For over 50 years, Beaver Meadow Audubon Center has been educating young and old alike in a living classroom nestled quietly in the hills of the Southern Tier.
The center was first purchased by the Buffalo Audubon Society in 1951, and began teaching Western New York school children before buildings were even erected on the site.
Loren Smith is Beaver Meadow's Executive Director: "We bought the first parcel for $1,760, 45 acres, and since then we've added a variety of properties adjacent and around it. Our volunteers have planted to restore habitats and build buildings. We also do all of our nature programs here."
Over 300 acres of diverse habitat, from ponds teeming with life to lush green forests, provide the educators at the center with a perfect habitat to reach the public with an equally diverse schedule of public programs of natural history education.
Their mission is clear and critical to the fostering of future caretakers of the planet.
"Nature education is core to the mission of the Buffalo Audubon Society," says Smith. "We believe that we're educating the next generation of environmental stewards. People love what they know, they protect what they love, so, by teaching kids and their families about nature and the habitat and plants and animals of Western New York, we think that we're doing critical work to make sure those habitats are protected for generations to enjoy."
As with many environmental organizations, volunteers are the life blood of the center's programs. Without these dedicated nature lovers, life at Beaver Meadow would be a little more difficult.
"We have a fabulous paid staff, but we couldn't do half of the programs we do without volunteers," says Smith. "The kids that you see today are being taken out by volunteers who are doing a range of programs from pond study to hands on wildlife, to a general nature walk. "
There's never a lack of interesting life at Beaver Meadow. The varied habitat cradles an amazing amount of wildlife.
"We have wetlands, we have beaver ponds, we have upland forests, we have kettle ponds, we have grasslands, we have grass and shrubs, so all that diversity in habitats gives us a diversity of wildlife, especially birds," says Smith.
Beaver Meadow is an environment that sparks inspiration, a green mentor of sorts. One that for many, begins the life long process of learning, caring, and protecting the planet.
"It's that process of inquiry, where if someone sees something that excites them and gives them that feeling of awe, then they're really going to love nature and want to come back and want to protect it as well," says Smith.
To find out more about Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, visit the website at www.buffaloaudubon.org.