Natural Connection

Two area nonprofit organizations with a history of cooperation, common goals and a shared linkage to Jamestown’s famous naturalist, Roger Tory Peterson, have begun exploratory conversations about expanded collaborations.

A task force comprised of board leadership and the presidents of the Jamestown Audubon Society and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History have met to assess the desirability and feasibility of new program collaborations and the potential for consolidation of some administrative functions.

Reflecting the accomplishments of Roger Tory Peterson, both organizations have as a core goal to connect human beings with the natural world. JAS focuses its programs on live experiences and workshops for local audiences of all ages, with many special programs for school-age children. RTPI, founded by community leaders at the campus of Jamestown Community College in 1983, preserves and displays the life works of Peterson and serves as a regional center of knowledge on the environment that showcases nature art exhibits and carries out field research and conservation education programs locally, nationally and internationally.

Both organizations have weathered the headwinds of the recent national recession and have emerged with reduced staffs and increasing financial stability. Both rely on grants and donations from foundations and private citizens. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation holds donor-designated funds for both organizations from gifts and estates of local residents.

Ruth Lundin, president of JAS, highlighted recent strengths.

“Our organization has taken great strides forward, developing the Education Master Plan, offering additional programs and events that connect people to nature, expanding its membership, increasing programming in Warren County schools and raising awareness through increased presence in print and social media,” she said. “It’s an opportune time to reach out to RTPI to see how we can together serve the community even better.”

“There seem to be many areas in each organization that could work well synergistically,” said Twan Leenders, president of the RTPI since July 2012. “It makes a lot of sense to take a closer look at the potential for increased collaboration. I look forward to jointly examining mutual benefits and exploring ways to align our respective strengths in ways that can benefit both organizations, our local environment and the greater community.”

Other members of the task force representing JAS are incoming Board Chair Jane Conroe and Pierre Chagnon, incoming vice chair for Strategic Planning. RTPI members include Mary Blair, chair of the RTPI Foundation, and Dick Redington, current chair of the RTPI Board of Trustees. Conroe and Redington said that he task force met with the understanding that the process would be to share information about the two organizations and explore, with no preconceived notions, how it might be beneficial to proceed.

The task force will continue to meet throughout the coming months and will report from time to time on its progress. For more information about each organization, the public is encouraged to visit the websites jamestownaudubon.org and rtpi.org.