A new chapter in the history of the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island began in September, 1999, when National Audubon Society conferred responsibility for operating the camp to the Maine Audubon Society.
The camp program has been partly responsible for the grooming of some of the nation’s finest ornithological, natural history, and environmental educators and leaders.
The state Audubon’s staff and resources will now be available to assist in planning, budgeting, marketing, registering, accounting, and fund raising for the popular educational summer camp.
As a first step, Maine Audubon hired Seth Benz, the camp’s director last summer, to begin work immediately coordinating plans for the summer 2000 season.
Maine Audubon also invited Dick Chamberlain, a consultant on camp operations nationwide, to provide an assessment of the facilities and program at Hog Island. A study is currently underway to determine the feasibility of a capital campaign that could help assure the camp’s financial viability for many years to come.
The transfer of responsibility for the camp from National Audubon to Maine Audubon is part of a larger mandate set out in NAS’s strategic plan that calls for the creation of a nationwide system of state Audubon Society offices. To date, offices in some 23 states have been established. Maine may soon become an integral part of that plan.
Although the broader details of the affiliation between NAS and MAS are still being worked out, the two Audubons are well matched to combine efforts. Nearly a century ago, at a time when the National Audubon Society was itself in its formative years, the seeds of Maine Audubon Society were sown by the merger of the well-established Portland Society of Natural History and the younger Maine Ornithological and Cumberland County Audubon societies.
The protection of “all non-game birds, nests, and eggs” was very much the focus of NAS, and Maine was a perfect case study of the problem. Colonies of gulls, terns, and other seabirds were being decimated by plume hunters for the millinery trade.
Maine Audubon, in like spirit, stated that “the goals of (its) organization were both to discourage the destruction of birds and to encourage an interest in birds and the study of natural history.” Its founders set forth a dual emphasis on advocacy and education that still characterizes Maine Audubon to this day.
Steeped in the storied history of Hog Island is the well-proven similarity of purpose that makes the camp a good fit with Maine Audubon. The camp program at Hog Island has been partly responsible for the grooming of some of the nation’s finest ornithological, natural history, and environmental educators and leaders. It has provided inspiration and ongoing support that has led to the return of the Atlantic Puffin, as well as the restoration of critical island habitat for terns and other seabirds. Thousands of eager campers have deepened their connection with nature and their understanding of conservation through their participation in the camp’s excellent programs.
Maine Audubon is excited to have the Audubon Camp in Maine on Hog Island to help forward its mission in protection, conservation, and enhancement of Maine’s ecosystems. In addition to pledging operational support and guidance to continue to deliver excellent educational programming, Maine Audubon is also investigating an expanded role for the camp in which it would be affiliated with a center dedicated to seabird research, a project spearheaded by Steve Kress.
Seth Benz is Director of the Audubon Camp in Maine.