Back in 1949 when the Tucson Audubon Society formed, you could get an annual membership to the group for a buck.

That’s before it had the Mason Audubon Center, a 20-acre expanse just off Hardy Road that’s perfect for nature walks, or the Institute of Desert Ecology, which teaches people about their desert surroundings each spring at Catalina State Park.

These days, membership is $30, but it gets you an organization with history.

This year marks the Tucson Audubon Society’s 60th year anniversary, and to celebrate, the organization is holding a fund-raising gala.

On Wednesday, Feb. 4, nature lovers will gather at the historic Arizona Inn to hear reminiscence about years past and to look to the future of wildlife preservation.

Michael Rosenzweig, author of “Win-Win Ecology: How Earth’s Species Can Survive in the Midst of Human Enterprise,” will speak about reconciliation ecology, the science of accommodating wild species where humans dwell.

Former University of Arizona president John Schaefer will talk about Tucson’s old days.

Northwest resident Kathy Olmstead remembers earlier days in the Old Pueblo and the old days of the Tucson Audubon Society. She joined the organization in the early 1970s, just as it was gearing up to offer its first Institute of Desert Ecology.

The scholarly camping trip pairs tent accommodations with wildlife classes and is a mainstay in the Tucson area even today. It debuted in 1971.

“We advertised and got a full house,” Olmstead said. “People came from all over the country, and all the instructors were doctor this and doctor that.”

In 1989, the organization started an urban curriculum for teachers and other educators who wanted to introduce students to the natural world but couldn’t afford field trips to rural areas.

First came a botany series.

“There’s a lot you can do looking at weeds coming up through sidewalks,” Olmstead said. After that came insects and birds.

“Teachers thought you have to take kids on field trips to see birds, but they’re all over,” Olmstead said.

Plenty of birds will show up at the silent auction during the Tucson Audubon Society’s gala. They’ll come in the form of winged sculptures and a day of birding in Southeast Arizona with well-known local nature guide Rick Wright.

The auction also will feature a trip to Africa.

The deadline for registering for the gala is Friday, Jan. 30. For more information, call 622-5622.


What: Tucson Audubon Society’s 60th anniversary celebration

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4

Where: Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St.

Cost: $150 (includes dinner)

Details: Registration deadline is Jan. 30.

Phone: 622-5622


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