By Phyl Newbeck, Contributor

Scott Jaunich readily admits he’s not what most people would expect from a member of the Audubon Vermont Board of Directors. “I’ve seen more birds from the bead of a shotgun than I have from binoculars,” he said. “I’m not a birder, so it was unusual that I was invited to be on the board, but I’ve always had an interest in birds and the environment.”

Scott JaunichPhoto contributed

Scott Jaunich. Photo contributed.

Jaunich’s interest in birds is evident from his collection of decoys and bird stamps and his honor thesis at Middlebury College on mallard duck population dynamics and range expansion in northern New England. He spent the summer and fall of his junior year touring Newfoundland and Labrador with the Center for Northern Studies, studying biology, ecology, native culture and geology while living in tents. Jaunich is also a graduate of the National Outdoor Leadership School, having participated in a 33-day kayak expedition in Prince William Sound, Alaska, during high school.

After college, Jaunich attended Vermont Law School where he got a degree in environmental law. He and his wife, Lynne, a physical therapist, looked at job opportunities across the country. Initially, they relocated to California where they bought a house in San Jose, ten miles from where Jaunich had grown up. After working at several legal practices, Jaunich and some colleagues opened their own real estate law firm, but the lure of Vermont was strong.

“Lynne and I always thought we’d end up in New England,” he said. The couple and their three children moved to Charlotte in the summer of 2001. Jaunich practices real estate, land use and environmental law at Downs Rachlin Martin, where he chairs the Real Estate practice group. He is a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers.

Serving on the Audubon Vermont Board is not Jaunich’s first foray into nonprofit work. He sat on the board of California Fly Fishers Unlimited, and in Vermont, he was on the boards of the Lund Family Center and Mobius. Public service runs in the family; Lynne is the chair of the Champlain Valley School District school board. Jaunich was initially approached to be on the Audubon Board by Curt Alpeter of Charlotte five years ago. “I knew Curt from hunting pheasants,” Jaunich said. “I met with him and Jim Shallow, who was executive director at the time, and I was intrigued. This was a chance to be on a board with an environmental ethic which was more in tune with my personal interests.”

Jaunich hasn’t been doing much bird hunting of late but said that his true passion is fly fishing. He is also a member of the Frostbite Fleet, a group of salmon fishermen who go out on the lake in the colder months. The group formed 20 years ago as a communal organization of boaters who are willing to head out on days when they have to shovel and sand the boat ramps and break the shoreline ice in order to get out on the lake.

Jaunich said the Audubon Board has grown over the years and has also become more diverse. “It’s been a good run,” he said. “Our intention is to expand the breadth of the board, and now not only do we have good birders but also other environmentalists.”

The past year was a challenge for Audubon because they were unable to do their usual programming, but Jaunich said they have been able to work on their three major initiatives: getting more people in tune with nature, getting people outside, and advocating for birds and the environment. He said there has been an increase in people using the trails at Audubon’s property in Huntington, and the organization has been able to hold some of their organized events, including Pride Hikes.

Although he insists he’s not a birder, Jaunich has taken part in several bird-a-thons since joining the board, and on a safari trip in Botswana, while their driver crashed their vehicle through a wash to avoid a charging elephant, Jaunich cried out triumphantly that he had just seen a roseate spoonbill. He is proud that Audubon Vermont successfully lobbied the Vermont Legislature to pass a migratory bird protection bill and lauds their new Youth Conservation Leadership Program.

Audubon Vermont recently held a retreat and Jaunich said he is pleased with how the organization is doing. “It’s been a struggle to adapt to COVID,” he said “but we’ve got a good board and several committees. I’m really happy to be part of it.”