October 26, 2014

Conservation District meeting gets batty

By Tim Barnum|Staff writer
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ARENAC COUNTY — The Arenac County Conservation District is holding its 55th annual meeting and like past meetings, this year’s on Feb. 19 will include an interactive presentation by Dawn Vezina, who will be bringing along some friends – bats.

“I’m going to bring bats from Michigan, South America, Malaysia and Africa,” said Vezina, a presenter with the Bat Zone at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, Bloomfield Hills. “We’ll talk about their echo location, we’ll talk about their conservation … the benefits that bats provide to people, plants and animals.”

“All the bats they bring are injured and can’t be released into the wild,” added Conservation District Administrator Joanna VanDenBoom. “They don’t hurt people.”

Vezina, though she now lives in the Bloomfield Hills area, says she first became exposed to bats while staying near Arenac County.

“I’ve always been interested in wildlife and I’ve always seen bats flying around. My family had a cottage in Gladwin and there were lots of them there,” she said. “But I had never seen one up close till I was in my mid 20’s and saw a ‘Bats of the World’ program – the same one I’ll be presenting.”

From there, Vezina says she began to volunteer at the Organization for Bat Conservation in Lansing about 11 years ago. While volunteering, she says she assisted presenters and did personal research on the winged mammals. Her learning has also given her the opportunity to travel to Australia and Rodrigues, an African island in the Indian Ocean, in efforts to rescue bat populations.

The Bats of the World presentation is scheduled to begin at approximately 7 p.m. but there are other events planned throughout the meeting.

“We will have overviews of district programs,” VanDenBoom said, adding these include tree sales, no-till drill rentals and youth programs. “We will also present the conservation farmer of the year.”

And the annual meeting, in its 55th year, seems to be growing.

“Last year we had 110 people at our meeting,” VanDenBoom said. “It was the biggest meeting in the history of the Arenac County Conservation District.”

The meeting is from 6-9 p.m. at the Saganing Tribal Center in Standish Township with a $5 dinner available beginning at 6 p.m. Admission is free for anyone not planning to eat dinner. For more information, call 989-846-9662.

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