by Gael Bissell, Past President

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who read this newsletter for your part in sustaining Flathead Audubon through the last 2+ years. Because of your unwavering interest and support, we have improved our management work at Owen Sowerwine, maintained quality raptor surveys up at Jewel Basin, continued offering field trips, and most importantly, refocused our Conservation/Education program to meet the needs of teachers across the valley.

We have expanded our partnerships with Flathead Lake State Park, Native Plant Society, Center for Native Plants, and Whitefish Community Foundation and successfully transitioned our public programs to Zoom and now hybrid meetings. We have had speakers from across the state and around the region because of this new technology.

Your donations of time and money (both as members and through The Great Fish) have been extraordinary. Your incredible contributions and volunteerism made the years from 2020 to 2022 much easier than any of us would have imagined. I am particularly and most thankful for our outstanding Board of Directors who are not only incredibly fun to be with but also talented and committed to FAS in a challenging time. For example, Jake and Cory spearheaded our transition to Zoom while also working closely with Mike Fanning to convert our entire organization’s membership data base to a new membership program.

Dave Manuwal reached out to speakers across the region to provide tremendous programming and provided great programs himself. Rod Wallette, Kay Mitchell, Jan Metzmaker and volunteer Gail Cleveland worked magic in our Great Fish preparations that put us on the right track financially. Recently, with their help, we completed the creation of our own permanent endowment with the Whitefish Community Foundation to insure Flathead Audubon can sustain and expand our organization/mission over the long-term. 

Pam Willison, while also our Secretary, took on oversight of Owen Sowerwine and improved our weed management and neighbor relations and worked miracles with grants. She, Denny, Will, Tom, Cindy, and many volunteers created our new Education Trail and made significant inroads on the prolific invasive common buckthorn. Darcy Thomas and Margaret Parodi modified our field trips to meet public health concerns but offered more local and shorter trips making them more accessible to the public and perhaps a bit greener due to less carpooling.

Dan Casey not only spearheaded the Jewel Basin Hawk Watch but added wonderful field trips near Somers and continued with Warbler Weekend and many others. Derrick Rathe worked with both Flathead Audubon and the Native Plant Society (via Kathy Ross) to develop cooperative bird/native plant field trips at Wayfarer’s State Park while also helping us with our weed planning at Owen Sowerwine. Bob Lee helped us expand our Board, attended state meetings, and contributed sound health advice.

Carole Jorgenson, myself, and Dave continued writing letters supporting conservation of working forests and River to Lake projects like Bad Rock Canyon while also tracking so many climate and other national issues. Tom and Cindy Roberts, our Conservation/Education co-chairs, worked closely with our talented Denny Olson to beautifully transition our in-person education programs to entertaining educational videos and digital programs for teachers and families. Joe and Lana Batts represented us well in state Montana Audubon meetings; now Joe is the Board President of Montana Audubon. Linda Winnie and Lewis Young, while no longer board members, continued to crank out our outstanding newsletters. This is truly an amazing and productive board and cadre of volunteers. 

As some of us step back after decades of volunteering for Flathead Audubon, we would love to see new and diverse faces step in. Are you one who loves birds, outdoor education, communications, work in a natural area? Do you love data bases, organizing, writing grants? A Board with a diversity of people with various experiences, cultures, and backgrounds makes us more resilient and successful. So, if you are curious about Flathead Audubon, reach out to any board member to see where your talents and interests might fit. We look forward to meeting and working with you! And, yes, we have fun and are known to eat chocolate! To all of you who worked on behalf of Flathead Audubon these last few years, thanks so much! Happy Birding!!