foot plywood platform and stood on top of it for three months. People thought he was crazy. But he was only counting the 49,000 migrating hawks soaring the Atlantic flyway over Cape May, "about twice Hawk Mountain's annual average," he says. Plenty of people doubted his count. The following fall, when the hawks again passed through Cape May, the pressure was high. Birders came from all over to see if Dunne was inventing his numbers. "I was on trial," Dunne says with a laugh. The final tally for the fall of 1977 was a stunning 81,000 hawks.
After only one year of counting hawks, Dunne was on the receiving end of another stroke of good fortune: He became director of the Cape May Bird Observatory. For the next 10 years he worked 10- to 12-hour days promoting Cape May and fostering the growth of the bird observatory. His work has paid off. Cape May is renowned as one of the best birding spots in the country, and New Jersey Audubon's membership has swelled to about 20,000 today, up from an estimated 5,000 in 1975.
Now the Cape May Bird Observatory is a $1.5 million research and education center overlooking a tributary of Delaware Bay. Its central offices are located on 28 acres of New Jersey Audubon land in Goshen, 17 miles north of Cape May Point State Park, where the new hawk-watching platform--an elaborate wooden maze capable of holding several hundred people--sits in place of Dunne's original platform.
Not only has Dunne busied himself with the bird observatory and New Jersey Audubon Society, he has also become a much-sought-after public speaker and author. Among his books are Wind Masters and The Feather Quest. He has also published countless magazine articles and once wrote a birding column for the New Jersey Sunday section of The New York Times. He is currently at work on a how-to book for beginning birders. "When I'm writing I want to flip levers in people's minds," he says. "We all use the tools we have and apply them to the objectives that we find most important and compelling. Writing is a means; conservation is an end.
--Rene S. Ebersole
Since 1954, visitors to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, an 11,000-acre preserve in south Florida, have marveled at its wild marshes and woods, not to mention its black bears, alligators, and more than 200 species of birds. On December 2, the new Blair Audubon Education Center will open. The "stealth" building, designed to blend in with the landscape, will feature state-of-the-art exhibits and interactive programs. The sanctuary is located northeast of Naples, on Highway 846. For information, call 941-348-9151.
This past September, Terry Austin, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and a former Air Force aviator, took over as executive director of the Texas Audubon Society. Austin, a lifelong conservationist, previously held positions with Trout Unlimited, the National Forest Foundation, and the National Science Teachers Association. Comparing his early days in the Air Force with his new penchant for birdwatching, Austin notes, "I'm still watching things fly."
It Takes a PLANet to Save One
Americans who care about the environment know that its sustainability is intimately connected to the health and well-being of the world's population. This connection has led the National Audubon Society's 15-year-old Population & Habitat Program to join forces with five other groups to form PLANet, a coalition dedicated to family planning and world health.
The links between population growth and environmental impact are both obvious and not so obvious. According to data compiled by Population Action International, one of the members of the PLANet coalition, "More than 1.1 billion people live in areas that conservationists consider the most rich in nonhuman species and the most threatened by human activities."
Kristin Fuhrmann, Audubon's project coordinator, describes PLANet as "a collaborative effort . . . to educate Americans, to show them that international family planning is a critical link in addressing the issues that they care about, including improving the health of women, children, and the environment."
"This campaign will help Americans make the connections between these issues," says Dianne Sherman, a spokesperson for Save the Children, another member of PLANet. "And Audubon brings the environmental link." Family-planning decisions have a direct impact on the environment. Global population has surpassed 6 billion people--exacerbating bird and wildlife habitat loss, which is now occurring at unprecedented levels.
PLANet will take a multifaceted approach to its mission of educating Americans about international family-planning issues. Organizers are already traveling through U.S. cities, meeting with civic leaders and generating grassroots support through media and educational activities. These include religious workshops "on the connection between population and environment from a spiritual focus," Fuhrmann says. PLANet will also offer traveling interactive exhibits scaled to a variety of venues, from science museums to zoos to libraries.
Ken Strom, senior adviser to Audubon's Population & Habitat Program, under whose auspices PLANet is being launched, says his program "has long been committed to addressing the global issues of population and environment. We see this as a critical aspect of serving Audubon's mission of conserving and restoring natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife, for the benefit of humanity and earth's biological diversity."
Additional PLANet participants are CARE, the Communications Consortium Media Center, and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Funding is from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Birds on the Brain
A few days ago, eager to learn the results of Audubon's biggest fund-raiser of the year--and the world's largest competitive birding event--I climbed to the sixth floor of Audubon House, in New York City, where I squeezed into the small office of Birdathon director Jeffrey Folmer. He's the man who brings "powerbirding" to the masses.
Q: So, Jeff, how was Birdathon 2000?
A: Fantastic! Seventy-eight chapters and more than 30,000 'thoners participated. Guess how much money was raised?
Q: I don't have a clue.
