Time to celebrate! Flathead Audubon turns 40 this month. It was in January 1977 that a group of Flathead Valley birders decided to form the Flathead Audubon Society.

Our parent organization was the Bigfork Bird Club, which traces its roots to the first Bigfork Bird Count – held in December, 1974. The enthusiasm generated by this first Count inspired several Count participants to form the Lower Flathead Valley Bird Club, which later became known as the Bigfork Bird Club. When several years later the Club decided to take the next step and affiliate with National Audubon, Flathead Audubon was born.

To be officially chartered as a chapter of Audubon, the group needed to have at least 35 members. By late February 1977, 23 people had joined up, and in March the goal of 35 was reached. From this small nucleus of 23 people, FAS has grown to over 40 years to more than 450 members.

On the list of those 23 founding members are such familiar names as Barbara Baxter, W. A. (Lex) Blood, Barbara Boorman, Kristin Bruninga, Dennis Hester, Elly Jones, Loren Kreck, Bob Lopp, Dan Paschke, Jean Robocker, David Shaner, Elmer Sprunger, and Jack Whitney. The first newsletter of the young Audubon chapter was called the Accipiter Express. The name Pileated Post didn’t appear until 2 years later, in March 1979.

That first issue of the Express appeared in March 1977. The Directory of that first issue lists 4 officers and 2 Committee Chairs who came from a variety of locations: President Dan Sullivan was from Yellow Bay; VP Newton Reed from Bigfork; Secretary Wanda Jamieson lived in Kalispell; and Treasurer Nancy Paul is said to be from the East Shore.

Chairing the Membership Committee was Karen Sullivan of Yellow Bay; and Chairing Programs & Publicity was Rick Trembath from the East Shore. There was no Board of Directors yet.  Looking at the December 2016 Pileated Post, we get a measure of how much Flathead Audubon has grown since then. Now Flathead Audubon depends on the volunteer efforts of 15 officers and board members and 15 Committees. And 12 years ago, in 2005, FAS expanded in another way when we began contracting a part time Conservation Educator to develop and carry out our Conservation Education Program.

Some things haven’t changed a lot, though. Thirty years ago, the young Audubon chapter met in March for a slide program on the proposed Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and went on to submit comments supporting the passage of that Act. Today we work to keep up with what Congress has planned for the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, and submit comments supporting the continued protection of that area.

In this 40th year of Flathead Audubon we will celebrate several firsts in the formation of our organization, and recognize and thank those people who fostered the birth and growth of our organization. Watch upcoming issues of the Pileated Post for features on the activities of the young Flathead Audubon, and for announcements of special anniversary activities at upcoming FAS meetings.


Please join with your fellow FAS members to celebrate Flathead Audubon’s 40th birthday during the pre-program portion of our January meeting. We’ll sing Happy Birthday to ourselves, and cheer on President Kay as she cuts into our birthday cake.