On Our Flight Path

How we are setting ourselves up for even greater success in 2024.
Landscape with a blue lake and forest seen through colorful fall foliage in the foreground and mountains in the background.
Early autumn color above Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Photo: Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

In early November, I was fortunate to spend time with leaders from community and campus chapters and partners at Audubon’s 2023 Leadership Conference. Surrounded by our flock under the impressive peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park, I was reminded of the inspiring strength that Audubon represents. United by a common vision of a future where birds thrive, our powerful and diverse force for conservation is gaining momentum.

The theme of the meeting says it all: Local Action. Hemispheric Impact. We have set our new strategic direction and tied our success to the fate of birds. The challenges we face require us to think more boldly and push ourselves toward new ways of working.

In August, for example, we released Birds and Transmission: Building the Grid Birds Need, a report that made clear that climate-vulnerable birds will not flourish without an expansion of renewable energy and transmission infrastructure. While there are trade-offs to navigate, experience tells us that through close partnership with the energy industry, we can shift new development to the best places for birds and communities.

What does this look like in practice? We take a “start with yes” approach to renewable energy expansion. After years of collaboration with energy developers and community leaders, the SunZia Transmission Project in New Mexico and Arizona is being built with the goal of minimizing environmental impact. It will bring 3.5 gigawatts of renewable energy onto the western grid—enough to power more than 2.5 million homes. Meanwhile, Audubon safeguarded places in the region for Sandhill Cranes, Western Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Southwestern Willow Flycatchers.

From the American Southwest to the global stage, Audubon is giving voice to the urgency of climate change for birds. In September, Audubon was a sponsor of Climate Week NYC, which coincided with the United Nations General Assembly. In late November, an Audubon delegation hosted events as part of COP28, the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference, in Dubai. Our message: A bird agenda is also a people and planet agenda.

As we embrace the coming new year, I am inspired by the ambition of our new strategic plan, our Flight Plan. By moving together in the same direction, we will reach our destination. In this way, we are like the birds that inspire us.

This piece originally ran in the Winter 2023 issue. To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.