Where did the year go? Wasn’t it just summer? Already the end of the year draws near. It’s the perfect time to reflect on accomplishments and highlights of 2019 with an eye to 2020. We don’t always take enough time to stop and reflect, so it was nice to chat with some folks at Maine Audubon to see what they considered highlights of the year.
“It feels like the sun is shining again,” said Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist/GIS Manager. “The change in administration has meant it’s possible to prioritize the environment. We can focus on affecting real change in some of our core areas like climate change resilience, renewable energy, and growing our natural resource economy.” Sarah is the co-author of our new report, “Renewable Energy and Wildlife,” which focuses on siting renewables with wildlife and habitat in mind. In 2020, we’ll use this report to do our signature science-based advocacy and outreach, working with the Maine Climate Council as well as municipalities and landowners to talk about siting renewable energy projects with wildlife in mind.
“I saw and met so many incredible speakers and people this year,” said Executive Assistant Beth Pauls. “Richard Louv was here, Kerry Hardy was fantastic, having Avian Haven celebrate its 20th anniversary here was really special.” This year, Maine Audubon’s four centers served as a gathering place for hundreds of programs and events. Creating community around environmental issues is something we really take pride in. Our Scarborough Marsh center had record traffic this year, the Fields Pond center in Holden hosted more than 40 programs for all ages in 2019, and Borestone Mountain hosted many folks including young birders from the Mountains to Sea Birding for Teens Hog Island Audubon camp, co-led by staff naturalist Doug Hitchcox.
Community was also top of the list for the development team. Jill Haas, Development Database Manager, said highlights for her this year were welcoming all our new members, having a fully-staffed development team—with the addition of Laura Seretta and Maureen Duggan—and meeting people at the recent Chapter Congress. Representatives from our seven chapters from around the state gather twice a year to swap stories, give updates, and learn from each other. “It was great to talk with people from all the chapters and make new connections,” Jill said. “I’d like to do that more often!”
Exploring, new experiences, and partnering rose to the top for the education department. During Youth Programs Manager Catherine Griset’s first year as the summer camp director, she said holding camp closing circles with parents and creating a collaborative mapping mural were a few highlights. Another of our top priorities is fostering the next generation of environmental stewards, and our educators have a lot of fun with it. “Another highlight was a camp field trip to East End gardens,” said Catherine. “The kids all really hit their stride, finding insects and tossing a lot of seed balls. We had fun and hit on all the important elements of Bringing Nature Home at the same time.”
Bringing Nature Home, an initiative to champion native plants to restore Maine’s natural biodiversity and support the widest array of wildlife, grew in leaps and bounds in 2019, and was one of the highlights for James Kennedy, Properties Associate. Our annual spring Native Plants Sale and Festival also hit record highs, and James said the two months leading up to that were the busiest of the year for him. “We expanded the greenhouse, grew lots of plants, and had an incredible plant sale,” he said. Right after it ended, he started planning for next year.
Of course, nature brought many highlights as well. “Two weeks of red, yellow, orange, and blue,” said Jan Weyant, Retail and Rentals Manager. The May migration brought a riot of color to the birdfeeders right outside our Gilsland Farm Nature Store windows, and Jan and Stanley Sampson, Visitor Services and Retail Associate, both remember this as a highlight. Jan even remembered the exact date—May 9—when the Scarlet Tanagers, Eastern Bluebirds, Goldfinches, and Baltimore Orioles arrived. She also said the new bird seed has been popular, and she’s especially proud of the selection of books and cards that Stanley has curated. “We have nature-themed products you just can’t get anywhere else,” she said, “especially when it comes to bird feeding.”
We had plenty of other important milestones and accomplishments in 2019; this is just a small sampling of voices from our talented staff of educators, scientists, advocates, and professionals who share a passion for connecting people with wildlife. What would you consider a highlight of the year? It might not be a record first or major achievement, but something that carried an important message, resonated emotionally, or inspired you to take action. We hope Maine Audubon has played a part in shaping your highlight list for 2019.