Where birds thrive, people prosper. But over the past century, much of the land in the United States has been fragmented and negatively impacted by urbanization, toxic pesticides, and invasive species. From urban centers to rural towns, each community has the potential to provide important habitat for native birds—and a richer, more beautiful, and healthful place to live for people. Through our Bird-Friendly Communities (BFC) Program, Audubon Connecticut is committed to doing just that...restoring, reconnecting, and reestablishing the ecological functions of our cities and towns in Connecticut.
Judging by the great public and partner response to the BFC Program, it's clear that many people agree with the importance of making our communities sustainable for wildlife and people. In 2016, we strengthened the program's organizational partnerships, increased the number of bird-friendly habitats in the state, and educated more teachers and students on conservation and habitat sustainability. In a nutshell, we created more safe habitats for wildlife and connected more people with nature.
Stronger Organizational Partnerships
On May 14, 2016, New Haven was designated an “Urban Bird Treaty City,” thanks to the efforts led by Audubon and our partners on behalf of migratory birds through the Urban Oases initiative that is part of the BFC Program. The designation included the signing of an Urban Bird Treaty by Mayor Toni Harp, Senator Richard Blumenthal, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chief of Migratory Birds, Pam Toschik, along with Audubon and 18 other signatory partners. This event strengthened many partner connections, which will lead to greater public awareness of the importance of conservation and more successful, collaborative on-the-ground work.
New Bird-Friendly Habitats
A total of 3 new Urban Oases (areas of restored habitat for birds and healthy places for city-dwellers) and 4 Schoolyard Habitats were established throughout New Haven and Fairfield County in 2016—bringing the total to 15 Urban Oases and 16 Schoolyard Habits in Connecticut. These special places serve as important locations where migratory birds can recharge during their arduous, trans-continental Atlantic Flyway journeys and where people of all ages can learn about nature and find their own healthful respite. Audubon Connecticut also engaged with more than 75 home gardeners and habitat advocates through native plant and habitat training workshops and private home assessments, helping to facilitate the creation of beneficial backyard habitats around the state.
More People Connected with Nature
The efforts of the BFC Program are all strongly linked—a success in one area equals a success across many. Through the growth of partnerships and habitats, we connect a greater number of people with nature. The Schoolyard Habitat initiative of the BFC program is a symbiotic, far-reaching effort that engaged 46 teachers and thousands of students through continued training and the establishment of outdoor classrooms in Connecticut in 2016. The Schoolyard Habitat Curriculum is a valuable tool that helps teachers and students to use real world experiences as teaching moments across multiple disciplines. The results are remarkable, with sample data showing that students who participate in outdoor learning increase their science content knowledge by 66 percent.
With the success and growth of the Bird-Friendly Communities Program in 2016, Bird-Friendly Communities Manager Katie Blake was able to grow her BFC staff team in time to host the 2nd Annual Schoolyard Habitat Leadership Summit on October 25, 2016. Katie, along with Schoolyard Habitat Coordinator Jillian Bell, Schoolyard Habitat Intern Caroline Bailey, Conservation Fellow Christiana Ricchezza, and Schoolyard Habitat Curriculum & Evaluation Consultant Francesca Williams, coordinated an informative day of expert-led workshops and opportunities for the 67 attendees to share best practices in outdoor education.
If you would like to learn more and/or get involved with the Bird-Friendly Communities Program, select here.