Press Room

2019 Audubon Gala Honors Johnny Morris & Family, J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D. with Highest Conservation Awards

Annual Event Raises Record-Breaking $2.5M for Birds & Conservation

NEW YORK, N.Y. – On February 7 at the Plaza Hotel, the National Audubon Society hosted its annual 2019 Audubon Gala to celebrate environmental conservation and the people who, through personal commitment to the environment, inspire a new generation of conservation leaders. The renowned gala honored two environmental stewards who have dedicated their lives to protecting birds and their habitats with the organization’s two most prestigious awards – the Audubon Medal and the Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership

This year’s event saluted the shared core value of conservation that connects bird lovers, outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen from across the country. Hosted by notable actress and National Audubon Society board member Lili Taylor, the avian-inspired evening highlighted the beauty of birds and the natural habitats they depend on nationwide, from elegant ponds on guests’ tables with Gadwall Duck decoys to projecting an aerial spectacle of realistic Ospreys, Bald Eagles and American White Pelicans flying across the ceiling of the Plaza Hotel.

“Wherever Americans love birds and cherish the land, you’ll find Audubon. In today’s political climate, reasonable advocates for bird-friendly conservation have the opportunity to create the rarest of places — and you won’t find it on a topographic map or in a field guide — it’s called common ground,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of National Audubon Society (@david_yarnold). “Our membership is 45% moderate and conservative and 55% progressive — a profile that few organizations share. And we’re leaning into that very diverse base with an action fund to promote bipartisan solutions.”

One of Audubon’s most esteemed honors in conservation, the Audubon Medal, was presented to the founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, Johnny Morris and Family. Since 1978, Morris has worked with every Republican and Democratic presidential administration to advance significant conservation issues and inspired his four children to follow in his conservation footsteps, both in their business endeavors and philanthropy. Most recently, Morris founded the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium – the largest, most immersive conservation attraction in the world – in his hometown of Springfield, Missouri to allow new audiences, particularly younger generations, to discover nature and the outdoors.

“To be awarded the Audubon medal is one of the proudest and most humbling experiences of my life. To be included among the other 58 conservationists to receive this high honor alongside such visionary leaders as Walt Disney, J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling, President Jimmy Carter and others, is a great honor. I’m very proud to share this with my family, and our extended family – the many passionate, conservation-minded people in our company and the sportsmen and women we are blessed to serve,” said noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

“What many people don’t realize is that John James Audubon and President Theodore Roosevelt were not only heroes in conservation, they were also sportsmen and hunters. Over many hours spent in the field hunting, they gained a better appreciation for our nation’s fish and wildlife and the habitats required to sustain them,” added Morris. “I hope they are both looking down smiling and happy that we are all here as one united, inclusive family working with passion to carry on the important mission they outlined for us many years ago – to be good stewards of God’s creation and to protect the wild places so that future generations, our kids and grandkids, can have the same opportunities we have to experience the wonders of the natural world.” 

The Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership honored J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D., alumni distinguished professor of wildlife ecology, master teacher and certified wildlife biologist at Clemson University, for his lifelong dedication to on-the-ground conservation. During his twenty years at Clemson, Dr. Lanham led groundbreaking research to understand the impacts of forest management on wildlife as well as explored the relationship between humans and nature. As an acclaimed author and poet, a member of the National Audubon Society Board of Directors, and chair of the Advisory Board of Audubon South Carolina, Lanham is a trailblazer inspiring a new and diverse generation of conservationists within the Audubon and environmental communities.

“Humanity and our wellbeing are inextricably linked to the wellbeing of birds. Beyond Audubon, beyond a certain set of people, I am now able to hopefully make people look at Audubon in the future and say, ‘They love birds but are also thinking about the world in a larger sense,’” said J. Drew Lanham, Ph.D. “Nature is us, it’s all of us. Conservation is a job for all of us and that’s what I hope to see expanded, where hunters and non-hunters come together in a place that we understand conservation is central to both of us and in a way that makes all of us conservationists.”

In addition to raising $1.45M before the gala, an enthusiastic and heartfelt night ended with more than $2.5M raised for Audubon’s conservation efforts, moving the elated audience of more than 300 guests to a room full of applause.

Guests during the evening also enjoyed musical performances from distinguished country music artist John Anderson, who performed the fitting “An Occasional Eagle” and popular “Seminole Wind”.

Notable guests included: David Yarnold, Johnny Morris & Family, Jane Alexander, John Anderson, Coleman Burke, Sasha DiGiulian, Joe Ellis, David B. Ford, George Golumbeski, Jim Greenwood, Dan’l Lewin, Buddy Huffaker, Gary Knell, Carlotta Kohl, Adrienne Lufkin, Dan Lufkin, Grainger McKoy, Floride McKoy, Collin O’Mara, Erik Osterholm, Alan Patricof, Allison Rockefeller, Simon Roosevelt, Lili Taylor, David Walentas, Margaret Walker and more.

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National Audubon Society

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon's state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon's vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Chandler Lennon, clennon@audubon.org, (804) 832-0832

*Photos for media available upon request.

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