It was quite a moment. Audubon’s national board approved our new roadmap. Forty staff members rose to applaud the board, and then the board rose to applaud the staff. People hugged. A few tears were shed. Gratitude wasn’t on the agenda, but it flowed freely.
This fall Audubon adopted a new strategic plan, after a process that engaged more than 150 staff, Chapters, volunteers, partners, and others. At the plan’s heart are two words: conservation network. The focus on birds is clear, as are our priorities: saving the most important places for birds; combating climate change and mitigating its impacts; building bird-friendly communities and cities; protecting our seas and shores; and collaborating with foresters, ranchers, farmers, and other landowners to make working lands work for birds. We will align our efforts along the four flyways of the Western Hemisphere (seen in the map above) in an unbroken chain of protection.
We know that our “secret sauce” is no secret at all. It’s Audubon’s unparalleled wingspan—our Chapters, members, and partners—which reaches into communities throughout the hemisphere. Our commitment to science, policy, and education has been strengthened. Connecting people with nature—and letting birds lead us to that work—gives our 50 Centers and the million-plus people they serve a central role in on-the-ground conservation.
In the past few years alone Audubon has racked up a remarkable list of achievements: protecting 240,000 acres of wilderness at California’s Tejon Ranch. New Audubon Centers that inspire and empower urban, suburban, and rural communities alike. Our Important Bird Areas program (with partner BirdLife International), the foundation for stewardship of 370 million acres of vital habitat. Decades of Christmas Bird Count data that reveal how climate change and other threats affect birds and how to help. Our continuing leadership role in Gulf Coast recovery and restoration. Our Toyota-funded TogetherGreen program, which engages diverse communities coast to coast. And innovative outreach like Birding the Net, which is reaching brand-new audiences.
But as I heard from Audubon staff, Chapters, volunteers, and members in the past year, we can do more—and we can do better. And we must, to prevail in the face of today’s enormous environmental challenges and to ensure a healthy and vibrant future for birds and all of us who share the planet with them.
The Audubon legacy gives us much to be proud of. But the best is yet to come. I thank each of you for your support as we start the year by beginning Audubon’s new journey on behalf of birds and the environment.