Local Advocacy Works!
“Think globally, act locally” has been an environmental mantra for fifty years. Why? Because it’s essential and it works. VFAS Advocacy Committee members are deeply involved in their local communities, making a difference for birds.
Phil Witmer, when asked why he’s active locally, notes that reversing the 29% decline in bird populations since 1970 depends on restoring their habitat: “Imagine birds flying hundreds of miles migrating overnight. When daylight comes, they need to find a habitat that provides nourishment, shelter from predators and a chance to rest for the next leg of their journey.”
Nature preserves and parks alone can’t provide enough habitat, however. What can? Phil says: “With over 40 million acres of lawn in this country we can provide critical habitat by replacing non-native grass with native plants. A transformation like this can only happen at the local level, one yard at a time.”
So Phil is vice-president of Bird Town Pennsylvania, an organization which partners with municipalities and organizations to promote community-based conservation, including the use of bird-friendly native plants, and he’s also active locally with Radnor Bird Town and Tredyffrin Bird Town to help them increase their presence in the community. He also leads bird walks, encouraging more people to notice and support the birds they see.
Janet Krevenas played key roles in the decision her community, Newtown Township (Delaware County), made to become a Bird Town and to establish a permanent native plant garden on township grounds. Like Phil, she is an officer of Bird Town Pennsylvania, working at both the local and state level on behalf of birds.
Ralf Graves influenced her community, Nether Providence Township, through service on the Parks Commission. “We recommended to the Township Commissioners that we should apply to be a Bird Town,” she says, and “at their last meeting, they approved doing this,” meaning that a committee can now be formed to ensure that bird-friendly policies and practices are put into place.
Both Janet and Shari Donath serve as members of their local Environmental Advisory Councils (EAC). Shari says that in West Norriton Township “we are trying to pass an ordinance to ban single use plastic bags” and “also looking into putting a pollinator/monarch butterfly garden in front of the township building.” Why does it matter to her to have local birds? “They keep us sane in a crazy world!” She adds: “Beautiful to hear, look at, as well as they keep the bug population down.”
In addition to promoting ordinances at the local level, Advocacy committee members make sure their legislators hear their views on state legislation that impacts birds. Ralf and Janet both participated in Penn Environment’s Climate Change Lobby Day on June 2 with advocacy calls to their PA state legislators, urging conversion to 100% renewable energy, a key way to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on birds.
Interested in getting involved in your local community? Some possibilities:
- Check your community’s website to see if there’s an Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) and arrange to attend a meeting
- Join a park or stream clean-up
- Create a habitat for birds
- Consider joining Valley Forge Audubon’s Advocacy Committee!
Shirley Dodson, VFAS Advocacy Committee, Co-Chair; June 20, 2022
Give Migrating Birds Some Love!
Yesterday I saw my first Baltimore Oriole of the year near Crum Creek in the Swarthmore College Woods. Actually, I heard this gorgeous male singing repeatedly before I saw him perched high in a tree between the creek and a meadow.
Baltimore Orioles winter well south of Pennsylvania, including in Latin America and the Caribbean, and face many dangers during migration. We can help them by keeping lights out at night during migration periods in spring and fall, making sure windows where we live and work are bird-friendly, providing natural habitat, and more.
Another way to help migrating birds is by supporting bird-friendly legislation. Recently Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation to enhance the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA), a matching grant program to assist over 350 bird species in the U.S. that fly each year to Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada. The NMBCA supports the conservation of bird habitat along with research, monitoring, and education. National Audubon is encouraging members to come out in favor of this legislation. Get more information and take action here. Maybe I was imagining it, but did I hear that Baltimore Oriole tweeting “Thank you, thank you!”?
Shirley Dodson, VFAS Advocacy Committee, Co-Chair; May 14, 2022
Lobbying is Good for Birds
March 8-10 Valley Forge Audubon joined other member organizations of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) in their annual Hill Week. With 175 member organizations, CDRW can have an impact in promoting legislation and funding for significant environmental programs, including The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program, the Partnership Wild and Scenic Rivers, and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. It was exciting to see legislative aides scribbling notes and requesting bill numbers as lobby team members made their “asks.”
