BY AUTUMN ROCK
You enter the room to hear the soft calls of the common loon filling the air around you. Mounted on the walls are photos and paintings of the loon, and soon you are greeted by a warm, smiling, face, that of Executive Director Nina Schoch. Welcome to the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.
The organization began in 1998 and was run out of Schoch’s residence before moving in with Adirondack Hamlets to Huts in 2016. With its newly acquired non-profit status, the ACLC has moved again, this time to 15 Broadway in Saranac Lake.
Since its beginning, the ACLC has tripled its number of full-time workers and employs a field staff of nineteen members. This includes students from SUNY ESF’s Ecological Center and Paul Smith’s Adirondack Watershed Institute. With their ranks growing, it was time to get a larger office.
“We moved into this building about two weeks ago,” said Schoch.
While sharing their office and storefront with Adirondack Hamlets to Huts was great, there was just not enough room for the ACLC to expand and successfully complete its work.
Most of that work consists of mercury research and educational outreach with a local fisherman. The ACLC stresses the dangers of lead tackle to loons and promotes the proper disposal of fishing line to help reduce the number of loon entanglements.
Currently, the ACLC runs educational programs in communities but looks forward to hosting programs within the center itself soon. Schoch said she also hopes to add a kids’ corner and more educational displays and have a “true museum” with interactive activities within the new space.
Their duties also include referring rescue calls to Schoch for loons that have been “iced-in” before migrating in the fall.
“We get anywhere from ten, twenty, or thirty calls per year,” said Schoch, with her most being five calls per week.
And ACLC is rewarded by stories like these: a loon found wrapped in fishing line last year has two chicks this year.
“One of the fishing line loons was in bad shape, and it was questionable whether or not to send it for rehabilitation.”
Being a veterinarian and wildlife rehabilitator herself, Schoch said she gave the bird fluids, cleaned its wounds, banded it, and released it back into the wild. Recently, one of her field staff confirmed the bird was still alive and is raising two of its own chicks. The rescue took place at Jabe Pond near Lake George.
The new building has enough room for the center to keep its gift shop. In the shop, one can find rubber loons, glassware, paintings, books, mugs, T-shirts and canvas bags, to name just a few of the items.
“We try to utilize local artists,” said Schoch.
Some of the most popular items in the shop include jewelry, rubber loons, and the artwork. All photographs and artwork featured in the center are on consignment from the artists. Profits go directly to the ACLC to help fund its research.
While this is exciting, Schoch said the goal is to help the ACLC accomplish its mission of protecting loons in and out of the Adirondacks.
Schoch said none of the growth could have happened without the considerable support she received from the community.
Learn more about the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation.