Saving Hog Island (Down East)

“Birders have been coming to the island, a few hundred yards off the Bremen shore, for seventy-two of the past seventy-four seasons, drawn by the opportunity to immerse themselves in its ecosystem in the company of extremely knowledgeable teachers….

“’Once you spend a week on that island, it can be a life changing experience,’ says Judy Braus, senior vice president for education at National Audubon in Washington, which has owned the island since 1936. ‘You interact with other participants and this ecologically diverse place, and I’ve seen people come with one set of values and expectations and in one week have changed them.’…

“But this year’s programs — which include a session for teens — have a lot on the line. The camp, which has been managed by Maine Audubon for the past decade, was closed last season because the Falmouth-based organization could no longer bear its all-too-frequent operating shortfalls. Myriad stakeholders have been at work to craft a viable model, but it’s not yet certain whether the birding programs are on the verge of a glorious new chapter, or experiencing their last hurrah….

“The loss of Hog Island’s bird program would likely close the book on one of the country’s most storied and venerable nature camps. Its birth predates the modern environmental movement by the better part of a century, to a time when few Americans had much sympathy for nature and even fewer realized that it was being undone by the excesses of the industrial age.”

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