Two things have become clear since the November election. The first is this: An administration is coming into power promising to rework policies and practices that have effectively protected clean air, clean water, and the places birds need for more than four decades. There’s no question that bureaucracies need periodic pruning, but Audubon is committed to defending core principles and places. The Endangered Species Act and the Arctic Wilderness Act are just two examples that spring to mind.
Even while we’re working to limit the harm to those bedrocks of American conservation, we’ll be collaborating with the agencies that are still committed to doing billions of dollars of work on wetlands, coastlines, forests, prairies, and in urban green spaces. Those agencies need nonprofit partners that aren’t ideologues and that can work across the political spectrum.
The second thing that has changed is that it’s obvious the opportunity for progress—to play offense—will move to the states and to regional coalitions. Particularly on climate-related issues and clean energy, as well as on multi-state efforts like the Colorado River Basin, strong state-based initiatives and achievements were at the heart of the strategic plan Audubon adopted last January and they’re still within reach.
So, if you were going to invent an advocacy nonprofit to work in this political climate, what would its attributes be? How about these:
- The ability to bring millions of voices to bear to support champions inside the D.C. beltway who can be a firewall against truly harmful rollbacks.
- A network that is local everywhere and has a track record of working across the aisle in states and across regions for sound environmental solutions.
In other words, you’d be looking to create the modern Audubon. With more than a million members, and a reach of five million through this magazine, social media, centers, and chapters, Audubon’s supporters span the political spectrum. And when I talk with them about everything from climate change to nurturing a new generation of conservation leaders, I can’t tell the Democrats from the Independents or the Republicans.
At a time when American politics seem to have hit a divisive low, we know that Audubon and birds create common ground. We are community builders, not community dividers. And at this political moment, building on our unique membership base and our history of looking for solutions rather than political points, we will step up to protect birds and the places they need.