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Philanthropy A to Z

E – Environments: Mass Audubon Society & Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries

Text by Sarah Tietje-Mietz

The iconic landscape of Cape Cod is a reason so many hold this region dear. Thankfully, Mass Audubon and Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries are ensuring that the distinct environments, and the flora and fauna found within, will be preserved and conserved for generations to come. 

Established 124 years ago “to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and for wildlife,” Mass Audubon safeguards over 38,000 acres throughout the state, including six sanctuary sites open to the public on the Cape, two on Nantucket and one on Martha’s Vineyard. These protected environments are conduits for creating the lasting relationships that help ensure their protection. Ian Ives, sanctuary director at Mass Audubon’s Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable, says that “Once you fall in love with nature, then you feel the responsibility to care for it. And, so much of what Mass Audubon does is about connecting people with nature.”

Mass Audubon creates these connections through robust public programming, partnerships with local schools and organizations, and even establishing a licensed nature preschool at Long Pasture that runs fall to spring. Trail systems through the sanctuaries provide visitors a front-row experience to the unique Cape Cod ecosystems. Lush marshes, sandy beaches and woodlands are filled with opportunities to catch glimpses of dragonflies, turtles, birds and more. If boots-on-the-ground and get-your-hands-dirty volunteering is for you, Mass Audubon is always looking for help with various activities including summer visitor services docents, ecological management like native plant gardening, wildlife surveys and a host of property-related help. 

Photo by Heather Fone

For Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries, the connection with Mass Audubon goes deeper than their shared focus on conservation. It was Mass Audubon that assisted Salt Pond Founder, Ermine Watkins Lovell, in establishing the Salt Pond committee within Mass Audubon in 1960. Once Lovell established a separate nonprofit, the lands previously overseen by the committee went to Salt Pond Areas Bird Sanctuaries. Focused on the Falmouth area, they own and oversee multiple properties, around 250 acres in total. From the wave-battered crag of the Knob in Woods Hole to the pastoral trails winding through historic Bourne Farm in West Falmouth, Salt Pond has dedicated their efforts to “preserving and maintaining open space in Falmouth” since incorporating as a nonprofit in 1962. 

Katharine M. Taylor, Salt Pond’s executive director who has been with the organization since 1997, credits their spaces with providing the ideal environments for kids to disconnect from the digital and connect with the spectacular natural world around them. With just two full-time and two part-time staff members, including land stewards, Taylor says that they are always looking for dedicated volunteers to lead nature walks, join the board, fundraise and assist with hallmark events like pumpkin day at Bourne Farm.

Looking towards the future, Mass Audubon and Salt Pond see the work they do for the Cape Cod communities expanding. At Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, a brand-new discovery center will be opening for public use next April, while the Knob will be undertaking repairs to the protective outer rock revetment. Both projects are essential enhancements for the sites, and are made possible through the generosity of donors, with fundraising efforts still ongoing. 

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