WASHINGTON - Today the National Audubon Society announced that agriculture policy and conservation expert Dr. Melinda Cep has joined the organization as vice president for natural solutions and working lands. In this role, Cep will lead Audubon’s work to advance emerging natural climate solutions to achieve conservation goals on working lands, including ranchlands, rice fields, and forests in communities and landscapes across the country.  

“We are excited to add someone with Melinda’s unique conservation perspective and deep policy experience to our team,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gray, interim chief executive officer, National Audubon Society. “She will occupy a new role at Audubon focused on finding policy solutions that will enhance bird habitat while also promoting the economic viability of working lands, which will include growing our partnerships with landowners and agricultural leaders as well as state and tribal governments across the United States.”

Trained as a veterinarian, Cep has served as a senior advisor and deputy chief of staff at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and in multiple positions at the U.S. House of Representatives, including her most recent role as the legislative and policy director for the Committee on Agriculture. Cep also spent time at the World Wildlife Fund, where she oversaw the organization’s agriculture work in North America. Cep’s new role at Audubon will include advancing organizational priorities via legislative packages like the Farm Bill as well as state-based legislation and administrative actions. 

Working lands is one of Audubon’s five strategic priorities, focused on landscape-scale efforts to collaborate with landowners, industry, and government to increase the quality of habitat on privately managed lands. Audubon works to advance and improve USDA conservation programs as well as market-based approaches that reward landowners for adopting bird-friendly and climate-smart practices. Increased deployment of natural climate solutions--land management practices that increase carbon sequestered in soil and vegetation--is an emerging strategy to protect habitat and enhance land management. These solutions contribute to carbon reduction targets, increase resilience, and create habitat beneficial to birds.

“Two-thirds of bird species in North America are seriously threatened by climate change and new science suggests that conservation measures on working lands like grasslands and forests can contribute up to a third of the carbon emission reductions needed in the coming decade,” said Gray. “Audubon believes natural climate solutions and working lands conservation are key pillars of our climate goals.”

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The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Matt Smelser, matt.smelser@audubon.org

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