I was thrilled to attend the 45th anniversary of The Audubon Society of Mexico during which my grandmother Mrs. Lilian R. Birkenstein, the founder in 1967, was honored.

The article below explains the important work this organization handles and please, if you love nature and birds, donate and get involved.

 

On July 22nd Audubon de Mexico celebrated our 45th anniversary – 45 years of protecting and celebrating the flora and fauna of San Miguel and the surrounding countryside – and launched our campaign “45 Years, 450 Members, 450,000 Pesos” to raise funds for local projects that address critical environmental issues. 

It all started with small boys with slingshots.
When Lillian Birkenstein came to San Miguel in 1951, she became enthralled with birding in Mexico. When she discovered local children were killing birds in Parque Juarez for amusement, she visited local schools to teach children about the nature around them. In 1967, with Stirling Dickinson as her vice president, she founded the Audubon Society of Mexico, the first chapter chartered outside the United States. 

The remarkable Ms. Birkenstein spent 30 years traveling around Mexico, not only watching birds but learning the common Mexican names of each one. This work became the basis of Native Names of Mexican Birds, published by the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 1981. She was later named to the Mexico Academy of Science, the only foreign woman so honored up to that time. 

The society organized talks and monthly outings, but also undertook community projects. Among the first of these was the reclamation of Parque Juarez. Under the presidency of Bob Haas in the late 1980s, Audubon hired a crew and got to work on the park, which had been abandoned by the city and had been in decline for decades.

Environmental damage.
A decade later, in San Miguel, the water table was dropping, forests were being harvested for firewood, cows and goats were damaging trees, and river banks were destroyed due to erosion and livestock access. The state’s agriculture was being run increasingly by multinational agribusinesses which rely upon heavy irrigation from our aquifer. 

Audubon worked with local environmental organizations to promote more sustainable practices within the watershed, secured grant funds and technical assistance and initiated the Save the Rio Laja project. 

In the new century, Audubon has worked on reforestation and water conservation projects on the Presa Allende and Rio Laja and helped fund island bird-nesting areas at El Charco. It initiated a schoolyard ecology program, published bird and butterfly books and kept up a regular program of bird walks, lectures, films and eco-tours to many of Mexico’s places of outstanding natural beauty.

45th Anniversary Legacy Campaign.
In recognition of our 45th anniversary, Audubon has set a goal of 450 members and 450,000 pesos in contributions. Contributions to Audubon’s Environmental Legacy Fund will support out Environmental Grant Program which supports worthy local organizations, whose projects and programs make a meaningful and measurable difference in the quality of the environment and quality of life for people in San Miguel.

Grants program Recently Audubon awarded the first grants of its new twice-yearly environmental grant program. They went to Proyecto de Educación Ambiental de San Miguel de Allende (PEASMA) which has educated over 35,000 local schoolchildren about how to care for the ecology of San Miguel through classroom and hands-on projects; to Grupo de Accion Interdisciplinaria Ambiental (GAIA) which educates women in the campo about deforestation and soil and water depletion and provides them with fuel-saving concrete eco-stoves, and to the Apiculture Collective, which combats the decline of honey bees and sets up bee-related cottage industries. 

Some people think Audubon is for the birds. And so it is. But Audubon is for people too – every person in our community is directly affected by the quality of the environment and the need for abundant water, clean air and a safe food supply. Unfortunately, these elements, as well as bird, wildlife and human habitats are at risk in San Miguel. The good news is that there are people working to reverse these threats, with Audubon de Mexico helping to lead the effort. 

Donating to Audubon’s Environmental Legacy Fund.
Donations to the Legacy Fund may be hand-delivered to Norman Besman, Treasurer, Audubon de Mexico, La Connexion Aldama, PMB 236-B.

If mailing outside of Mexico: Norman Besman, Treasurer, Audubon de Mexico 220 N. Zapata Hwy, #11, PMB 236-B, Laredo, TX 78043. Please make checks payable to Sociedad Audubon de Mexico.

For a U.S. tax deductible contribution, make checks payable to San Miguel Community Foundation and write “for Audubon de Mexico” in the memo line, and hand-deliver or mail to Audubon de Mexico at the addresses noted above.