April marks spring, a time for large migrations of birds and a time of change for plants. But spring is also is a key time for bringing people together for conferences and collaborative ventures.
In early April I spoke at Colby College at a wonderful conference on Community, Culture and Conservation. Over the years, the Environmental Studies Program at Colby has significantly grown and this conference demonstrated real interdisciplinary leadership. There were lots of students attending a wide range of workshops and lectures so the interest level was high.
Twice a year Maine Audubon convenes a meeting of our affiliated chapters, some of which are separate nonprofits with their own programs and interests. The event, that we call a Chapter Congress, reflects the spirit of independence and collective action among all the participants. In listening to the different representatives from groups across the state, I was struck by the issues and challenges we all had in common, including how to remain relevant in the digital age and how to encourage young people to become involved in making a difference.
I rounded out April by presenting at the Maine Land Trust Network Conference — an inspiring gathering! While there are more Maine land trusts (around 80) than Audubon Chapters, nevertheless, many of the issues were again the same. According the land trust census in Maine completed in 2015, on average, forty percent of board members are age 65 or older, a significant increase from the last census in 2010 when, on average, only 16 percent of boardmembers were 65 or older.
Now, these gatherings took place no more than three weeks apart. One was very optimistic about the involvement of young people while the others raised concerns over how to attract young people. I think this is where a statewide organization like Maine Audubon can help. We can see the gaps in social networks, geographic networks and we can respond to demographic trends, scaling up to state level or working with partners at a local level.
I’m looking forward to working with you on ways we can engage people of all ages in the important work of conservation.
Ole Amundsen became Executive Director of Maine Audubon in March 2016. He brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, with a focus on landscape scale conservation, environmental education and finance. Amundsen most recently served as program manager for the national land trust, The Conservation Fund.