During Hill Week, the Delaware River Basin Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2022 was introduced in the US House and Senate to extend the program that has already supported 90 projects, including those that restore wildlife habitat and protect the rivers, streams, and wetlands that birds need. One program funded in 2021 benefits golden-winged warblers, cerulean warblers, and wood thrush through carefully planned forest management.
Hill Week shows that legislators care about our concerns. Interested in future lobbying? Read our Advocacy Overview and check out our Advocacy Position Statements. Email us at email@example.com.
March 16, 2022
We Won! Funding For Projects that Support Birds
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (BIF) approved by Congress in November includes $26 million for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program over five years, or $5.2 million a year, in addition to what Congress appropriates each year. Valley Forge Audubon played a role in this victory both through lobbying our legislators last March and by signing onto letters from the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed.
Why do these funds matter for birds? The Delaware River Basin Restoration Program provides much-needed funds for projects designed to restore and protect habitat for birds and other wildlife. Last year, National Audubon Society received a grant for “The Philadelphia Pollinator Project: Working at the Intersection of Community and Conservation,” a project designed to improve urban habitat for pollinators, birds, and people while deepening community involvement. Grants to other organizations will improve habitat for birds through stream, marsh, beach, and forest restoration. You can see a list of 2021 projects here.
In the face of climate change, habitat loss, and other threats to birds, it’s easy to wonder how to make a difference. Valley Forge Audubon supports many efforts that help birds thrive, including our advocacy for increased funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program to ensure more good projects can get done. Check this page again soon for ways you can be involved – and for more wins for birds!
February 13, 2022
Support Laws that Support Birds
One way to help birds thrive is to support bird-friendly legislation. As a constituent, you can have an impact by sharing your concerns on issues affecting birds and their habitats. Join thousands of others in giving birds a voice!
Learn about current U.S. legislation that supports birds by visiting https://www.audubon.org/takeaction. You can sign up for Audubon’s Action Network on this page.
Three actions you can take now:
- Contact your U.S. Representative to support the Growing Climate Solutions Act, a proposal empowering America’s agricultural producers to mitigate the impacts of climate change and slow habitat loss for many species of birds. You can take this action through the National Audubon website.
- Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor and support the Bird-Safe Buildings Act, designed to help birds avoid collisions with buildings. Building collisions kill 300 million to a billion birds every year, and we can prevent many of these deaths.
- Work with Valley Forge Audubon! Read an Overview of our Advocacy Committee and check out our Advocacy Position Statements. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 7, 2022
Valley Forge Audubon Partners with Bird Town PA
Bird Town Pennsylvania is a newly reorganized group that partners with local municipalities and like-minded organizations to promote community-based conservation actions, with the goal of creating a healthier, more sustainable environment for birds, wildlife, and people. In November, the VFAS Board made the decision to become a partner. Bird Town Pennsylvania was started 10 years ago and has 34 programs across 8 counties in Pennsylvania.
Several municipalities within the VFAS area are already Bird Towns (including the townships of Kennett, Newtown, Radnor, Schuylkill, and Tredyffrin), and more are interested in joining. Ralf Graves, co-chair of the VFAS Advocacy Committee, noted “The proliferation of Bird Towns within our territory gives us an opportunity to build a network of ‘bird-friendly’ communities.”
VFAS and Bird Town PA share the goals of promoting native plants for home and community gardens, addressing climate change issues, and working to reduce bird window strikes. Heidi Shiver, chair of the Bird Town PA Working Group, said “I look forward to working with VFAS and finding opportunities to network, to collaborate and to support the work that you’re doing.” She has supported VFAS already by asking Bird Town leaders to help VFAS find more volunteers for our December 26 Christmas Bird Count. Watch this space for news of collaborative initiatives in the new year!
December 10, 2021
Kennett Square and Kennett Township Celebrate “Birds, Books, and Brews”
If you like birds and want them to thrive, you may know how important it is to have native plants available to provide food and shelter. However, many of the trees and plants in our yards and public places are “invasives” – they’re not native to this area and don’t provide the food that many birds need.
