Local Conservation Champion: Don Torino

Local Conservation Champion: Don Torino

Olivia Mistretta, Staff Editor

Ever since Mr. Don Torino was a young boy he valued the wildlife around him, “We loved the red-wing blackbird the most, they migrate back in February. When we were kids we used to come home on the school bus, and when we saw them we knew Spring was not far off.” He grew up in the NJ Meadowlands, and when he was in school things were very different. The Meadowlands, for those who are unfamiliar with its history, used to be an enormous dumping ground for various companies. Shrewd businessmen who had no regard for nature used the marsh as a garbage and chemical dump, devastating the ecosystem.


However, people like Mr. Torino wanted to help, “I grew up there, and I saw terrible things that were done to the Meadowlands. It was second nature for those of us who grew up there to care about the natural world.” Now, Mr. Torino is President of the Bergen County chapter of National Audubon Society and has made quite a name for himself in the community. With colorful butterflies tattooed on his arms and binoculars in hand, Mr. Torino is one of the most dedicated environmental champions in our area. National Audubon Society is an organization dedicated to conservation efforts throughout the country, something the United States desperately needs.

Mr. Torino and Bergen Audubon have made countless efforts to help the wildlife and people in our area; including planting native plant gardens and creating a certified wildlife garden project for average homeowners. He helped convince local officials to address issues concerning the methane flame in Dekorte Park, which helps burn off waste from the former garbage dumps. The flame was injuring birds that flew into it. Because of the efforts made by Mr. Torino and many others, they were able to get a net installed around the flame to keep the birds away from it. This effort may not seem significant to the average person, but if people like Bergen Audubon never spoke up about injustices against the wildlife, there would continue to be pollution and decline of our native species.

One of Mr. Torino’s passions is education. “My best experiences [out in nature] have been helping everybody learn about nature and doing nature walks.” He has spent countless days speaking at schools and introducing environmental projects to young people, something he enjoys very much. When asked what he wants everyone to take away from this article, he said simply, “Get outside and enjoy the nature that exists right outside your door. I didn’t get any formal education, but I love nature and I love teaching people about nature, and they can do the same thing.”

Photo Credits: Olivia Mistretta