Building bird-friendly communities and climate-resilient initiatives in South Carolina
Heather Hulton Van Tassel and Audubon South Carolina teamed up under this Switzer Leadership Grant to develop programs to build bird-friendly communities, and to advance climate-resilient initiatives in South Carolina that focus on native plants, community outreach and education, and community-based conservation activities. Under Heather's lead, Audubon has launched a recognition program that celebrates communities for providing bird-friendly landscaping and for using renewable energy, conserving water and energy, and for taking other actions like recycling and composting. While the focus is on recognizing actions that communities are already undertaking, the goal is to engage these communities to become more proactive in restoring habitat and in advocating for sound climate policies. With four pilot communities engaged, Audubon hopes to leverage their enthusiasm as ambassadors for other communities and organizations throughout South Carolina.
In addition to Switzer funding, Audubon received a grant from the Hollomon Price Foundation through which they were able to work with the City of Charleston on integrating bird-friendly habitat into a downtown park. Working with city residents and volunteers, they restored a community garden and planted a pollinator garden, added bird-friendly structures for nesting (including a chimney swift tower), and installed bat boxes. Signage was added in several locations to provide education and outreach throughout the public park. Audubon is in the process of raising funds to add a mural that illustrates how the Atlantic Flyway connects this green space to landscapes an entire hemisphere away. The park is located on a busy city corridor that sees 60,000 cars per day, allowing for high visibility when the mural is complete.
Under Heather's direction, Audubon has been able to develop partnerships with local nurseries and garden clubs to build and expand Audubon's native plant program. In March 2017, teaming with local garden clubs, Audubon South Carolina successfully encouraged the South Carolina General Assembly to pass a Native Plant Resolution. The Resolution specifies the economic, ecological, cultural and historical value of native plants; designates a Native Plant Week in South Carolina; and provides an important platform for this nascent movement.
Further, Heather has led an effort to deepen the partnership between Audubon South Carolina and Volvo, which recently took ownership of land adjacent to a large Audubon preserve. Volvo has committed to working with Audubon on its large acreage property to monitor wildlife populations and manage its land in accordance with recommendations from Aubudon scientists.