Teaching people to care about conservation

To the Editor:

I would like to share with your readers what I have come to realize are fundamental objectives of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society, which is the local Audubon chapter for Cashiers, Franklin, Highlands, Scaly Mountain and surrounding areas of Macon and Jackson counties.  

Education and partnering with local schools is one such goal. Initiating and promoting programs that lead to enhanced, safe habitat for native birds is another. Being a local advocate for conservation within our community is a third.

But by far our chapter’s largest expenditure of personal energies is involved with our ambitious weekly Saturday bird field trips and evening programs, which the community is encouraged to attend regardless of birding experience level. Now that we are well into a new season of weekly field trips and evening programs, perhaps it is worth reflecting on what these activities can mean within a greater context.  

Birding is one pathway, accessible to anyone in the community, to experience an enhanced interaction with, and appreciation for, our natural world. And the value of such personal experience appears to be crucial to the future of our world. About 65 years ago, Aldo Leopold wrote, “It’s inconceivable to me that an ethical relationship to the land can exist without love, respect and admiration, and a high regard for its value.” Jane Goodall is quoted as saying, “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”   

Our bird outings and programs may appear to be enjoyable adventures, and they are. However, greater, if subliminal, HPAS goals include cultivating those feelings of wonder, understanding, respect, caring, and value for the environment, along with personal commitments to conservation, to which Leopold and Goodall have famously referred.  

Russ Regnery

President, Highlands Plateau Audubon Society

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