On Monday, January 23rd, 2017, members and chapter leaders of the National Audubon Society joined president and CEO David Yarnold, chief conservation officer David O’Neill, vice president for conservation Sarah Greenberger, and chief network officer David J. Ringer in a live telephone town hall about Audubon’s conservation mission under the new Congress and White House administration.
It was a lively and informative discussion. You can listen here:
David Yarnold: We're a centrist organization. Our membership spans the political spectrum. 52 percent of our members identify as progressive, and 48 percent identify as moderate to conservative. And that makes this call unusual tonight, because this is common ground. Birds are common ground, something that America has a profound shortage of these days. So we can talk to one another about the things that birds and kids need, and understand that we're all actually coming from the same place despite political differences . . . We start with the premise that, whether it’s climate or water or coastlines, it’s a bird issue. So rather than focusing on the things that divide us, we focus on the things that unite us.
David O'Neill: Being centrist is not about being complacent, or appeasing institutions that are working against our core values and our conservation priorities . . . It would be naive to insist that all we need to do today is to continue to do what we did before. There are indeed serious threats to bedrock environmental statutes like the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Antiquities Act, and the use of public lands. There are also serious threats to funding that is used to protect and restore treasured places like the Everglades and the Chesapeake Bay. So we won't sit on the sidelines when these threats present themselves and we're taking quick action now . . . In many cases, we're going to need to accomplish in the next 6 to 8 months what we thought we had 3 to 5 years to accomplish.
Sarah Greenberger presented ten Audubon conservation priorities for defending existing environmental protections, and making progress in new areas. In her words, these conservation priorities are:
1) Ensuring continued federal support to protect and restore national treasures like the Everglades, Great Lakes, Long Island Sound, and the Colorado River and its delta.
2) Ensuring protections for threatened and endangered species. The Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee has made clear he intends not only to remove protections species by species, bird by bird, but to—and this is a quote—"repeal and replace the Endangered Species Act altogether."
3) Holding Scott Pruitt and his Environmental Protection Agency accountable to protect the clean air and water our families and birds both need.
4) Protecting the Arctic Refuge and other important protected areas in the Arctic from drilling. It's a battle Audubon has fought every time threats to the Arctic appear.
5) Defending the historic sage-grouse conservation agreements, which protect 67 million acres of the iconic western landscape for birds and 350 other species. We've already seen several attempts this Congress, which is 20 days old, to undo this historic agreement.
6) Lead on climate solutions at the state and local levels, and on the international front, particularly in Latin America.
7) Build a diverse coalition for coastal conservation.
8) Work with states and federal agencies to ensure the full commitment to meaningful Gulf and Mississippi River Delta restoration as dollars resulting from the BP oil spill begin to flow to the region.
9) Secure additional Farm Bill funding for wildlife, habitat conservation, and the 2018 Farm Bill, which is the largest source of conservation funding that we have.
10) Achieve 12 state and 50 local actions that advance our climate, water, coasts, and working lands priorities.
David Ringer: The way that we will make progress to continue to protect our birds, protect the natural resources that we all share, and protect the special places that we treasure, is because of you. It's because of Audubon members, it's because of Audubon chapters, it's because of volunteers that will raise their voices, that will get their hands dirty. You are more important now than ever . . . Get others involved. You have family members, you have friends, you have neighbors; they need to hear from you about the things that are important to you . . . It's by continuing to build our network and engaging more people that we can build a movement that can't be ignored.
Listen to the full recording to hear more from Audubon leaders and members. And get involved today.