Kitsap Audubon Society will be celebrating its 50th anniversary May 21 at the Hood Canal Vista Pavillion in Port Gamble from 1-4 p.m. to honor the ongoing work of founders, members and community partners to protect wildlife and the environment.
Speakers will include Hilary Franz, state commissioner of Public Lands; Rob Gelder, North Kitsap county commissioner; Deborah Jensen, executive director of Audubon Washington; and Nate Daniel, executive director of Great Peninsula Conservancy.
Early bird tickets are $20 through May 1 and are $25 if purchased after that. Final deadline for reservations is May 8. Purchase tickets at kitsapaudubon.org/50th-anniversary-celebration.
“We want the chance to celebrate and honor all the people who’ve stood with us over the years,” longtime member Gene Bullock said. “We’ve done so much but there’s still so much to do.”
Kitsap Audubon is the local chapter of the National Audubon Society and is one of 26 chapters in the state. The local organization was formed in 1973 by its eight founding members. Bullock said Kitsap Audubon’s mission primarily focuses on birds.
The nonprofit holds monthly programs with topics ranging from ecotourism and wildlife photography to orcas and owls, and provides Audubon Adventure curriculum to 45 fourth-grade classes in Kitsap, its website states. It also holds field trips for birdwatching and runs the annual Christmas Bird Count.
It also advocates for legislation that benefits wildlife and the environment. The organization has donated over $120,000 to various local land acquisition campaigns.
Bullock said the National Audubon Society has been tracking and predicting the effects of climate change and how it impacts birds, which shows the ranges shifting further north. An article in Science.org in 2019 states that North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds since 1970.
“These birds are just losing their habitat to climate change, development and clear-cutting of the forest,” Bullock said. “I’ve been leading Christmas Bird Counts for over 22 years, and I have seen dramatic declines in all of our winter birds. We have to protect the places birds need now and in the future.”
He also mentioned the rampant use of herbicides and pesticides that are killing insects, which affect birds.
“We’re seeing a huge loss of insects all over the world, and it turns out that insects are the primary food that birds need to raise their young. We’re out there campaigning because we think we still have a chance to give birds a fighting chance. When we do the right thing for birds, we’re doing the right things for people too.”
Kitsap Audubon has grown to nearly 1,000 members with most living in North Kitsap and Bainbridge Island. Annual membership is $20, but Bullock said many members donate more when they renew each year. He said some have contributed large amounts like $10,000.
“We’re a pretty substantial organization and our members generously support us,” Bullock said. “They believe in our programs and the things we’re doing to protect and advocate for birds. We have the resources to do some good things for the community and environment.”
Bullock and his wife Sandy joined Kitsap Audubon over 20 years ago after moving here from the Boston area, where they were also involved with Audubon. During their time, they have both led as chapter president and were involved in the birdwatching field trips, although not so much anymore. Sandy is treasurer, and Gene has been editor of the chapter newsletter for 18 years.
“To me, the secret of being happy and feeling gratified in your life is to get involved in something you really believe in and giving it you’re all,” Bullock said. “My wife and I have always been the type of people that no matter where we live, we have trouble saying no. Before you know it, we jump in and find ourselves in leadership roles. At 87, this is what keeps me going.”