LONG BEACH - People flocked to the initial meeting Monday night at the PUD building for a new Audubon chapter forming in Pacific County.

From education, to conservation and wildlife rehabilitation, to field trips and celebrations, ideas were exchanged for the new group's possible activities.

"We just need an Audubon here," said organizer and interim president Patricia Cruse, citing the wealth of birding opportunities on the Peninsula. "This Audubon is for the community. The more people that come, the more we can do."

At one point Cruse asked the crowd of more than 30 people if anyone knew how many swans were currently residing on Black Lake in Ilwaco. The question brought an immediate enthusiastic response. Stories were swapped of other swan sightings and gathering grounds. Cruse suggested an educational talk by a swan expert could be arranged for the group.

Still in its fledgling state, the new chapter is seeking to recruit volunteers for its board of directors. Already they have an education chair, Pamela Snively, and a conservation chair, Jacqueline Fass.

Snively was enthusiastic about involving children in the group.

"I want to get some children's things going," she said. She suggested backyard birding and building nesting boxes as possible family activities.

Fass said she wanted to get involved because "I've been appalled over some of the things that have been happening environmentally." She said people working together can have a positive impact on environmental policies. She pointed out that it was a concerted effort by private citizens that stopped the possible drilling in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge.

Already, she has compiled a list of Web sites that focus on environmental concerns and letter writing campaigns. "We need more education on what's going on. I want us to be involved in local issues," she said. "Awareness spreads like wildfire."

But it was also apparent the group was ready to have fun as well. They would like to have a field trip chairman. "Everybody seems to like field trips," said Cruse. There was also a suggestion to initiate an Earth Day celebration on the Peninsula.

One of the first suggested locations for a field trip was the Wildlife Rehab Center of the North Coast in Oregon. The center is the only facility in the region that takes in wildlife for rehabilitation. Sharnelle Fee, the director of the non-profit center, attended the meeting and gave a brief presentation on the facility. Not only were people enthusiastic about visiting the center, there were also numerous offers to help the center with their work.

Some people offered to keep an eye out for larger animal carriers. Others offered laundry soap, bird food and money. One couple offered to get their bed and breakfast association to donate towels.

But Fee said one of the biggest needs was to find volunteers to deliver the animals to center.

"The biggest issue is getting wildlife to us," she said. The center receives calls from all over the region, and has even received calls from the Long Beach Police Department. She said most of the animals that are sent to the center were injured as a result of human activity.

Both Fee and Cruse feel a partnership between the center and the new Audubon chapter would be a good match, beneficial to both organizations. Fee could provide educational training to volunteers and Audubon members could help deliver animals to the center. The volunteers would be involved in not just appreciating the local wildlife, but in actively saving it.

The next meeting for the new Audubon chapter is set for 7 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the PUD building. Membership is $20 annually. Membership forms can be found in the current issues of The Salty Dog, or for more information call 642-1310.

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