Larry Berrin is looking forward to tapping local knowledge and developing new partnerships as Montana Audubon prepares for the future.
The newly hired executive director follows Steve Hoffman to lead Montana Audubon. He has spent the past 25 years in conservation and education programs, with the bulk of his career spent in New England and Oregon. His career includes work as a park ranger, managing the Tillamook Forest Center in Oregon, and most recently working in land conservation and acquisition in Pennsylvania.
“After an exhaustive search, he was our unanimous pick,” Fred Weisbecker, Audubon board president, said in a statement. “We all look forward to Larry leading the organization, working with staff and active Audubon chapters on bird conservation, nature education and policy work promoting birds and habitat protection.”
One of Berrin’s favorite jobs was early in his career as state education director for National Audubon Society, and he says he is excited to be out West again and back with the organization. He took the helm in Montana in September.
“The focus on birds really appealed to me as a bird watcher myself, and it’s a passion of mine. It’s what really gets me outside, and it’s introduced me to a lot of things about the natural world that I enjoy,” he said.
Berrin recalled leading bird watching groups as a ranger in Acadia National Park and the peacefulness of the mornings.
“That was probably the spark,” he said, “and then it becomes more of a passion than a hobby.”
Through his career, Berrin has seen the value of seeking partnerships to build support for projects. He pointed to the Golden Eagle Migration Survey near Helena as a prime example, where local and state chapters of Audubon partner with state and federal agencies.
“The high tide floats all boats, and we’re all benefiting by working together and combing our resources and capacity to make something great happen,” he said. “That’s really what I’m excited about with Montana Audubon.”
Berrin is busy in his new job meeting with local chapters and various organizations. He says Audubon can sometimes be confusing for those outside the organization with understanding the grassroots independence of local chapters and the roles played by the state and national organizations.
“It’s great to have that network of chapters throughout the state and I want to learn from them and find a shared vision,” he said.
This winter, Montana Audubon will tackle its strategic plan and where to prioritize its attention. That is a challenge considering various initiatives from policy to research in a large state like Montana with so many bird species and habitats, he said.
Berrin wants to see Audubon “stay in our lane with birds and bird habitat,” with an emphasis on science and research driving policy. He also sees a kinship among all those who enjoy the outdoors, whether birdwatchers, hunters or hikers. Birds are often a good barometer of clean air, water and habitat, he added.
“I think we’ve probably said this before, but we see birds as the ‘canary in the coal mine’ for the environment,” Berrin said. “If it’s impacting birds then it’s telling us a lot about the natural world.”