A Special Message From Audubon’s President and CEO Regarding COVID-19

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, David Yarnold shares thoughts of empathy, compassion, and community.

To our members, staff, and beyond: 

In these uncertain times, I wanted to reach out to share that you, your family, your friends, and your colleagues are in our thoughts. We’re all anxious and things are changing quickly—each day feels like five news cycles. Our first priority is the health and safety of our staff, visitors, and volunteers.

We’re approaching this time with the experience of helping to build communities for 115 years. We do that with the humility we draw from the natural world, with the nimbleness the public expects from us, and through the grassroots network of families and individuals who connect through birds and nature. Even while we’re coming to grips with this new normal, Americans everywhere have demonstrated a deep appreciation for just being safely outside where they can keep appropriate social distance and hear the songs of spring migration.

We’ve done the important basics: To help stop the spread of the virus, we’ve closed all Audubon offices, we’ve suspended all non-essential travel, and we’re postponing events and large gatherings. We’ve also closed all of our nature centers while keeping the trails at many of them open for now. We’re regularly updating this page on our website, so you can see the status of our outdoor spaces.

We’re continuing to pay all staff, including our colleagues whose work is primarily interacting with the public at our nature centers. Some members of our conservation team are still able to perform important stewardship and monitoring work—and are doing so safely. Additionally, we’ve taken practical steps to ensure the health and continuity of the business side of our house as well.

We’re also looking at ways that Audubon can help the broader community—and in times like these, birds can provide a source of hope, a sense of resilience, and maybe even a little inspiration. Given the need for digital education tools with families staying home, we’re using this moment to leverage our digital tools and transform our educational programming and provide folks with online solutions that can be informative and fun: 

  • We have an article on Audubon.org that give tips for how you can get outside and enjoy birds while practicing social distancing. 
  • If you can’t connect with birds outside, or you simply need a dose of joy in your day, we’ve created an online birdy “care package,” with Audubon’s best bird photos, stories, and videos. We’ll keep updating it in the weeks to come.
  • We are updating content from our Audubon Adventures school curriculum for a wider audience. 
  • We’re finding new ways of serving local communities, based on what they tell us they need.
  • We’re engaging our network to use at-home time productively. We can’t bring much political activism to a system that’s appropriately focused elsewhere, but we can keep our network connected through compelling training on everything from building great advocacy campaigns to the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the conservation world.

To be sure, we’re all facing a long and challenging list of unknowns. We’re both gaining and losing visibility on what our new reality is each day—and it seems likely that things may get worse before they get better. But I’m confident that Audubon’s leadership team and its national and state and center boards have the conservation expertise and the business experience to make good decisions at a trying time.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or if we can be helpful or supportive of you in any way. And a special request: If you know of creative changes that other NGOs are making during this period—or if you have suggestions—I’m all ears. If you have ideas on how we can help serve you or your community, please send  them to me at: yarnold-d@audubon.org

Many of you have heard me say that ‘you are what hope looks like to a bird" . . . and right now, along with state and local leaders and patient funder partners, we are also what hope can look like for our communities.

Thank you for helping make Audubon’s work possible.

Please stay safe,