By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“From a birding standpoint, this is one of the neatest areas in the whole world,” said Jim Gift, president of the local Audubon Society. “And I think the Audubon Society has been a strong voice in reasoned conservation measures.”
The anniversary party will be in the Red Cedar Room at the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribal Center, 1033 Old Blyn Highway in Blyn.
Festivities begin with hors d'oeuvres at
5 p.m. and are planned to continue to 11 p.m. Space is limited, but the public can register at www.olympicpeninsulaaudubon.org.
At tonight's celebration, founders of the local organization, which is based in Sequim, will be honored, along with other influential members who have shaped the Audubon Society chapter.
Dennis Paulson, director emeritus of the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University of Puget Sound, will be the featured speaker.
Paulson, a teacher who has authored or co-authored 90 scientific papers and nine books, will present an illustrated lecture, “Birds of the Wind: The Lives of Shorebirds.”
Ken Wiersma, a chapter board member — and its unofficial historian — will present a slide show featuring pictures from the society's 40 years.
The local chapter of the Audubon Society started with about two dozen members, Wiersma said.
“Now, we're well above 300 local members,” he said.
Based in Sequim, the Olympic Peninsula chapter has members from all over Clallam County who pay the $20 annual dues.
The same dues are paid by the Admiralty Audubon chapter in East Jefferson County, which — according to its president, Rick Jahnke — began about two or three years after its counterpart in Clallam County.
“They were first,” Jahnke said.
For members like Gift, the Peninsula is a bird-lovers paradise.
“We've got this tremendous range of habitat that allows for so many different species to live here, from offshore areas to marine islands and farmland and saltwater marshes, freshwater marshes and the mountains,” Gift said.
“It really is a special place.”
Because of its variety of habitat, the Peninsula, specifically the Dungeness Valley, is officially considered an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
And that, said Gift, is one reason the chapter supported the Wild Olympics Campaign to have 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest declared wilderness to keep it from being logged.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell, and retired Congressman Norm Dicks introduced the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act on June 21, 2012. It was not acted upon and has not been reintroduced.
“We still think that is a very important piece of legislation,” Gift said.
But, he said, the Audubon Society chooses carefully what measures it backs based on what would best protect avian habitat.
“We're not a typical environmental advocacy group that jumps on every issue that comes across the table,” Gift said.
“We have members from all parts of the community, so we have to weigh in on a lot of interests.”
The Audubon Society was influential in developing the Dungeness River Audubon Society in Railroad Bridge Park at 2151 W. Hendrickson Road, along with the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, which donated land for the park, and Audubon Washington.
“That was a great collaboration that took a lot of time and understanding,” Wiersma said.
“But now, it's a fantastic place.”
Inside the center, used as an educational center for schoolchildren and many other groups, is a menagerie of stuffed birds and other native animals.
The Audubon Society also gives annual scholarships to high school students interested in studying birds and habitat.
The group also leads the BirdFest every April, an event that brings hundreds of bird lovers to the area to count and appreciate the area's birds.
Each Wednesday as well, members of the society lead bird walks through Railroad Bridge Park's trails at 8:30 a.m.
For more information, visit www.olympicpeninsulaaudubon.org.
In East Jefferson County, the Admiralty Audubon chapter plans its first work party of the season at Kah Tai Lagoon Nature Park from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Oct. 6.
The next activity for the Jefferson County chapter will be a walk at Tarboo Creek on Saturday, with participants meeting in the Park & Ride across from Safeway at 8:30 a.m. or at the Tarboo Creek Preserve at 9 a.m.
For more information about Admiralty Audubon, visit www.admiraltyaudubon.org.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.