Being given the opportunity to work for and with the Flathead Audubon Society (FAS) is indeed a pleasure, with exceptional opportunities to continue the great work of the conservation educators who have built the solid path for FAS; I will strive to stay the course with an eye on future possibilities.  Continuing to offer meaningful and effective place-based programming in 2016 is essential and will be guided by the Education Committee’s leadership, commitment, and updated FAS Education Program Strategic Plan 2015 – 2019.

The New Year began with the Winter Trails Day event at Blacktail Mountain X-country trails near Lakeside. The two-hour snowshoeing event included 10 adults and one youth snowshoeing and 4 adults and two youth skiing from the trailhead the morning of January 9th. FAS collaborated with the USFS Swan Lake Ranger District, and the Foys to Blacktail group to coordinate and lead this outdoor opportunity. The snow was good and learning the skill of snowshoeing was really experienced by stepping off the groomed trail to explore a short trail in the deeper snow. Making new acquaintances, while trudging along in the snow and keeping an eye out for birds in the forest habitat was a great way to spend the morning. Hopefully, these folks of all ages will continue to enjoy the winter season getting outside in the Flathead Valley.

The Great Backyard Bird Count will take place from February 12 – 15th. Schools participating this year will be Flathead High School and Somers School. Kathy Ross will be coordinating with the Somers School and Linda de Kort and Lisa Flowers will be offering their assistance to Renee Cordes at Flathead High School.

The Birds of NW Montana – FVCC Senior Institute course will again be offered in February and March. Specific dates will be forthcoming and announced on the FAS website.

The DEQ Wetland Education Grant will provide two elements aligned with the FAS conservation education program. The first is the opportunity for elementary and high school students to participate in a cross-age mentoring field project at Owen Sowerwine Natural Area. The second is the update and repair of the FAS Wetland and Riparian Area Studies educational trunk which is housed at the NW Montana Curriculum Cooperative in Linderman School.

Together with FAS volunteers Jan Metzmaker and Mary Jo Gardner the educational trunks and associated supplies are being reorganized for ease of using in our educational programs and for teachers who check the trunks out on a year-round basis. It is a pleasure to work with these ladies and I appreciate their time and effort to help improve the effectiveness of the FAS program.

Creating and implementing an innovative education and community outreach program involving adults, families, youth, and children to foster knowledge, increase appreciation of birds, wildlife habitat, and ecosystem diversity is a team effort. If you are interested in volunteering with any aspect of FAS’s conservation education program, or would like to learn more about the program please contact Lisa Flowers, conservation educator, 406-781-1721, anytime.