Restoring boots in the field and hands in the dirt will continue to be an integral part of SCWF’s work. The organization’s Certified Wildlife Habitat program provides the means to engage entire communities in restoration efforts. Through this program, habitats in backyards, schoolyards, churches, parks, industrial properties and even entire communities can be certified as wildlife sanctuaries by providing food, water, shelter and places where wildlife can rear their young. Columbia is one of 11 communities in the state to have achieved this certification – the mark of a grassroots commitment to wildlife and natural resources.
Over the years, SCWF has learned that education is the deciding factor in commitment to the cause at any scale. Jay quotes Baba Dioum, a Senegalese forest engineer, who expressed this sentiment in a statement to the General Assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1968: “In the end, we will only conserve what we love, we will only love what we love. understand, and we will only understand what we are taught.
SCWF imparts a love and understanding of wildlife and natural resources through classes, retreats, camps, and webinars throughout the year. As a certified Palmetto Pro Birder, Jay leads birding classes for amateur and seasoned birders across the state. Bird identification, he explains, is as much about visual identification as sound identification, as well as familiarity with bird habitats. Mnemonics like “Who cooks for you?” Who cooks for all of you? help identify the Nocturnal Barred Owl. Bright colors, such as the striking sapphire hue of indigo buntings, make it easy to spot day travelers. Though he could shake Audubon’s insight for hours, Jay’s biggest suggestion to budding birdwatchers is to sit back and let nature come to them. “I think anyone can do it if they just allow themselves to slow down,” he says.
While slowing down isn’t on the Camp Wildwood agenda, knowing where to look and what to listen to does. The camp, located at Kings Mountain, is operated through a partnership between the Garden Club of South Carolina, SCDNR, SCWF, South Carolina State Parks and the Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Fund. Each summer, approximately 100 first-year campers spend a week learning about wildlife, forestry, fishing, and natural resources, in addition to leadership and fellowship.
A fifth of this group are invited to return the following year, during which seasoned campers travel off-site for high ropes, rafting, boat trips and fly fishing. Year two campers also delve deeper into leadership development and natural resource education. Those selected for the third-year program head to the Donnelly Wildlife Management Area on the ACE Basin for a coastal experience that includes shark fishing, sea turtle education, and canoeing. As a former camper who is now one of the camp’s second-year staff coordinators, BeBe credits Camp Wildwood with boosting her career in natural resources. “I changed my major from advertising to marine science after this camp,” she says. Her experience, she explains, is common for Camp Wildwood alumni, regardless of their career path. “Even if you don’t become a natural resources professional, you still have that little voice in your head asking, ‘Is this the most conservation-conscious approach?'”
This issue underpins all of SCWF’s work, reinforcing the organization’s mission to conserve and restore South Carolina’s wildlife and habitat through education and advocacy with every project, program and person we serve. they reach. “The more we can put education in the hands of the public and involve the public in education, the more likely it is to spur them to action,” says BeBe.