Q&A with David Yarnold
National Audubon Society is hosting the largest gala fundraiser in its history and is announcing one of the nation’s most lucrative U.S. environmental awards Jan. 17, 2013, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
President and CEO David Yarnold discusses today’s new Audubon.
What is Audubon hoping to accomplish with this gala?
The gala is raising nearly $2 million of Audubon’s annual $86 million budget to support our work with birds and other wildlife. This is the most successful fundraising event in Audubon’s 108-year history and demonstrates the broad range of support for our conservation efforts.
Everyone has a soft spot for birds. Bette Midler is performing and Tom Brokaw is hosting. Our list of attendees spans the celebrity, scientific and political spectrums.
Is Audubon just for people who like birds?
Many of us are bird lovers. All of us, however, recognize that birds can be the gateway to understanding the ecosystems that people depend upon. Connecting people with nature isn’t a new idea for us; it’s central to defining our mission.
Birds don’t vote and they don’t make policy, so it’s up to our scientists, educators, policy experts and grassroots advocates to work to improve our communities and natural resources on their behalf. We know that what’s good for birds and wildlife, is good for humans as well.
What distinguishes Audubon from other conservation organizations?
We have an authentic voice on key issues like how to restore wetlands or where to put wind turbines. We’re the Voice of Birds and we come from the grassroots. We work in every state and 19 Latin American countries with 465 chapters.
Our starting point is based on America’s flyways--the four great superhighways in the skies above the western hemisphere. Birds don’t stop at borders. We need to protect them and their habitat the length of the Americas, from the Arctic Circle to the tip of South America.
What do you consider Audubon’s greatest accomplishments of the past year?
We were instrumental in the passage of the RESTORE Act, which will provide up to $20 billion from BP’s civil penalties for restoring the environment and the communities devastated by the Gulf oil spill.
We played a lead role in drawing the plans that will protect 11 million acres in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve. And we launched an innovative approach to wind energy development that balances our nation’s growing need for alternative energy with protections for wildlife.
What is Audubon doing to help break the partisan logjam on conservation issues in Washington and across the country?
Conservation has no party. Audubon stands for a non-partisan, rational approach to conservation. We acted on that belief this year, launching a campaign that enlisted more than 50,000 new members from across the political spectrum.
What is the purpose of the environmental prizes Audubon will be awarding at the New York gala?
Audubon will be inaugurating the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership to honor an individual who has dedicated his or her life to on-the-ground conservation. It is one of the largest and most lucrative environmental awards in the United States.
In addition, we will present the Audubon Medal given in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of conservation and environmental protection.