Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Rhode Island Audubon reaches for national accreditation

At Cardi Swamp in Foster, Scott Ruhren and Kyle Hess bushwhacked through thickets, slogged through ankle-deep mud, and traversed stone walls, small hills, and dense forests. Along the way they made note of the various habitats they encountered and recorded as many species of plants and animals as they could find on the 130-acre parcel, which was donated to Audubon in 1995.  
Hess, Audubon’s conservation assistant, called it “wandering with a purpose.” He and Ruhren, the senior director of conservation, cataloged a calling Pileated Woodpecker, several green and wood frogs, an active nest of bald-faced hornets, an orange stinkhorn fungus that smelled like rotting flesh, a solitary Atlantic white cedar tree, numerous shagbark hickories, and a high-bush
Kyle Hess at Cardi Swamp
blueberry shrub, among many others. They also recorded several invasive species – Japanese barberry, Asiatic bittersweet and a large patch of phragmites.
The undeveloped property, which is not open to the public, showed little sign of human impacts, other than the stone wall, a distant gun shot, and the sound of cars on the nearby roadway. 
The visit by Ruhren and Hess was part of Audubon’s effort to seek national land trust accreditation, an arduous process of recordkeeping, property monitoring, and policy updates that requires all Audubon lands be monitored at least once each year in the future – no matter how remote or difficult to traverse. Offered through the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization that aims to strengthen land conservation across the country, the accreditation typically takes several years to achieve. Audubon hopes to complete the process by 2020. 
Audubon’s Executive Director Larry Taft said that land trust accreditation is a way of documenting and ensuring that the Society follows the proper standards and best practices in how it handles land management and conservation. The accreditation process includes a review of everything from the organization’s mission, bylaws and policies to financing, fundraising and volunteer recruitment, with a special focus on recordkeeping and monitoring of all properties acquired throughout the organization’s history. 
“It’s a rigorous look under the hood at everything we do,” Taft said. “It’s all about proving how solid your organization is. And it has helped us to focus, to better understand our strengths and point out those areas where we could improve.  
“The process reminds us that we have an obligation...

Read the rest of the story in the Winter 2019 issue of Audubon Report.

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