Monday, October 17, 2022

Make the World a Better Place for Wild Things ~ by Lisa Kahn Schnell

I write and make art to make the world a better place. To me, that means protecting wild creatures and wild places, connecting people with the non-human natural world, and deepening and sharing those connections. That’s part of what made me curious to learn more about Rosalie Edge. 
Lisa's sketch of tree at Hawk Mountain

Mabel Rosalie Barrow Edge founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 1934 as a response to the annual shooting of migrating raptors that passed along the main ridge that runs through southeastern Pennsylvania. Because hawks, eagles, falcons, and other birds of prey were considered vermin at the time, whole families gathered on rocky outcrops on Sundays each autumn to shoot the birds as they flew by. Rosalie, who by that point had dedicated her life to protecting wildlife of all sorts (not just the cute and cuddly kind), was horrified. After many ups and downs and a whole lot of work, she raised enough money to purchase the land and create the world’s first sanctuary for migrating raptors. 

I had worked and volunteered at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for over ten years before I dove into the details of Rosalie’s story. Big posters of her greeted me every time I walked into the visitor center, and I had given presentations about her to tour groups and sanctuary visitors. But with her tidy suit, fancy hat, and heels, I always found her a bit intimidating. Her face did not just look out from those posters. It implored, with the fierceness of one of the raptors she so loved.

Red-tailed hawk sketch by Lisa
I have come to understand that fierceness as devotion to the causes she cared about. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary was definitely one of those causes! But her reach was broad, and whatever the topic, Rosalie took every opportunity to speak up—and encouraged others to do the same. By creating Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, she also made it possible to start collecting data about migrating raptors. This data set has continued to build to this day, and has been used by scientists far and wide (including Rachel Carson) to monitor raptor population trends. Rosalie listened to her heart, and her actions sparked great changes.  

But Rosalie hasn’t gotten as much attention as other environmentalists. I’m excited to share her story, both as a way to give back to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary—a place that has meant so much to me—and also to inspire others. By learning about her struggles and creative solutions, I hope that more people will use their own skills and ideas to make the world a better place for wild things and the humans who love them, too.     

Lisa at Hawk Mountain
One way you can help make the world a better place for wild things is to ask someone to tell you about an experience they had with nature. A lot can happen if you listen. However big or small the story—or the teller!—listening is a great reminder that these experiences and relationships with wild things are important. And who knows what good things will come of that. 

Lisa Kahn Schnell is the author of High Tide For Horseshoe Crabs and other books for young readers. She has worked and volunteered at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary for over 20 years. This year, Lisa has been sketching a tree every day. She’d love to hear your stories about a special tree you know, or other moments in the natural world. You can find her online at and @lisakschnell. 


  1. I did something nice for a tree this weekend. I moved a red bud to a place where it will have a better chance of growing to its full potential. Made me feel like a good squirrel.

  2. That's wonderful! And you are a very good squirrel. I hope your tree thrives in its new location! Just curious to know how you chose to plant a redbud tree? We planted one at our house because my husband has fond memories of them from his childhood.