For several years, under the guidance of dedicated teachers and community volunteers, students from local schools have been diligently transforming a landscape, from gravel pit to wildlife habitat. They have been restoring a tapped-out piece of ground as an example to us all; planting seeds that are taking root in the land and in their minds. Through this process these students are changing not only the place but themselves as well. What is emerging along the Yellowstone River is a permanent place in the community for birds and wildlife and for people to learn and study and grow. Ours is a program for conservation and education serving the south-central Yellowstone region for generations to come.
The Montana Audubon Center lies in the heart of the 72,000 square mile Yellowstone River Basin and within minutes of the urban center of Billings. A partnership between the Yellowstone River Parks Association (YRPA), Yellowstone Valley Audubon Society (YVAS) and Montana Audubon has made the center possible. YRPA has led efforts to restore the site and they have granted Montana Audubon a 99-year lease on the property for educational programs. The partners are cooperating to build a facility and endow programs. Local teachers continue to provide critical assistance with planning, implementation of school programs, and overall project development.
Initially launched in 1998, an all-volunteer effort has planted more than 65,000 trees and shrubs for habitat restoration, engaged dozens of schools and local businesses, and built community support for a year-round center. Today, Montana Audubon and its partners are prepared to build on this foundation and establish the Center as a regional hub for placed-based education, conservation/environmental research and monitoring, citizen science, and Yellowstone River Basin natural history. Local governance from an Audubon Center Advisory Council, strong community partnerships, and exceptional education programming are the pillars supporting the growth and development of this project.
The Center’s site is a 54-acre former gravel mine bordered by 115 acres of city-managed park land. Beautifully situated along the Yellowstone River, the Montana Audubon Center includes three ponds for scientific research and exploration, and connectivity to the growing greenbelt trail system, an island on the river, and City parks. The site anchors the growing Yellowstone Greenway public trail system. This is an ideal location within Montana’s largest urban center providing easy access and a diversity of habitats and wildlife.