Eastside Audubon recognizes Woodinville man for environmentalism

Jim Rettig at the Eastside Audubon
Jim Rettig at the Eastside Audubon's annual Pacific Northwest native plant sale at Kirkland Children's School last April.
— image credit: By Mick Thompson

Woodinville resident Jim Rettig was recently honored as the Eastside Audubon Society’s 2012 Environmentalist of the Year for his leadership in habitat conservation and citizen science during more than two decades.

Among the most visible results of Rettig’s work are improvements to the Audubon BirdLoop at Marymoor Park in Redmond. When Eastside Audubon received stewardship of the area in partnership with King County Parks in 2006, Rettig became the chapter’s project manager.

Since then he has been a tireless organizer of BirdLoop habitat and infrastructure improvement projects and the fund raising to support them.

Results include expanded trails, refurbished boardwalks, interpretive signs and information kiosks. As monthly work parties continue to remove invasive plants and restore native habitat, Rettig is reliably first on hand with shovel and clippers. Marymoor visitors can experience the effects of the work he has led by walking the Audubon BirdLoop; the observation mound near parking lot G makes a good starting point.

Rettig has been involved for five years with Save Our Swifts (SOS), a regional group dedicated to the study and preservation of Vaux’s Swifts. He was at the forefront of the group’s successful effort to prevent demolition of the brick chimney at Monroe’s Frank Wagner Elementary School, where Vaux’s Swifts roost by the thousands during their fall migration in September.

SOS has retrofitted the chimney to make it earthquake-safe and has installed a webcam inside for observation and research. With Rettig as liaison, Eastside Audubon is a co-sponsor of Swift Night Out, an outdoor family event held each September.

Rettig has been a legislative advocate for birds and the environment and a champion of citizen science programs such as Project FeederWatch, a nationwide bird census. Since joining Eastside Audubon in 1989, Jim has been president and served multiple terms on the board.

An avid mountain hiker and retired pastor, Rettig is inspired by what he sees as “the interconnectedness and balance of all things.” A love of birds sparked 30 years ago by his first sighting of a Western Tanager has led him to travel internationally with his wife, Jan, and to read widely.

“The more I read about birds and plants and bacteria and insects and animals, the more I am amazed at the interrelationships that are always going on and that keep our planet healthy,” he said.

With its Environmentalist of the Year Award, the Conservation Committee of Eastside Audubon each year recognizes a community member or organization for sustained effort on a conservation project, educational program, scientific study, or written work that has had an observable impact.

Past recipients have included Mary Britton-Simmons, a retired Woodinville High School teacher who led the creation of Eastside Audubon’s youth education program; Martyn Stewart, a Redmond-based sound recordist whose work helped locate injured birds following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010); and the five founding members of the Environmental and Adventure School at Finn Hill (2009).

Rettig received the award at a dinner honoring more than 140 Eastside Audubon volunteers who worked during 2012 on conservation, education, and community outreach projects.


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