Habitat Stewardship Opportunities

Curve-billed Thrasher, Starlite, photo by Penny Kehus

An opportunity to visit  beautiful private ranch properties and lend a hand to help make the operations more bird friendly.

How has the chapter made its choices about involvement? The board has employed several criteria in making sometimes difficult choices. We look for a direct involvement with bird populations. Owens Lake was designated as an Important Bird Area and it seemed natural that the Audubon Chapter had an obligation to act when it was perceived that it was in jeopardy. Similarly, the Sage-Grouse has been proposed for listing as endangered and we have significant numbers of these birds within our chapter’s boundaries. Secondly, we had to have chapter and board members who were interested in these issues and willing and able to devote time to them. Lastly, we look for situations in which we can work in partnership with other groups.

Sometimes, these works are played out in a formal way. We may have initiated the Owens Lake conversation, but we quickly sought out and obtained the participation of more than thirty other groups, agencies, tribes, public and private entities, and individuals. We have been able to participate, in a very subordinate way, in the Bi-state Sage-Grouse Initiative, which led us to obtain a California Audubon grant to support Sage-Grouse habitat stewardship and develop, teach and publicize viewing mechanisms and protocols which protect the birds from the over-zealous admiration of people. We are fortunate to be able to work on this effort with the Eastern Sierra Land Trust, LADWP, California Fish and Wildlife, BLM and the Forest Service.

More often, our involvement is informal, made possible by the fact that many of our chapter and board members are active with other organizations. Information is exchanged through these networks, questions are asked and answered and, while ESAS may not have taken an “official position”, we try to help inform those who have done so.

The bottom line is that we will have to pick and choose among many possible matters. Personally, I do not want to become “one of the usual suspects.” It is my hope that we will restrict ourselves to those issues in which our activities can be meaningful and helpful to the resolution of problems. As an organization, the Audubon Society enjoys a reputation for positive contribution, proactive action, and
being resolution-oriented. Hopefully, our chapter fits into this picture. Whatever we do, we should strive mightily to do it well. Our board of directors takes seriously the position of Audubon within the broad community of people who are interested in the amazing landscapes and habitats of Mono and Inyo counties. We invite people to bring their concerns to the chapter but caution that we do not automatically become involved in all things “environmental.” We are all in this together: everyone, not just those with which we are thought to be predisposed to agree. There are so many opportunities to do good work here and we would welcome, with wide-open arms, people who would like to pitch in. Many thanks to the people who worked in the meadow; it is an experience that I will never forget.
If you could not be with us then, join us soon.

People generally think about the Eastern Sierra in terms of its dramatic topography, but those of us who are fortunate enough to call this place home understand that the building blocks are the people with whom we share this space. We are losing two blocks of granite with the departure of Jim and Debby Parker. These wonderful folks are rightly lauded elsewhere in this edition for their superb birding skills and contributions to the understanding of eastside birds. On a less scientific level, I would like to share my appreciation for Jim and Debby for their contribution to me (yes, I am the center of the universe).

Shortly after I became chapter president, I had a long conversation with the Parkers. Jim, a former ESAS president, brought me up to speed regarding the history of the chapter’s involvement in the community while Debby brought up her usual selection of really good ideas about what could be done in the future. Birds in the Classroom, a butterfly garden, bird lists for various locations and involvement at Owens Lake were all a part of that discussion. Beyond those specifics, the spirit of that conversation has shaped my sense of what we are trying to do here. On a non-presidential note, I spent many pleasant hours with Debby birding in unexpectedly (to me) productive and interesting locations. I learned from her how demanding the standards that she and Jim set for themselves were. I have come nowhere near reaching those, but I came away with a deep respect for the people who develop reliable information upon which Audubon can base its policy decisions and statements.

More personally, she opened my eyes to the exhilaration of finding a new, unexpected or beautiful bird. It is that energy which I try to carry with me when we talk about programs in the schools or at the COSA. Thank you Jim and Debby…you will be sorely missed.

For the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.