Because of an editing error, Linda Kolodziej's name was spelled incorrectly in a story on the Fairfax Audubon Society in last week's Virginia Weekly. (Published 11/1/90)

The Fairfax Audubon Society isn't just for the birds any more. The 4,600-member organization is championing environmental causes in Northern Virginia and throughout the country.

"Fairfax Audubon is thought to be only about birding, but it's expanded to become an overall conservation organization," said member Linda Kolodzeij. "Protecting habitats helps birds, but it also protects all forms of life, including humans."

The volunteer organization extends "from Loudoun to Woodbridge and all points in between," said President Paul Hughes, who became involved in the organization because of his environmental concerns.

"Our children are going to have to live with the mistakes that this generation has made," Hughes said. "The next 10 years are critical in developing an environmental ethic. If we don't, it'll be nigh hopeless to recover."

Hughes was elected president of the organization two years ago. There are two vice presidents, one focusing on conservation and the other on environmental education. Committees work on specific issues.

Charlie Creighton, a member since his retirement in 1982, is chairman of the Mason Neck Committee. Creighton organizes a group of about 60 volunteers who work at Mason Neck State Park and Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

"We're not naturalists by training but by interest," Creighton said.

Projects include maintaining and monitoring eggs in wood duck nesting boxes and sponsoring an annual photo contest. Volunteers also assist park staff by working at the information center on weekends, cleaning beach debris and maintaining trails, including converting a trail for wheelchair use.

Plans are in the works to plant shrubs that will serve as habitats and food for smaller animals such as rabbits. Members also count eagles at the refuge, formed explicitly to protect the bald eagle.

"We've been out on nasty, rainy days and hot, sticky days where the mosquitoes were awful, but seeing the eagles makes all the work worthwhile," Creighton said. "So many areas have been developed in the last few years that 'the neck' is one of the last good habitats for the eagles in the area."

The group is involved in a lawsuit attempting to stop deer hunting in the refuge. The noise generated from the hunting may disturb the eagles, which then search for other habitats to mate and nest.

"We're not against shooting, hunting or culling the herd," Chambers said. "We're against disturbing the eagles."

Chambers became involved with Fairfax Audubon in 1988 and since has "stepped into the gap" whenever the organization needs her assistance. She even answers the society's phone calls on questions from where to find the right bird feeeder to whom to call about an injured bird.

"I like to have a worthy organization to give my energies to," Chambers said. "Our mission is to educate and sensitize people to the natural world around them."

One company called to find out what to do about Canada geese roosting on their windowsills. Cleaning up after the birds was costing the company thousands of dollars. "I've had quite an education answering phones and finding information for people," Chambers said.

Other Fairfax Audubon projects include preserving wetlands from development. The group sponsors classes for members interested in curtailing destruction of area wetlands, one of the most biologically rich habitats in the ecosystem.

The group is interested not only in local wetlands. The society's Costa Rican Committee and its sister chapter in that country are concerned about Palo Verde, a wetlands preserve in Costa Rica.

Many area birds migrate to Central America each winter. Bird habitats there are being threatened by deforestation and pesticides, many of them banned in this country but still exported, Hughes said.

"We wanted to make the connection with our members and the public that there were very disturbing things happening where our birds winter," Hughes said.

Fairfax Audubon also has adopted a mile-long section of Accotink Creek in Annandale. Members, community groups and students have become involved in its cleanup.

"Because of paved-over impervious roads, parking lots and shopping centers, water can't be absorbed into soil and grass," Hughes said. "We need to educate people that the reason we have no fish and aquatic life in {the streams} is because of the silt in this surge of water."

The society is helping by planting vegetation to control erosion. Rechanneling streams into holding ponds helps prevent undercutting of stream banks, a process where surging water cuts away riverbanks, causing trees to fall and bringing about further erosion.

Next Saturday, group members will be involved in a cleanup of Difficult Run and its tributaries. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors adopted the stream as part of its Earth Day commitment to the environment.

The National Audubon Society has selected Arlington County for its "Solid Solutions to Solid Waste," a solid waste management project. Fairfax Audubon is assisting the effort with a backyard composting program for leaf, grass and vegetation disposal.

And of course there are morning, evening and field trip birding programs, including an annual Christmas bird count on Dec. 29.

The Fairfax Audubon Society also works toward educating the community about environmental issues by sponsoring a classroom program for children in grades four to six called "Audubon Adventures." Currently, 213 classrooms in Alexandria and Fairfax, Arlington and Loudoun counties are involved in the series, which costs $30 a classroom.

The organization hopes to expand the program to include seventh- through ninth-grade students and high schoolers.

"We've got a tremendous number of environmental problems facing us," Creighton said. "I see Audubon as educating people about these problems and encouraging them to do something about pollution, development and diminishment of habitats for wildlife."

The group offers local educators scholarships to the National Audubon's ecology workshops. "For one week {teachers} eat, read and sleep ecology issues," Hughes said.

Nationally, Fairfax Audubon supports conservation efforts through congressional letter-writing campaigns to stop destructive legislation from being enacted.

Through letters, the group promotes "old growth" forests in the Pacific Northwest threatened by logging. Only 10 percent of these forests remain, home to over 150 species of wildlife.

"Today, if you don't have a lot of money to influence politicians in environmental issues you need to have people in an organization like this," Kolodziej said.

Kolodziej recently became editor of the organization's newsletter, the "Potomac Flier." The newsletter helps members keep abreast of environmental activities and local and national issues. Production, labeling and mailing, all done by volunteers, takes more than 100 hours a month.

The majority of Fairfax Audubon's funding comes from a portion of national membership fees. National membership ranges from $20 to $38.

One of the group's biggest fund-raisers is its annual birdseed sale Nov. 3. Hughes expects sales and mail orders to total about $25,000.

As the organization grows, some members believe that part-time and full-time staff will become necessary to manage and organize the group and its volunteers.

"More and more of our members will come to realize that they're going to have to fight for the things they hold dear locally, statewide and nationally," Hughes said. "It's going to take a lot of work."