Newtown Township to Become County's First Bird Town
The township will become part of an Audubon Pennsylvania initiative that encourages sustainability and ecological health.
Newtown Township is bracing to become the first designated “Bird Town” in Bucks County.
The Bird Town program was developed in 2010 by Audubon Pennsylvania to help communities improve their ecology and create a more sustainable environment for not just birds, but people, too, explained Steven Saffier of Audubon Pennsylvania.
The program encourages and aids communities to utilize better land management practices and stewardship with the goal of achieving a range of environmental benefits.
So if it’s about more than just birds, why is Audubon calling these environmentally conscious communities Bird Towns?
“Birds are the most visible and measurable indicators of environmental health in our natural areas,” Audubon explained. “Pennsylvania is an important place to migrant song birds but habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation continue to cause population declines in birds, other wildlife, and plants. Roughly 2.1 million acres of wildlife habitat nationwide are converted to residential use every year.”
Autumn Thomas, a member of the township’s Environmental Advisory Council, said the EAC was interested in becoming a Bird Town to spark interest in environmental issues among members of the community.
“Our main goal is to try to get community participation,” Thomas said. “We’re hoping that this will be a driver for that.”
The EAC is in the process of submitting its Bird Town application. The Board of Supervisors last week gave the initiative a nod.
In order to be accepted as a Bird Town, communities must meet certain criteria. Towns must have an EAC or something similar, as well as a park system that provides a natural habitat for birds and educational opportunities for the public. Additionally, the town must have an Important Bird Area or State Park within its boundaries.
Bird Town communities must also have environmental ordinances in place, should regularly plant trees in public spaces, and its EAC should be working to educate the public on various environmental issues.
Just recently, the Newtown Tree Tenders group was created. And last month, they planted several trees at Clark Nature Center. Starting next month, the Tree Tenders, which is affiliated with the EAC and is led by Thomas, will offer educational programs on how to care for plants and native species. For more information on this program, click here.
To keep its Bird Town status, Newtown will be required to take on a number of initiatives that encourage sustainability and promote community awareness of ecological issues. The township must display an “ecological dashboard” on its website that provides educational information about sustainability issues. The township must also engage local students studying bird habitats in their curriculum.
Also, as part of the program, Audubon will assist the township’s EAC with planning an annual “Bird Day” – a community festival celebrating birds and nature.
Upper Moreland, Montgomery County was the state’s first Bird Town. It received that designation in October 2010. Since then, six other towns have become involved in the program and presently 15 more are in the pipeline, Saffier said.
The benefits of becoming a Bird Town are vast, Saffier said. Aside from cleaner air and water, an improved ecology, and a better-informed community, Bird Towns will likely enjoy higher property values, Saffier said. Becoming a Bird Town also “encourages exercise, recreation, and community pride and cohesion,” he said.
Thomas said she’s very excited about the Bird Town initiative. “We’ve felt lost at EAC because we feel like no one is interested in environmental issues,” she said. Thomas added that she hopes the Bird Town designation will open up a line of communication to residents on issues that affect their air, water, and the community's overall environmental health.