Audubon To Honor Leading Women In Conservation

Sigourney Weaver will emcee Audubon's Rachel Carson Awards at the fifth annual Women in Conservation Luncheon at The Plaza in New York on May 20. Inspired by Carson, whose ground-breaking 1962 book "Silent Spring" helped launch the modern environmental movement, the award recognizes women who have demonstrated great leadership and commitment to conservation.

One of the preeminent conservation organizations in the country, the National Audubon Society was incorporated in 1905 following protests from citizens opposing the slaughter of birds for plumed hats. "The history of Audubon and the birth of conservation is the story of dedicated activists who fought to protect birds over one hundred years ago. Many of these early, visionary leaders were women," said Audubon President John Flicker. "Today, the individuals we honor with the Rachel Carson Award are continuing the legacy of those Audubon pioneers and of Carson herself."

This year's winners represent a variety of endeavors in conservation:

Bette Midler: The singer, actress and entertainer is also founder of the New York Restoration Project, devoted to restoring and developing parks, community gardens and other open spaces for underserved communities in New York City. Accomplishments include establishing 57 gardens, , cleaning over 400 acres; transforming an illegal dumping ground into a new 5-acre public park on the Harlem River, and giving over 10,000 economically disadvantaged youngsters free environmental education and recreational programs. NYRP recently announced a partnership with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation to Launch MillionTreesNYC, an initiative to plant one million trees in the City.

Teresa Heinz Kerry: Mrs. Heinz Kerry, a pioneer in the field of venture philanthropy, is widely considered to be one of the nation's leading environmental advocates. She currently serves as chairman of the Heinz Endowments and the Heinz Family Philanthropies. After the death of her husband Senator John Heinz, Ms. Heinz established The Heinz Center, in his honor. The Heinz Center is a nonprofit institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy through collaboration among business, government, academia, and environmental organizations. Ms. Heinz Kerry was named by the UTNE Reader to its list of 100 Visionaries. In 2003, she received the World Ecology Award from the International Center for Tropical Ecology at the University of Missouri.

Jean Clark • Norma Dana • Marguerite Purnell • Elizabeth Barlow Rogers• Phyllis Cerf Wagner*Central Park Conservancy: As first president of the Central Park Conservancy, Betsy Barlow Rogers established a model for public/private partnerships for parks around the world. Her farsighted and highly successful effort was strengthened by four founders of the Women's Committee for the Conservancy: Jean Clark, Norma Dana, Maggie Purnell and Phyllis Wagner [*deceased] The Women's Committee raises over 20 percent of the Conservancy's $27 million annual operating budget, and operates 12 programs, including children's education and maintaining Central Park's 26,000 trees.

Sigourney Weaver will host the ceremonies. The conservationist and actress (Gorillas in the Mist) began bird watching in grammar school as a member of the Junior Audubon Club, and more recently joined Audubon's Birding & Breakfast outing in Central Park. The narrator for the epic TV series, Planet Earth, Weaver just completed two films with an environmental theme – Pixar's Wall-E, out in June, and Avatar directed by James Cameron, slated for a 2009 release. In Avatar, Weaver plays a botanist devoted to studying and protecting a new planet. While shooting the film in New Zealand, she became fascinated with native birds and even more concerned with helping all bird species continue to survive.

Several previous winners of Audubon's Rachel Carson Award will also attend.

Deirdre Imus, founder of Greening the Cleaning, convinced more than 200 institutions nationwide to switch to green cleaning products. Imus is president of the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology and the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer, organizations dedicated to children affected by casual use of toxic products.

Majora Carter, founder and director of Sustainable South Bronx, a group helping turn New York City into a sustainable and healthy environment, is responsible for projects such as Green Roofs, and the Sheridan Expressway Decommission.

Jayni Chase, founder, Center for Environmental Education a nationally-based non-profit organization, is the author and managing editor of the first full-coverage environmental education resource guidebook, Blueprint for a Green School

Frances Beinecke is president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, instrumental in improving governmental policy, protecting land, and educating citizens about the major environmental problems in this country. 

Maria Rodale is Chairman of the Board of Rodale Inc., the world's leading publisher of information on healthy, active lifestyles. Rodale reaches tens of millions of people worldwide every month through magazines including Prevention, Men's Health, Women's Health, and books.

Audubon Award Council Chair For over 20 years, Allison Whipple Rockefeller has been working on issues relating to parks, land and habitat conservation, historic preservation and brownfield reclamation. She is deeply committed to the communication of American heritage, history and values, emphasizing, in particular, those of New York State. Mrs. Rockefeller's interest in environmental advocacy, education and habitat preservation brought her into the world of the National Audubon Society and Audubon New York

Honorary Chair Carol M. Browner, the longest-serving administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was elected chair of the National Audubon Society Board of Directors in June 2003. She is the first woman to chair Audubon, and is one of a few women to hold such a position at a major conservation organization. 

Marian S. Heiskell and Cynthia Lufkin also serve as Honorary Chairs for the Audubon event. 

More about John Flicker
To request an interview with John Flicker or Allison Rockefeller, contact Delta Willis

The event has sold out but there is a waiting list for tickets to attend the Awards at The Plaza, reception 11:30 a.m. lunch at noon. Tickets $200-$2,500 for an individual seat, $5,000-$50,000 for a table of 10. Telephone 212-874-5457 or email Lisa Ganguzza Proceeds from the benefit will go towards the Long Island Restoration Project.

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