This summer, I was lucky enough to spend some time on Hog Island, Audubon’s 86-year-old nature camp situated off the coast of Maine. Each year, Hog Island hosts a variety of programs, including Arts and Birding, Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens, and Educator’s Week. The people I met—educators, Hog Island staff, and the scientists of the Seabird Institute—confirmed for me how much of the necessary work to protect the places we all need is accomplished by people acting locally. And when I thought about that, I thought about all of the work that Audubon chapters accomplish at the grassroots level and Audubon staff who partner with them to provide guidance and resources.
Take, for example, the chapters addressing the climate crisis head-on and engaging with members of their communities about it. This year, the student leaders in the campus chapter at San Diego City College in California created a mural as part of the Audubon Mural Project to highlight how climate change affects the natural world. They also organized a conference to explore with their peers how climate change has affected people’s lives in the United States and elsewhere and how it will continue to disrupt them as the Earth warms.
In the South, Audubon campus chapters at six Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)—Xavier University in Louisiana, Rust College in Mississippi, Tuskegee University in Alabama, and Morehouse College, Spelman College, and Clark Atlanta University in Georgia—collaborated on the HBCU Arts in Conservation Festival. The event, which was run entirely by students, brought together community members to experience arts and cultural events through a conservation and environmental justice lens.
Chapters also contributed to on-the-ground bird conservation. After a chapter member of Central Kentucky Audubon found breeding Henslow’s Sparrows in a field owned by Talon Winery in 2020, the chapter quickly developed a partnership with the winery to protect five acres of field habitat. Because of that action, the birds fledged young for two breeding seasons in a row.
Finally, Lahontan Audubon in Reno, Nevada, made the outdoors more accessible by partnering with the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County to create the Birding by Bus program, which provides maps in English and Spanish for many of the local parks that are good for birding and accessible by public transportation.
As we head into another midterm election cycle, I take solace in the fact that Audubon has so much people power. As long as we continue acting locally on the issues that are important to us all—joining advocacy days and voting for candidates who value strong conservation actions—we can achieve huge wins for conservation, for us, and for the birds we love.
This piece originally ran in the Fall 2022 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.