National Audubon responds to Working Waterfront article

The following update — posted at audubon.org on October 29, 2010 — is reprinted with permission of the National Audubon Society. We have also posted the original article from Working Waterfront.

Update on Hog Island Planning

From David Yarnold, Audubon President & CEO

To the Friends of Hog Island and other members of the Audubon family:

As you may be aware, the website, Working Waterfront yesterday published an article about Audubon’s plans for Hog Island. While it painted a vivid picture of what has made the island such a special place and conservation resource for 75 years, the article was much less accurate regarding the status of Audubon’s planning for the property.

We are grateful for the generous support we have received from the Friends of Hog Island and others to ensure that this treasure will continue to be a place for discovery, inspiration, and conservation. And for all concerned about this special place, here are the facts:

Q. Is it Audubon’s intent to close the Hog Island education programming?

A. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are exploring a relationship with  Kieve-Wavus Education, with the intent of strengthening Hog Island’s long-term sustainability.

Q. Is there a deal for a transfer of property ownership, as the Waterfront reported?

A. No. We are currently in negotiations. Details of a potential agreement, including specifics related to property ownership, have not been finalized.

Q. Why is Audubon considering a new approach for Hog Island at all?

A. Audubon is committed to the ongoing preservation of Hog Island’s biodiversity and wilderness. And we treasure the transformational education and conservation experiences its programs have provided.  However, for more than a decade, Hog Island has faced financial challenges related to running and operating residential camp programs, including increasingly high operational costs, shifting consumer travel choices, and changes in the camping industry.

Q. Did Audubon just decide to do this based on a home office decision?

A. No, in 2009, Audubon and Maine Audubon conducted a comprehensive assessment of the camp’s programming, marketing, and operations. We received substantial input from many stakeholders as we explored potential solutions that would preserve the island’s wilderness and allow for the continuation of educational programming. We concluded that collaboration with a strategic partner would offer the clearest path to achieving our goals.

Q. How did you choose a prospective partner? What’s their reputation?

A. Our assessment led us to our current discussions with Kieve-Wavus Education, a local nonprofit organization whose camps “promote the values of teamwork, kindness, respect, and environmental stewardship” for youth and adults. Audubon and Kieve-Wavus have been working together informally for more than 30 years, and we have been working more closely together in the past two years. Kieve-Wavus Education has an excellent reputation for offering high-quality active-learning educational experiences for young people for the past 85 years. Our discussions are continuing and may offer exciting new opportunities to engage a wider audience in conservation education.

Q. So, are campers going to be able to continue to enjoy the birding experience at Hog Island?

A. We are committed to finding a solution that will ensure that future generations will be inspired by their experiences at Hog Island like the campers who took part in this past summer’s inspiring and successful programs.

Q. Are next year’s programs in limbo?

A. No. Steve Kress and his team have already put together a terrific line-up for next summer’s programming.To check the schedule and availability please go to http://www.projectpuffin.org/OrnithCamps.html.

And if you have questions, please email jbraus@audubon.org.

One thought on “National Audubon responds to Working Waterfront article

  1. Dear Judy Braus at Audubon, and others —

    I am writing as an individual, not as a chapter representative or in any connection with Audubon whatsoever other than as a member and long-time supporter.

    I attended the Audubon Leadership Camp in Hog Island in August 2007. I met Rob Fergus at that session on Hog Island. I don’t agree with all his opinions on his recent blogs about Hog Island, and I didn’t agree with all of his advice to me at Hog Island, either. But I sure respected him and felt empowered by his own passion and believed (and believe) him to be a strong supporter of Audubon. I think that he used the word “hate” is regrettable, but hey — as we all know, he’s passionate.

    Ms. Braus, I did read your Q-A doc about Hog Island. In fact, I had read it from Rob’s blog; he had a link to it. Obviously I’m not in the loop and of course there’s so much more to these deals that goes on, but I do think that’s part of the problem, is the lack of transparency. I want to know why Mid-Coast Audubon didn’t know about this. I want to know what Steve Kress and Scott Wiedensaul and Pete Dunne, David Sibley, Peter Vickery, Chris Lewey, Dr. Frank Gill and Kenn and Kim Kaufman and Sara Morris — and “other notable instructors” and “other top ornithologists” — think about this. Do they know the facts about it? What do the Friends of Hog Island think?

    Sure, maybe they don’t make Audubon “policy” — but that’s where Audubon policymakers are slipping: nobody out here knows who “Audubon” is except through the ornithologists and famous bird people whom we, the Audubon public and consumers and supporters, recognize and identify as Audubon. Why? Because those people are, after all, the ones who are for the birds — and so are we Audubon members — and we can’t figure out why Audubon National doesn’t seem to “get” that.

    I do agree that Hog Island is an Audubon treasure and that by divesting itself of this place, Audubon is divesting itself of part of its identity. Maybe I’ve been reading too much Craig Childs lately, but to me it feels like National Audubon is looting its own ancestry and part of its connectedness to, and history of, sense of place. When I was in that wonderful old building known as the fish house and I saw all the photographs and names of predecessors — as Robb mentions, Roger Tory Peterson and Rachel Carson and Kenn Kaufman and so many more — I felt connected to something deep and meaningful and rooted. It’s not exactly hero worship so much as it is honor and respect for being able to look backward through our binoculars in order to see forward.

    Camp Kieve was mentioned in Steve Kress’ release (or Jay Collier’s), and I clicked on that link, too, back in August when I got this, and I read about what seems like a progressive and worthwhile program for kids. Great! That’s what we want! But we don’t want to lose the Audubon identity and “brand” on Hog Island.

    I do not want to seem to be waxing rhapsodic about Hog Island for sentimentality’s sake. When I was there, I was dismayed by the poor facilities, the inconvenience and “intimacy” of the shower/restroom facilities, the ridiculousness of World War II-issue wool blankets on wooden plank beds, the lack of privacy in a fully-windowed “shower” building, where hot and cold water don’t come out of the same spigot and where birdwatchers with binoculars make privacy impossible. (But the food!!!! OMG, it was fabulous!) Of course the facilities need a makeover. Of course that takes funds. Am I a philanthropist who can make a major donation to see my wishes come true? Nope.

    Is your partnership with Camp Kieve an answer to this dilemma? I don’t think we know, because at least in my opinion, we haven’t heard from the people whose answers we would respect, consider, and understand. No disrespect to you, Ms. Braus — but who are you and whom are you speaking for?

    Meanwhile, I want to thank Audubon leadership, not criticize you. We members are as diverse as the natural world which we enjoy. But we are also linked and united. Thanks for respecting both our diversity and our commonality.

    Very truly yours — as an individual
    Beth Hurst-Waitz

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