The Bethel area serves as a gateway to 11 million acres that Sally Stockwell of Maine Audubon once described as, “Part of the largest intact temperate forest in North America and perhaps the world.” We enjoy a wild and diverse habitat, while news about the collapse of the natural world seems to come on a monthly basis.

A UN report released this year reported that up to 1 million species of animals, birds, insects and plants face extinction worldwide. Last year, a report from the World Wildlife Fund issued a report stating that animal populations have dropped by 60% in the last 40 years. Birdlife International reports that one in eight bird species are threatened with extinction. A study in the September issue of Science stated that North America has seen a 30% drop in breeding bird populations since 1970.

These are dismal statistics. It would be nice to think the Mahoosuc Region is insulated. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. The recent Science study points to common birds in our area which are in steep decline. Chimney Swifts (photo by Dominic Sherony), a good example, have seen a 70% drop in their population since 1970. Once summer regulars, they haven’t nested at my house in the last five years. This is just one of many examples.

In the face of these sobering numbers, it would be easy to give up. The good news, however, is  we know what to do to reverse these trends. Think about successes we have had in our lifetime.                Wild Turkeys were considered extinct in New England in the mid-1900s. Today, they are everywhere. When I was growing up, Bald Eagles and other birds of prey were on the verge of extinction. Today these birds are doing better. And, many types of ducks and geese have rebounded since their lows in the 1970s.

These improvements didn’t happen by accident. In each case, ordinary people banded together. Landowners, farmers, government and business leaders made a measurable difference. Ducks Unlimited is a good example. Hunters and conservationists work together to enact good hunting and land management practices. The result? Ducks are thriving.

Here in Bethel, there are groups actively working to make a difference. If the grim statistics trouble you, now is the time to get involved with one of them. In the meantime, if you’ve noticed changes in birds – both good and bad – please share that with me. In upcoming articles, I will focus on these birds and what we can do to help.

James Reddoch, of Albany Township and Boston, leads birding events for the Mahoosuc Land Trust which celebrates 30 years conserving the natural areas of the Mahoosuc Region. Visit Mahoosuc Land Trust at 162 North Road, Bethel, ME or at To learn about upcoming events or to contact James, send your emails to [email protected].

Chimney Swift. Dominic Sherony

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