Dear Audubon Member,
People often ask me what distinguishes Audubon from other
conservation organizations. Our love for birds comes to mind, of course.
But even more important, Audubon is uniquely
committed to engaging people to protect nature. Volunteer action has
been growing dramatically at Audubon, and it is taking on many new and
different forms. Since I became president of this organization six years
ago, our staff and budget have doubled. Although that's impressive,
our volunteer growth represents a far more important measure of our
success. During those same six years, we have not only significantly
increased the number of Audubon volunteers, we have also expanded the
ways in which volunteers can make a difference. A few examples:
- Chapters: With more than 500 local Audubon
chapters across the country, I can't begin to reflect all the
volunteer action that occurs regularly throughout the Audubon chapter
network. For example, in Littleton, Colorado, the Audubon
Society of Greater Denver has been working to develop an Audubon
Center on land leased for $25 a year from Colorado State Parks and
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The chapter is working with Audubon
Colorado to develop a business plan, conduct a feasibility study,
and begin a capital campaign for the center.
In Mississippi, Louanne Fossler, president of the
Pine Woods Audubon Society, is active
in a critical fight to kill an unnecessary water project. A group of
private citizens is proposing to build a dam that would destroy the
free-flowing Bouie River. Louanne has been building opposition to the
proposal, including organizing a successful regional workshop on how
to fight threats to the river.
In Texas, the Houston
Audubon Society recently raised more than $700,000 to purchase a
650-acre addition to Bolivar Flats, the chapter's critical shorebird
sanctuary on the Gulf Coast. In a particularly impressive demonstration
of collegiality, 8 Texas chapters and 42 chapters from other states
contributed to the project, as did numerous individuals.
- Public Policy Campaigns: The continued health of our environment
will be determined through a wide range of public-policy decisions
at all levels of government. In the public-policy arena, whoever
mobilizes the most people has the best chance to win. Our strength
is the constituency we represent and the volunteers we can mobilize
to support our public-policy
In the campaign for the Everglades,
it was our ability to engage volunteers from the diverse communities
of South Florida that tipped the balance and produced success. In our
and Habitat Campaign, Audubon's grassroots organizers have held
more than 65 training and outreach events across the country and enlisted
more than 7,900 people in four cities to support additional funding
for international family planning. We worked with other conservation
organizations through the Heritage
Forest Campaign to mobilize more than 1.6 million volunteers to
submit comments to the Forest Service about protecting roadless areas,
and to participate in more than 600 local meetings. These volunteer
efforts resulted in a historic executive order by President Bill Clinton
to protect some 58 million acres of national forest land.
- Citizen Science: Five years ago, Audubon adopted the term
citizen science to describe the focus of our science programs.
But the focus goes back a century, to the beginnings of Audubon's
oldest volunteer program, the Christmas
Bird Count. Last year more than 50,000 volunteers participated
in the CBC. A much newer program, the Great
Backyard Bird Count, has grown from 14,000 participants in 1998
to 55,000 in 2001. These nationwide efforts to count birds have
a web site that incorporates data on bird ranges, populations, and
migrations. It uses the power of the Internet to create a daily
electronic Christmas Bird Count for every volunteer birder with
access to the web. We hope BirdSource
will eventually set the national agenda for bird conservation; it
also has enormous potential to engage young people in educational
activities on the web.
- Important Bird Areas: The Important
Bird Areas program harnesses all of our bird-inventory
data, most collected by thousands of volunteers, to identify the
most important places in the nation for birds. Since the program
began in 1995, more than 1,200 IBA sites have been formally designated
in 34 states. Hundreds of these IBAs have already been protected,
by a state government or by their private owner.
- State Programs: We tend to think of our 25 newly established
programs as simple expansions of our field staff. On the contrary,
successful state programs depend as much on volunteers as on staff
members. Our volunteer state boards of directors attract some of
the most effective conservation leaders in the country. Volunteers
also serve as docents and teach classes at state-run sanctuaries,
work on state-sponsored habitat-restoration projects, and help with
state-level advocacy campaigns.
- Audubon Centers: Our 2020 Vision calls for Audubon to establish
Centers in communities across the country by the year 2020,
and for these centers to serve one in four schoolchildren annually.
More than 50 centers have already been launched or are in the advanced
planning stages. Audubon Centers are made possible by local volunteer
activity in every program area.
Part of my job as president of Audubon is to articulate
a vision for our future and to inspire people to become involved in
our mission. But when I travel around the country to do this, something
else usually happens. I'm the one who is inspired--by our volunteers,
the committed, hardworking people who care about nature and who have
only one motive: to help Audubon protect the environment.
Volunteers are the foundation and the strength of
Audubon. If you want to help, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 800-659-2622.
National Audubon Society
© 2001 NASI
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