A: More than $1 million.
Q:Wow, heavy moola. Where does that money go?
A: The beauty of it is that chapters keep 50 percent of the money that's raised, and when individual 'thoners sign up their sponsors, they can earmark the other 50 percent for specific programs they want to support, like sanctuaries, wetlands, forests, and bird habitat. It's the most fun you'll have saving the planet.
Q: So it's just like a walkathon, then?
A: Exactly! And for the first time in Birdathon history, we invited the general public--we're raising the profile of Birdathon.
Q: Which chapter raised the most money?
A: Tahoma Audubon came in first, with $14,334 raised, and was also first in the Most Birdathoners and Most Sponsors categories.
Q: Well done, Tahoma! Were there any individual awards?
A: Ann-Francis Ford of Florida Keys Audubon raked in $5,000 and won the Most Money Raised by an Individual title. The top Rookie Birdathoner was Jeff Beane of Wake Audubon in North Carolina; he netted a nifty $1,305.80. Oh, and I have to tell you this: The Audubon Society of Central Oklahoma saw the most bird species: a whopping 240!
Q: Is it true that every Birdathoner is eligible to win fabulous prizes this year?
A: You mean like a 14-day eco-cruise to Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent, or a trip for two to the Bay of Fundy? Or how about Alaska? Or Costa Rica? Then there are binoculars, cameras, watches . . .
Q: I'm inspired! I want to help save the planet--not to mention maybe win a trip. When and where is Birdathon 2001?
A: Peak migration season, early spring through the end of June, around the country, wherever there are birds.
Q: How can I participate? I'm a fledgling.
That night as I lay in bed dreaming, a magnificent great egret kept whispering to me: Birdathon . . . Birdathon . . . Birdathon.
October-November 5: Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA. See more than 80 of the best new wildlife photographs, all of them winners in the annual British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (213-763-3466; www.nhm.org).
October 30-December 1: Canyon Ferry Bald Eagle Viewing Program, Helena, MT. View the nearly 1,000 eagles that pass through Canyon Ferry as they migrate from Canada to their wintering grounds in Utah and Colorado. The program includes displays and information about eagle ecology. Canyon Ferry Visitor Center (406-475-3319).
November 2: Bird Feeding Basics, Pisgah National Forest, NC. Sy Desloges, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited stores, will present this program to answer all your questions about bird feeding. Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education (828-877-4423; http://pisgah.state.nc.us).
November 3-5: Fourth Annual Wings Over Water Festival, Outer Banks, NC. Field trips, workshops, seminars, games, and critter calls. Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce (252-441-8144; www.northeast-nc.com/wings).
November 4-5: 17th Annual Tundra Swan Watch, Winona, MN. Interpretive presentation and viewing of tundra swans. Winona Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-657-4972).
November 4, 5, 8, 11, 12: 9th Annual Christmas at Presqu'ile, Brighton, ON. Quality arts and crafts show with proceeds benefiting the park. Free admission to the park. Friends of Presqu'ile (613-475-4324; www.friendsofpresquile.on.ca/).
November 6: Book Reading, New York, NY. Readings by nature writers Barry Lopez and Terry Tempest Williams. 92nd Street Y, Unterberg Poetry Center (212-996-1100; www.92ndsty.org).
November 8-12: Seventh Annual Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, Harlingen, TX. Set in one of the world's top birding areas, and featuring guided field trips, expert seminars, an art show, and workshops. Harlingen Chamber of Commerce (800-531-7346).
November 10-12: Waterfowl Festival, Easton MD. More than 400 of the nation's finest wildlife artists and craftspeople, exhibits, retriever and flyfishing demonstrations (410-822-4567; www.waterfowlfestival.org).
November 10-12: Alaska Bald Eagle Festival, Haines, AK. Program includes international speakers, nature excursions, wildlife art, slide programs, and live bird presentations. Haines Chamber of Commerce (907-766-2202; www.haineschamber.org).
November 16-19: 13th Annual Festival of the Cranes, Socorro, NM. Celebrate the arrival of thousands of sandhill cranes with workshops, tours, exhibits, and demonstrations. Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (505-835-1828).
November 17-18: Grassbanks in the West: Challenges and Opportunities, Santa Fe, NM. A two-day conference discussing grass banks and how they meet the needs of cattle ranchers, environmentalists, and federal land managers. Fee and limited space. The Quivira Coalition (505-820-2544; www.quiviracoalition.org).
November 17-19: 5th Annual Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival, Thomasville, GA. More than 50 well-known artists from across the country, field-dog trials, woodcarving, wild-game cooking, and bird of prey demonstrations. Thomasville Cultural Center (912-226-0588).
November 18-26: Waterfowl Week, Chincoteague, VA. Celebrate the marvel of migration with guided walks, auditorium programs, and drives on the Wildlife Loop. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (757-336-6122).
© 2000 NASI
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