Birds of a feather flock to a new strategy

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comJanuary 24, 2012 

It started with a sense of outrage when millions of waterbirds were being slaughtered for the sake of hat feathers.

When the National Audubon Society was founded in 1905, its priorities included protection of egrets, herons, gulls, terns and other waterbirds.

Today, the majestic sight of these birds wading in ponds and creeks adds a feather in the cap of life in the Lowcountry.

On Thursday night, the vice president and executive director of S.C. Audubon will come down from Four Holes Swamp to Fripp Island to tell Audubon Club members that the organization is returning to its roots.

"In the early 20th century, we put wardens on the land and stood between the poachers and the birds," said Normon Brunswig. "We are figuratively returning to that role again."

The National Audubon Society wants to better use its 450,000 members in 465 chapters, and partnerships spanning 18 countries, to protect and enhance bird populations and bird habitats. Its new strategic plan focuses on five conservation strategies:

  • Putting working lands to work for birds

  • Sharing our seas and shores

  • Saving important bird areas

  • Shaping a healthy climate

  • Creating bird-friendly communities

  • Both ends of Brunswig's trip to Fripp Island illustrate the mission.

    For 38 years, he has managed the National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest near Harleyville. It was established to preserve 1,800 acres of old-growth swamp forest, and today includes 16,000 acres that provide habitat for many birds -- most notably the bright yellow Prothonotary warbler -- and a major portion of the freshwater flowing into the ACE Basin.

    On this end, Brunswig will address a group that rolled up its sleeves to do all the work for Audubon's designation of the Beaufort Barrier Islands Important Bird Area. It shows residents are willing to keep the islands a haven for migrating and local birds.

    They are driven more by appreciation than outrage. But, in effect, they are standing between the poachers and the birds.

    "People have to own the problem of the loss of bird habitat," Brunswig said. "People have to own the solution, and these guys have done that."

    Follow columnist David Lauderdale at twitter.com/ThatsLauderdale.

    Related content

    1. National Audubon Society
    2. Audubon South Carolina
    3. Fripp Island Audubon Club

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