By Tim Manns
For new members or other readers just wondering what Audubon is about, let me say a little concerning the role conservation advocacy plays in Audubon. This is a national organization with almost 500 chapters, each an independent non-profit. The mission of our chapter, Skagit Audubon, appears in every newsletter issue. It’s very similar to the mission of every other Audubon chapter. National Audubon says that chapters “… enable Audubon members and others to meet and share an appreciation of their common interests. They create a culture of conservation in local communities through education and advocacy, focusing on the conservation of birds, other wildlife and conservation of important habitats.” Birding field trips and recreational hikes are ways we engage members’ interest in birds (and other wildlife) and in the public lands that are both wildlife habitat and places for recreation and appreciation of the natural world. These activities and monthly program meetings are open to members and non-members alike.
Advocacy on conservation issues is another way Audubon advances its mission. Over a century ago National Audubon was a major force behind passing the International Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the most important law protecting birds in the U.S. Because different bird species are adapted to almost every habitat, because they travel far and wide in migration, are highly visible, and are sensitive to environmental conditions, birds are good indicators of environmental change. Consequently, a very wide range of conservation issues affects birds and their habitat. National Audubon headquarters’ staff address issues impacting birds nationally and regionally. For example, their research has identified climate change as the greatest threat to birds. For that reason, Audubon works for climate change legislation in Washington, D.C., and assists at the state level. The Audubon Washington staff, based in Seattle, work on complex issues often crossing chapter geographic boundaries. Locally, Skagit Audubon participates, for example, in environmental review of projects at the March Point refineries with potential effects on the birds and other wildlife of Padilla and Fidalgo Bays and because transition away from fossil fuels must happen if the planet is to remain livable for birds and people.
With so many issues relevant to Skagit Audubon’s mission, we depend on mutual support with other organizations whose interests and expertise complement ours. As one example, recently Washington Wild, which focuses on protecting wild lands and waters in our state, brought to the attention of Audubon and other conservation groups an ongoing serious threat to the Skagit River’s water quality from potential mining development just north of the international border. Skagit Audubon was able to add its voice to the many groups signing a letter of concern. There are many other examples of how Audubon at the national, state, and local levels acts to support what we value in preserving other species and their habitat. As the only conservation group in Washington with a state-wide network of chapters, Audubon is in a strong position to mobilize members’ support for policies and laws protecting birds, other wildlife, and habitat. Conservation Notes on the Skagit Audubon website and Conservation Reports from past newsletters give a more detailed picture of the issues on which our chapter has focused and how you can get involved.