Over the last three years, Valley Forge Audubon Society (VFAS) has been working with several communities to build awareness of the crucial role of native plants in maintaining healthy habitats with “Plants for Birds” projects that include pop-up gardens, in-person and online programs, informational materials, and celebrations. In its most recent project, VFAS joined many local partners in Kennett Township and Kennett Borough for the “Birds, Books, and Brews” project that culminated in a marvelous closing party on September 18 at Braeloch Brewing in Kennett Square.
Key to the success of this project were all the individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and civic and governmental organizations that participated through organizing, planning, and hosting pop-up gardens, contributing funds and plants, holding programs, creating webpages and signage, and staffing information tables at events, including during the Kennett Square Mushroom Festival. They included:
- Kennett Township and Kennett Borough: Both municipalities passed Native Plant Resolutions during the life of the project. These milestones were publicly celebrated at the party by Brenda Mercomes, President of Kennett Borough Council and Richard Leff, Chair of Kennett Township Board of Supervisors;
- The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County: Kathryn Freilich provided superb local project management;
Venue: Braeloch Brewing—Site of a native plant pop-up garden and a member of the Delaware River Watershed Brewers Association
Brenda Mercomes, President of Kennett Borough Council celebrating the recent passage of the Borough’s new Native Plant Resolution.
Kathryn Freilich, The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County; Christina Norland, Kennett Trails Alliance; Richard Leff, Chair of Kennett Township Board of Supervisors
Beth Brown, Director of Audubon’s Delaware River Watershed Program, Audubon MidAtlantic
One of the many mini native plant pop-up gardens displayed by merchants, restaurants, etc. around town
- Square Roots Collective, the parent organization for Kennett Trails Alliance, whose Christina Norland played a key organizing role;
- Kennett Library: Hosted a pop-up site and integrated the BBB loop into their Pollination Celebration which ran from June through September;
- Braeloch Brewery, a member of the Delaware River Watershed Brewers Association: Hosted a pop-up site which will become a permanent native plant garden, and held the closing party, serving their own beer and superb refreshments to all who came;
- Deborah Gillespie, PA Master Naturalist: Provided garden designs;
- More than sixteen businesses that hosted pop-up gardens;
- The Spade and Trowel Garden Club;
- The Four Seasons Garden Club;
- Pennsylvania Master Watersheds Stewards;
- The Kennett Borough Shade Tree Commission;
- Many individual volunteers; and
- Audubon Mid-Atlantic staff.
The “Birds, Books, and Brews” Project illustrates the value of many people and organizations working together in support of a worthy cause. The beneficiaries are all of us who enjoy stronger communities, improved natural spaces, and thriving wildlife.
Do you think your community might be interested in exploring Plants for Birds? Contact us at email@example.com.
October 19, 2021
Kennett Square to Host “Plants for Birds” Native Plant Gardens Walking Tour
Valley Forge Audubon’s next “Plants for Birds” pop-up gardens will be installed on September 7th, 2021 in Kennett Square in partnership with Kennett Township, Kennett Square Borough, The Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, and the Square Roots Collective. The sites for the pop-up gardens include Braeloch Brewing, The Creamery, Kennett Library, and the entrance to the annual Kennett Square Mushroom Festival on September 11th and 12th. In addition, a designated walking loop through the town of Kennett Square includes 15 additional local shops, pubs, eateries, and organizations that will host smaller native plant displays with interpretive signs and information. The loop will also include a permanent streamside native plant demonstration garden that was planted last fall as Phase One of this project. The pop-up gardens will remain in place until September 18th, and during that period a number of interactive activities will engage and educate the community about the importance of native plants for birds, wildlife, clean water, and healthy habitats. These include:
Thursday, Sept 9th – ‘Intro to Wildlife Gardening’ by Erin Reed Miller, Patterson Park Audubon, MD (Zoom link)
Monday, Sept 13th – ‘Birds, Fish, Watersheds, and Native Plants’ by Vince Smith, Valley Forge Audubon, PA (Zoom link)
Saturday/Sunday, September 11th/12th – Mushroom Festival manned project info table at Braeloch Brewing, 225 Birch Street, Kennett Square 19348
Saturday, September 18th – Closing Party. 4:00—6 :30pm at Braeloch Brewing, 225 Birch Street, Kennett Square 19348
Sundays – Bird walks at Bucktoe Creek Preserve led by Delaware Nature Society
August 24, 2021
Newtown Square to Install Permanent Native Plant Garden
The Native Plant demonstration Pop Up Garden is finding a permanent home on the grounds of the Township Building. The garden, which was partially funded by Valley Forge Audubon, had been on the move within the Township to inform residents on the importance of having Native Plants for pollinating insects and birds.
