Many onlookers might be intimidated by the dark room tucked away in the corner of the 2nd floor. I was fortunate to witness the world’s most extensive collection of John James Audubon’s on my trip with Wheatley’s Wildcat Newspaper Club at the New York Historical Society. 435 original watercolor models encased in a dimly lit room, located on the 2nd floor in the Krystyna Doerfler Focus Gallery. The creations must be kept in specific conditions to preserve Audubon’s original collection from The Birds Of America. The watercolor-based medium used to create these original pieces requires extensive maintenance. Due to the conditions required to preserve his art, the gallery is easy to miss, with motion sensor lights enabled. Despite its intimidating appeal, the billion-dollar birding industry has an incredibly loyal devoted following. Bimonthly, the NY-HS flips a page to their next bird, and birding enthusiasts await to see Audubon’s original watercolor depiction.
Across America, the National Audubon Society has over 450+ chapters. On February 28th, Audubon New York hosted its first youth advocacy day. From my involvement at the Theodore Roosevelt Sanctuary in Oyster Bay, I was given the opportunity to travel with the staff and other teens to Albany. Our purpose was to lobby for ensuring funding for the Environmental Protection Act and the Zoos, Botanical Gardens, and Aquaria program. As the annual State budget is being created, many organizations lobby for funding for various programs and acts. Due to the weather conditions on the day, we had to scrap our travel plans and host our meetings virtually. Regardless, the meetings we had with legislators were still impactful.
As we can see from the weather conditions this year, our region has been drastically impacted by the effects of climate change. It is more important now than ever to work on conserving and protecting our environment. All across America, birds hold a special place in our hearts, with each state having its own bird to represent them. Audubon’s purpose is not only to ensure the safety and protection of birds and their habitats. Through education and youth programs, Audubon is able to continue the legacy of John James Audubon. Funding is crucial for the continuation of educational programs and projects for conservation.
Though the environment is a crucial aspect of our daily lives, parks and the environment only receive 1% of the annual funding. Within the 1%, Audubon hopes to receive $400 million for the Environmental Protection Fund and include $20 million for the Zoos, Botanical Gardens, and Aquaria Program. For every $1 invested in land and water conservation, the EPF will generate $7 in economic revenue. More financial support for these programs and sanctuaries will also provide more job opportunities. The EPF supports various industries such as the birding industry, of which the National Audubon Society is a part. EPF-supported industries generate $40 for the state economy annually.
From my experience, I was able to understand the importance of youth advocacy for environmental causes. However, without financing for programs such as the EPF, many youths might not have the chance to ever get an opportunity to become educated on topics like birding, conservation, and marine protection. Throughout my experience, all of the staff we had conversations with responded positively to the idea of youth advocacy. Many commented that the idea of teen voices providing our insight and experiences made our “ask” authentic and genuine. It is especially important for teens our age to be involved in the topics we care about. With the power of youth in numbers, we can contribute our unique perspectives.