iNaturalist app

Heather Bilden, the community programs coordinator with the Montana Audubon Center, takes a photo of a butterfly wing as she shows participants how to use the iNaturalist app during the Coffee Walk with a Naturalist: Apps in the Wild event in Riverfront Park July 6. The phone app allows users to upload a photo of plants, animals, and fungi into the photo recognition software for easy identification.

The Montana Audubon Center turns 10-years-old this year, and the Yellowstone River Parks Association is celebrating this decade of conservation and education facility on Norm Schoenthal Island from 3-6 p.m. on July 20. The event is free and open to the public.

The center opened in 2009, built from a desire to get children and families outside to learn about the animals, plants, and ecosystems of the area. Montana Audubon Center opened in October with support from the Montana Audubon, the Yellowstone River Parks Association, Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society, and others and now provides education programs to more than 20,000 visitors each year.

Go to Bat for Bats

Maeve Storey, 9, tries to match scents during the "Go to Bat for Bats" event at the Montana Audubon Center in 2017.

The property along South Billings Boulevard was acquired by the Yellowstone River Parks Association from the Long Family Trust in 1998 and the site was rehabilitated from a gravel pit to include native Montana plants. 

Under the guidance of Norm Schoenthal, professor at Eastern Montana College for nearly three decades, and other educators including teachers Jean Smith, Dean Smith, and John Miller, education and opportunities for youth engagement were a primary focus of the center. 

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Arbor Day

Leroy Gabel of the Yellowstone Conservation District pulls out a green ash tree to give away during an Arbor Day event at the Montana Audubon Center in 2018. The conservation district gave away 330 bare-root maple, ash, and poplar trees and cotoneaster shrubs to members of the public to plant.

The center became the Montana Audubon's first nature center in the state. In 2002, Audubon teamed up with YRPA on the current site, and over the next six years collectively raised more than $350,000 for the construction of a Wet Lab to serve as the headquarters for restoration, education, and research. 

An osprey returns to the nest

An osprey returns to the nest with a fish on a platform at the Montana Audubon Conservation Education Center on Tuesday, April 2, 2015.

Since that time, both the programs and the landscape have matured, including hundreds of volunteer-planted cottonwoods and junipers. The Center’s education programs are touted as a core community asset and a model of conservation education in the region.

For more information, visit www.mtaudubon.org/center.

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