Dear Audubon Member,
Last summer my wife and I spent a week hiking and birding in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. On a previous trip I took my family to Acadia National Park in Maine. Both are among my favorite national parks for their splendor and tranquillity.
What else do these places have in common? Members of the Rockefeller family privately bought up, then donated, much of the land that would become these wonderful parks, saving it from development. American capitalism has produced many remarkable families of great wealth—names like Packard, Hewlett, Pew, Heinz, and Turner come to mind—and many have given generously to conservation. But no family has consistently done as much for conservation as the Rockefellers, and though they have been involved with many worthy causes over the decades, conservation is one interest that every branch of the family has supported for five generations.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has been on the leading edge of the most critical international conservation issues since its inception in 1940. The Rockefeller Family Fund supports grassroots advocacy, outreach, and coalition building on critical environmental issues. Numerous other family foundations, trusts, and individuals have supported multiple conservation efforts for decades. As environmental challenges have evolved and become more complex, family members have taken on new issues—urban green space, sustainable agriculture, the health impact of environmental toxins, and energy conservation, to name but a few.
And they don't just give money. They give their time and energy. During the nine-year struggle to pass the landmark Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980, family members helped staff the campaign in Washington, D.C. Rockefellers have spent decades protecting the Hudson River Valley, the Catskills, New York City parks, and other important places. Some have chaired commissions, such as the one that led to the creation of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964. Some do it through public service, like Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Lieutenant Governor Win Rockefeller in Arkansas.
In 2005 we are celebrating our centennial year at Audubon. As part of our celebration, we are presenting the Audubon Medal to the Rockefeller family for its extraordinary dedication to conservation for five generations.
The Bible says, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” The Rockefeller family has set a high standard for giving back. Next time I visit the Tetons, Acadia, Alaska, the Smoky Mountains, the Catskills, the Hudson Valley, or numerous other places they helped protect for future generations, I will say a quiet “Thank you.”
Looking forward to Audubon's second century, we face daunting challenges, from global warming to the massive loss of biodiversity. These are problems people created—and people can solve them. Individual action is the most powerful force for conservation. Everyone can help—by participating in the Audubon At Home program, for example, or in the Christmas Bird Count—and you don't need great wealth to make a difference. To learn what you can do, go to www.audubon.org.
© 2005 National Audubon Society
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