The modern era of bird conservation in Vermont arose over the course of 160 years from a tradition of observation and data collection, a tradition nurtured by nature clubs, conservation groups, governments, academics, scientists, wealthy landholders, farmers and ordinary citizens.
- Zadock Thompson’s Natural History of Vermont, published in 1853, was in many respects Vermont’s first atlas of biodiversity.
- Vermonter George Perkins Marsh’s book Man and Nature, published in 1864, helped bring about more responsible forestry practices in Vermont and across the nation.
The first bird conservation groups:
- By the start of the 20th century, a growing national focus on bird conservation took root. The Brattleboro Bird Club voted to disband itself and reorganize as the Audubon Society of Vermont. The Vermont Botanical Club formed the Vermont Bird Club. Joining with Audubon, the Club began lobbying and public education on behalf of bird conservation.
- Bob Spear founded Vermont’s first Audubon nature center, Green Mountain Audubon, in Huntington. In 1969, he published the first of three editions of Birds of Vermont, at the time the most comprehensive account of the state’s migrating and nesting bird species.
- In 1972, Sally Laughlin and others dedicated to bird conservation established the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) in Woodstock. VINS also established the Records of Vermont Birds, which relied on volunteer observers to document bird distribution across the state.
Significant developments and political successes:
- Vermont’s first Breeding Bird Atlas project brought together 200 volunteers for six field seasons. The result, in 1985, was the first state or provincial breeding bird atlas to be published in North America.
- In 1986, VINS established a research department under the direction of Chris Rimmer, with bird research and conservation as its focus.
- The Vermont Endangered Species Act, passed in 1981, established a means for the listing and conservation of rare, threatened and endangered species. In 1987, the Vermont Nongame Wildlife Resources Act allowed taxpayers to contribute to conservation through a non-game “checkoff” on the state income tax return form.
- In 2000, the federal State Wildlife Grant (SWG) program began allocated matching funds to states for research on wildlife.
- The Vermont Wildlife Action Plan (WAP), adopted in 2005, promoted conservation strategies to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered. Vermont’s WAP assessed the status of 268 bird species.
- In 2007, the VINS research department formed an independent group, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE), broadening its focus to also include taxa ranging from amphibians to reptiles to insects, and expanding its geographic reach from northern New England through the West Indies to South America.
- The second Vermont Breeding Bird Atlas project, with field work running from 2003 through 2007, generated, in this new atlas, the most exhaustive account to date of Vermont’s approximately 200 breeding bird species.