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A Brief History of our Chapter

A determined group of people in Northeast Pa. came together in 1971 because they saw the need to tackle some local environmental issues. To accomplish their goals, they decided to create a chapter of the National Audubon Society. They named it the Wayne-Pike Audubon Society based upon the two-county area National was offering for membership revenue. Some of the key founders were Voni & Joe Strasser, Dorothy & Dan Merrill, Mary & Dick Palmer, Jack Silberlicht, Florence Welton, Harris Woodley, Mike Gadomski, and Florence & Norman Welton.

Strongly committed to promoting a healthy environment, they went about the work of convincing others of the need to speak out on issues vital to the quality of life on this planet. Some of the first issues they tackled were the protection of a threatened heron rookery, creating bluebird trails, the nomination of the Upper Delaware as a Wild & Scenic River, and fighting the Tocks Island dam proposal for the Delaware River. Thanks to their efforts and those of sister organizations, the Delaware today remains a free-flowing river.

A few years after the group was founded, “energy parks” were proposed by a consortium of Pa. utilities. Our group was instrumental in introducing this concept to the citizens. We had scheduled a general “Nuclear Energy and You” program organized by Katharine Dodge that happened to coincide with the introduction of the energy park concept. We went on to help defeat the plan to site five to ten nuclear and five to ten coal plants at one site in rural Pa. For many years, we worked closely with Dr. Judith Johnsrud and the Pa. Coalition on Nuclear Power, especially on nuclear waste issues.

When Gifford Pinchot Audubon was formed in Milford, Pa, we lost about 1/3 of our territory in Pike County. In exchange, National enlarged our territory from just Wayne & Pike Counties, to about 1/3 of Pike, and all of Wayne, Susquehanna, and Lackawanna Counties. Thus, we changed our name to the Northeast Pa. Audubon Society.

Our Art & Craft Festival was proposed and run by Voni Strasser and Sue Sphuler to fund a scholarship program. The first one was in 1986. Voni and Sue later turned that responsibility over to Dave Fooks to take over festival management. He receives a percentage from the profits.

Voni established the Christmas Bird Count site in White Mills and the Migratory Bird Count in Wayne County. These continue today under Barbara Leo’s management.

For a few years, we were a sister chapter with an Audubon group in Venezuela.

1996, 97, & 98, Katharine Dodge, as education chair, created a calendar from the art and words of local children. It was called “Mother Nature’s Year.”

Marge Brion enrolled us in the Adopt-a-Highway program. We are responsible for a two mile stretch along rte. 191 in Lake Township (which includes the road frontage along our Price-Simpson Wetland).

Ann Horvath created a “Welcome Packet” for Habitat for Humanity families that included habitat tips, our calendar, CFLs, and a bird feeder and seed, or a bird house. She presented several of these at the ceremonies welcoming families into their new homes. We had considered enlarging this to include other new home owners in our region. Sadly, Ann died, and this program is dormant.

Two parcels of land were given to us, both in Wayne County. The first was the 78 acre “Browning Beaver Meadow” in Manchester Township, named after donors Helen and Mel Browning. The second was the 32 acre “Price-Simpson Wetland” named after the Price and Simpson families who donated it. It was a former water basin for the gravity railroad engines that passed along its edge. It is in Lake Township.

With the help of Barbara Leo, we became stewards of Important Bird Area (IBA) #60 along the Upper Delaware Corridor.

Many more people not named above, have helped our chapter flourish. Papers listing our charter members, past speakers, conservation award winners, etc. are in our archives.

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