B y Dan King
Friends of the Washington County Grasslands Important Birding Area, or Friends of the IBA for short, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, recently relocated its office to the former Canal Corporation welcome center on Skenesborough Drive.
Now that the organization is settling into its new Whitehall location, it is looking to begin filling its exhibit hall and educating people on the importance of environmental conservation, particularly when it comes to endangered birds.
“We are still settling in, working on getting exhibits for it and we have a volunteer working on a floor plan.” Laurie LaFond, president and director of the Friends of the IBA said.
The next step for the group is to get its name out to the public and LaFond hopes the group can start to do so with some signs.
“We are working on getting a sign put up on the building and along Route 4.” LaFond added.
LaFond said the group has big plans for its new Whitehall location, in addition to some expansion into the surrounding areas.
“We would like to get some interactive exhibits and begin doing monthly programs, field trips and guided walks, which would be done through the center,” LaFond explained. “We want to work with the schools to get kids out to see not only endangered grasslands birds, but also wetlands birds, because Whitehall has some great wetland species.”
LaFond explained that these educational programs don’t simply educate students, they get them involved in the cause.
“It inspires kids to get motivated to be a part of the solution, we had a group present a poster to Senator Betty Little about the importance of conservation,” LaFond recalled.
The Whitehall center does not currently have operating hours, but Friends of the IBA have been working with Village Trustee Marge Mohn to get some volunteer workers to staff the building and get it operational for 5 days a week.
The group is also working closely with state and county conservation and tourism groups on some other projects, such as a birding area trail map to advocate both tourism and conservation.
“It is a great opportunity to help economic development and support for conservation efforts at the same time,” LaFond proclaimed.
The conservation group has been working diligently to protect many endangered bird species throughout the state and it appears they are beginning to get the support that they have been aiming for.
“Our mission is education, preservation and community, we want to support the community and get them involved.” LaFond concluded, “We are getting great community support both here and in Fort Edward.”
Visit www.ibafriends.org or call 499-0012 to learn more about the group or to become a member.