Audubon Climate Heroes

Helping Birds, One Honeysuckle Bush and Statehouse Visit at a Time

Audubon is fighting for climate-threatened birds in Ohio by cleaning up habitats and spreading the word about the threat.

When you think of bird conservation, you might think about building nest boxes in your backyard or about scientific work (like this recent project that tracked Wood Thrushes on their yearly migration). But protecting birds also requires conserving the habitats they depend on, and it requires people to join together to tackle climate change. Read on to find out how two groups in Ohio are doing just that.

Audubon Miami Valley cleans up old-growth forest by axing invasive plants

Audubon Miami Valley (AMV), a chapter founded in 1976 in Oxford, Ohio, has been working to protect the Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve since 2012. This 220-acre old-growth forest is designated as an Important Bird Area, and it provides nesting habitat for climate-threatened Cerulean Warblers as well as Prothonotary Warblers and many others.

The chapter hosts regular volunteer days in Hueston Woods to remove invasive plants that choke out native plants while offering less ideal food and shelter for birds. Gail Reynolds, past president of AMV, says that pulling out invasives helps preserve the biodiversity of this important ecosystem.

This October, more than 100 botany students from nearby Miami University joined chapter members to pull up, cut down, and tear out invasive bush honeysuckle from the woods. In some places, the fast-growing plants had reached the size of small trees. By the end of the day, the volunteers had stacked piles of honeysuckle as high as eight feet tall. Reynolds says that the results were astonishing: clear views into the forest in place of dense tangles of honeysuckle.

The event also shared information with volunteers about the impacts of climate change on birds, including a factsheet about how global warming exacerbates the problems of invasive species. 

Ohio Conservation Conference teaches advocates how best to take action

At Grange Insurance Audubon Center in Columbus, several dozen chapter leaders, environmental advocates, and officials met for the first Ohio Conservation Conference this October. Marnie Urso, senior program manager for Audubon in Ohio, says the event re-energized attendees and strengthened partnerships across organizations.

State Rep. David Leland, who sits on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, gave a keynote address about the importance of engaging with elected officials. He said that if he gets just five letters on one issue, he pays attention—so he urged advocates to take the time to talk with their lawmakers and build relationships.

The conference drew attendees from six Audubon chapters in Ohio, the Nature Conservancy, Ohio Fish and Wildlife, and the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative. Urso presented an overview of Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report, and others led talks and discussions about the importance of native plants, Important Bird Areas, and public policy to address climate change.

The following day, Urso went with a few Audubon members to lobby for birds at the statehouse in Columbus. They met with the offices of state representatives and senators, shared Audubon’s climate science, and voiced their support for clean energy policies. In all, they met with staff from the offices of four lawmakers who span the political spectrum.

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