In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email email@example.com to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!
Mass Audubon is a golden thread—no, a circle—that has run through my entire life. It started back in 1971 when I was able to get a city-sponsored summer job. Awakened by the Earth Day movement, I asked to work outdoors. Mass Audubon agreed to host a precocious and completely “green” (in more ways than one) 16-year- old at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. I cleaned the museum and gift shop, fed and occasionally wore the boa constrictors (much to the delight or fear of our visitors), and helped with the nature camps.
After studying as a biologist and earning my BS in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, I worked in various roles to protect water, wetlands, and wildlife for almost 40 years. I am profoundly grateful for and proud of the opportunities I had to serve at the regional, state, and federal level, but the last 29 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were the most rewarding.
I had the great privilege to manage national wildlife refuges in the Northeast, including eight in Eastern Massachusetts. There, working with wonderful staff, volunteers, friends, and conservation partners, including Mass Audubon, we managed and restored wildlife and habitat on 17,000 acres of land and water and provided opportunities to learn about and connect with nature to more than half a million visitors per year.
Now in retirement, I find myself connected to Mass Audubon in a different but still deeply rewarding way. As a volunteer at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Pittsfield and at Pleasant Valley, I have led trail maintenance projects, developed a volunteer trail steward program, pulled invasive garlic mustard plants, and helped with special events, to name just a few of the projects I have worked on.
As a member of the Berkshire Sanctuaries Advisory Committee, I provide input on policies and programs. I am thrilled that my expertise and experience is helpful to a place that I love with all my heart. Coming back to Mass Audubon feels like a symbolic closing of the circle of environmental protection that began here almost 50 years ago and has enriched my life in so many ways.
Libby Herland is a Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries Advisory Committee Member and volunteer.