On June 14th the Board of Supervisors of Newtown Township voted unanimously to have the garden come back to the Township grounds for permanent installation along with the signage that also highlights the value of Native Plants in the control of rainwater runoff. A portion of the VFA grant will provide funds to create a Garden for All Seasons by adding the summer and fall blooming Native Plants.
Be an Advocate for Birds!
Your lawmakers care about your views and opinions. As a constituent, you can share your concerns about issues affecting birds, wildlife, and their habitats—and get more attention than lobbyists do!
To learn about current U.S. legislation that supports birds, visit https://www.audubon.org/takeaction. You can sign up for Audubon’s Action Network on this page.
Three actions you can take now on behalf of birds:
- Urge your representatives in Congress and President Biden to act quickly to permanently protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, where many migrating birds raise their young. You can take this action through the National Audubon website here.
- Ask your U.S. Senators to ensure that seabirds (including Atlantic Puffins) have enough to eat by supporting the Forage Fish Conservation Act.
- Interested in joining a group? Read an Overview of the work of Valley Forge Audubon’s Advocacy Committee and check out our Advocacy Position Statements. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
June 10, 2021
Save Birds – Don’t Use Glue Traps for Spotted Lanternflies!
Many people in southeastern Pennsylvania want to get rid of invasive Spotted Lanternflies. Last year a common solution was glue traps. Unfortunately, glue traps (sticky tape on trees) maimed and killed many other species besides Spotted Lanternflies. Victims included woodpeckers, nuthatches, wrens, hawks, bats, squirrels, and beneficial native insects. Even glue tape “protected” with wire or mesh killed birds that poked underneath, attracted by insects stuck to the tape.
Valley Forge Audubon Society’s partner organization, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, has some good resources on dealing with Spotted Lanternflies without hurting birds and wildlife. Birds have a tough enough time finding food and shelter. Help support their survival by rejecting glue traps.
June 10, 2021
Visit a Native Plant Pop-Up Garden in Newtown Square
Valley Forge Audubon Society (VFAS) uses a variety of strategies to encourage homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to plant the native species that birds and insects need to thrive. One of them is providing resources and expertise for native plant “pop-up” and demonstration gardens in public spaces of collaborating municipalities. The local government of each of the municipalities with which the chapter has partnered has passed a Native Plant Resolution committing them to using native plants whenever possible.
Starting May 5, Valley Forge Audubon and the Newtown Square Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) in Delaware County will install the next of these demonstration gardens at the Township Administration building. On May 8, World Migratory Bird Day, and during the following week, in-person and virtual programs will be held with speakers including VFAS President Vince Smith. A similar project with another native plant pop-up garden is planned at the Kennett Square Borough Library in Chester County in the fall. See https://valleyforgeaudubon.org/native-plants/ for more information on native plants.
Read about the gardens in Newtown Square Friends & Neighbors magazine.
April 15, 2021 (Updated May 13)
Advocacy Committee Members Lobby to Support Birds
Recently, VFAS Advocacy Committee members met with State and National elected officials representing districts within our chapter territory to discuss policies and priorities that support birds, other wildlife, and healthy habitats. In early March Audubon staff arranged “meet-and-greets” with new PA senators and representatives to get to know them and to share Audubon’s perspective on key issues likely to come before the legislature. From March 8 to 12, two VFAS members took part in the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed’s Virtual Hill Week, joining members of many other groups in urging US senators and representatives to support policies that promote clean water for people, birds, and other wildlife. Read our Advocacy Position Statements at https://valleyforgeaudubon.org/advocacy-position-statements/.
April 15, 2021