The Mantle of Citizenship
Eastside Audubon President Andy McCormick was asked to give the opening address to this year’s Audubon Council of Washington, which met in October at Bellevue Community College. Representatives from 21 of the state’s 25 Audubon chapters attended, as did executives from Audubon Washington and National Audubon. Following is the text of Andy’s remarks.
By Andy McCormick
Welcome to ACOW 2013!
It’s good to be here. Bellevue College is at the southern border of the Eastside Audubon service area. We have joined with three other King County Audubon chapters on the planning committee to sponsor this ACOW meeting. Cathy Jaramillo represented Seattle Audubon, the largest chapter in the county; Dan Streiffert and Pat Toth represented Rainier Audubon, which covers southern King County, and Randy Smith represented Vashon-Maury Island Audubon, in Puget Sound at the western edge of the county.
We’re all very grateful for the work done by two other committee members: Gail Gatton and Jen Syrowitz from Audubon Washington. Their coordination was key in pulling this event together.
We’re here primarily because we all love birds and we appreciate that birds are pretty smart. I was leading a walk at Marymoor Park in Redmond on Wednesday morning and the skies were overcast and we had a steady drizzle — a sign that winter is near. Birds are beginning to flock together for protection and to cooperate in foraging. They compete less in harsher conditions and cooperate more. There was a group of 19 Killdeer on one of the fields. There were 50 American Robins on the lawn and in the trees around the Clive Mansion. Then there were mixed flocks. One was a flock of sparrows with five species represented: Song, Savannah, Golden-crowned, Lincoln’s, and Dark-eyed Juncos. Now, that’s cooperation!
Maybe we can think about ACOW as an opportunity to flock together for mutual support and creative planning to help our bird friends. We’re already doing a lot on a lot of different levels. Citizen science is a form of citizen action, and, as good citizens, we are involved in our communities.
For example: Many chapters work locally on projects in their service areas: cleaning up a park, getting cities to participate in the Lights Out program, or preserving a piece of land.
We work statewide. Last night the Washington State Audubon Conservation Committee passed a resolution to require the Department of Natural Resources and the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service to use scientific evidence when updating the conservation plan for the Marbled Murrelet.
Some folks are also working to prevent coal trains from crossing Washington so Montana coal won’t be burned in Asia. It’s all one atmosphere.
We work nationally along the flyways, and WSACC also passed a resolution to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse and its shrub-steppe habitat. Ten organizations, including the North Central Washington and Spokane Audubon chapters, are working together to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse.
Some chapters in Washington are also active in protesting tar sands strip mining in the boreal forest, the breeding ground for millions of neo-tropical migrants, and some are joining with 350.org to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Some of us consider international action and may have a place in our thoughts for the 13 activists from the Greenpeace Arctic Sunrise sitting in a Russian jail. We may not agree with some tactics and might not participate in that level of action, but isn’t it good to know that there are citizens from 18 countries working together to try to keep fossil fuels in the ground and preserve the Arctic habitat for wildlife? The effort to protect our planet is now worldwide.
One thing I’ve learned while being on the board of Eastside Audubon is that each chapter faces a challenge to find a way to focus our attention on birds and their habitat in a way that makes sense for the chapter’s size and location. With the new National Audubon Strategic Plan we have a flexible tool to help us do that. The simplicity of organizing conservation activity along the four bird migration flyways makes a lot of sense to me. We can work in our service areas and then cooperate with other chapters on larger efforts — all connected to the Pacific Flyway.
I also want to welcome you to Bellevue! It’s a changing city in the flyway.
It is a city in the midst of change. It’s not the same Bellevue that you may imagine. A demographic shift has brought the addition of Russians, Indians, Hispanics, and Asians to the city. A few are participating in Eastside Audubon field trips and coming to the program meetings. These new groups are important for Audubon to educate about our conservation goals. Our chapter is experimenting with ways to reach out to these new families and to younger people to expand the chapter’s membership and conservation message.
And while you are here check out KBCS 91.3, the independent community radio station based here at Bellevue College. It’s a world of music and ideas. That’s the station’s motto. But, it’s really about citizen-run media. You’re getting the theme about citizens by now.
When President Obama spoke to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, he said, “Change does not come from Washington; it comes to Washington.” And that change comes, “when we, the people, take on the mantle of citizenship.” I think that is what we do in Audubon. We are citizens who share our love of birds and try to get others involved in preserving them for future generations. The mantle of citizenship is for everyone. Wear it well and we’ll keep growing a strong Audubon across Washington.
Enjoy the day! Learn a lot and have fun! Thank you.
Photo: Andy McCormick at ACOW with Kathy Dale, National Audubon's director of citizen science. By Mick Thompson.