Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Fifty years ago, Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" came out and sent a shock wave through the environmental world.
This month the Friends of Hog Island will celebrate the awareness Carson brought to environmentalism with a play and panel discussion of environmental experts.
In addition to having a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Preserve in Maine named for her, Carson spent time on Hog Island.
The celebration of her conservation work that sounded an alarm comes at a time when the Hog Island Audubon Camp's friends have sounded their alarm to save this special place.
For most of 75 years, the 100-year-old camp on Hog Island has been a classroom to teach about the natural world. But at the turn of the century, the camp's future was unknown when it was transferred from National Audubon to Maine Audubon.
After years of dwindling use, the camp was transferred back to National Audubon last year.
Now the Friends group is working to raise a $1 million endowment to run it at the level it was during the last century, said Juanita Roushdy, the president of the Friends of Hog Island.
"We've been working just over a year. We started from stone cold. It was a social group that had fallen to the wayside because the camp had closed. So I put a board together and wrote the bylaws. We made it a functioning business in 2011," Roushdy said.
The group has raised $50,000 and received a $250,000 anonymous donation, which they plan to match, Roushdy said. She believes they will raise the $1 million endowment this year.
"The camp never had an endowment. Now we are not in debt. We are fully in the black with a positive cash flow," Roushdy said.
The work to save the Hog Island camp has been done by volunteers who are passionate about the environment. They are former campers, neighbors and Mainers who love the 330-acre island that is part of the Todd Audubon Sanctuary.
Their effort has a Rachel-Carson spirit.
"Now at Hog Island Camp, we have top-notch experts in ornithology and environmentalists, national experts," Roushdy said.
Today, as many as six summer programs are held, some led by Scott Weidensaul, naturalist and author; and Stephen Kress, who founded Project Puffin, the seabird restoration program that brought puffin and tern colonies back to Maine.
This summer, 500 students will pass through the camp, Roushdy said. Soon, she hopes, more ongoing programs will be rolled out with no fear of the island's work ending.
"We want to see it to its 100th anniversary," said John White in Bremen, a Friends volunteer.
The evening celebration of Rachel Carson's work on July 28 will be, in a way, a celebration of the Friends' work and determination.
"I'm in the second half of my 60s and Rachel Carson is very familiar and so is 'Silent Spring.' But when I talk to my own children, her book came out such a long time ago they don't know it. This celebration was an opportunity to educate and to bring attention to a wonderful advocate," White said.
The play "Sense of Wonder" will be performed by award-winning actress Kaiulani Lee. The panel will be made up of Maine environmental educators and advocates who, in many ways, embody Carson's work: Kress, the director of the National Audubon camp; Weidensaul, a naturalist and author; and Tim Glidden, director of Maine Coast Heritage Trust.
"Rachel Carson's tie to the island was through its donor, Millicent Todd Bingham. They were friends, and they came out of the world of education with the same kind of dream of bringing an understanding to the environmental world through writing and actions. We talk about that as being part of our history," White said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: