Top Audubon Stories of 2022: Audubon is Local Everywhere

Audubon protects birds, people, and the places they need to live and thrive. Here, a look back at a selection of local achievements from the last 12 months.

Throughout 2022, Audubon continued its rich tradition of advocating for and securing the space, clean air, and clean water that birds and people need to live and thrive. This past year, Audubon and the Audubon Action Fund helped more than 150,000 people make their voices heard, fighting for stronger climate actions in the Inflation Reduction Act, for Lights Out and Native Plant proclamations in cities across the country, for coastal community protections and natural infrastructure that also supports bird colonies, and for better water policies across the West. Audubon staff, chapters, and partners worked on the ground to protect and restore vital habitats and natural spaces.

Read on to learn more about Audubon’s most local achievements across the hemisphere this year!

Audubon State Offices and Local Chapters Secure Native Plant Commitments

In a first for the Bird-Friendly Communities PROs (Proclamations, Resolution, and Ordinances) program, Wake Audubon Society in Wake County, North Carolina, successfully advocated for the adoption of a native-plant city ordinance—an enforceable law—in the town of Cary, North Carolina. This new law regulates the amount of plants developers must include in building developments and provides them with landscape credit if they meet these new rules. San Diego Audubon in California, Seneca Rocks Audubon in Pennsylvania, and Hot Springs Village Audubon in Arkansas were also successful in securing native plants proclamations or resolutions in their local municipalities.

Since Audubon began the PROs program in 2020, the Bird-friendly Communities team has helped chapters secure a total of 41 PROs across the United States by providing technical support like trainings and webinars, resources, and funding. 

Audubon Mid-Atlantic Hosted Baltimore and Philadelphia Birding Weekends 

During Audubon Mid-Atlantic‘s 2022 Baltimore Birding Weekend, participants were treated to guided walks in iconic and little-known parts of Baltimore, Maryland and saw a total of 123 species, an exciting indication of the importance of the city’s green spaces for birds’ rest and food during spring migration. Audubon Mid-Atlantic hosted the first ever Philadelphia Birding Weekend in October, where participants visited local parks, arboretums and cemeteries throughout the city, and came together for a “Tally Rally,” where 93 species of birds were recorded from the various walks. Both events drew enthusiastic reviews from participants, many of whom were on their first bird walks. 

Audubon Staff Stop Sale of Conservation Property

Keen eyes and an attention to detail helped save 18,000 acres of conservation lands in Florida earlier this year. Chris Farrell, Northeast Florida policy associate for Audubon Florida, was reviewing a St. Johns Water Management District Board agenda when he noticed a worrying item: a request to designate 18,000 acres of state-owned land as “no longer needed for conservation.” Audubon’s team alerted other conservation groups and engaged with District leadership immediately, and they agreed to pull the item from the meeting agenda entirely. District leaders have since assured Audubon Florida that they have no immediate plans to sell any conservation lands.

New Garden Provides a Place of Respite at a Victim Advocate Center in Colorado

Audubon Rockies partnered with the Sexual Assault Victim Advocate Center in Colorado to plant a new bird-friendly healing garden at their entrance. The garden not only supports local bird populations, it also provides an important healing space for their clients and staff.

Rare Golden-cheek Warbler Returns to Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center in Texas

Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center is at the extreme edge of the Golden-cheeked Warbler’s breeding range, and the bird hasn’t been documented there in well over a decade. Staff and volunteers collaborated to document a beautiful male Golden-cheeked Warbler, and the team’s efforts may have discovered a second individual in the area. As word got out, the local birding community was afforded a rare opportunity to see this Texas gem in their backyard. While it’s unknown why the warbler returned to its historical range outside Dallas, Dogwood Canyon and the surrounding landscape provide hundreds of acres of healthy woodland habitat as part of a quilt of open space in the area. Hopefully the birds will come back next spring!

Audubon Great Lakes Hosted Local Chapter Gathering and Awards

This spring, Audubon members from across the Great Lakes region came together online for the 2022 Audubon Great Lakes Chapter Gathering and Awards to celebrate chapters across the region that are mobilizing around environmental concerns, stewardship, and community science. In its inaugural year, the Alan Dolan Conservation Advocacy Award was presented to Jennifer Kuroda, President of the Sinnissippi Audubon Society and Audubon Council of Illinois for her work to save Illinois’ Bell Bowl Prairie, the last remnant prairie in the state, and her work piloting Bird City Illinois, an initiative that engages municipalities in World Migratory Bird Day events and passes proclamations and resolutions that commit city governments to bird-friendly actions. 

Audubon Vermont Makes Outdoors and Conservation Careers More Accessible

In 2022, Audubon Vermont received a significant boost to its efforts to create opportunities for conservation careers when the Vermont legislature voted to appropriate funds to the program. Audubon Vermont has been working with partner organizations, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, ReSOURCE, and Vermont Works for Women to provide a coordinated service-learning program that provides paid, hands-on learning opportunities for youth and young adults. Audubon's goal from participating in this partnership is to expand the opportunities for a diverse mix of youth and young adults to pursue careers in the conservation and related fields.

Arizona Cuckoo Surveys Inspire New Chapter Leadership

It’s a conundrum we all face. How do we engage the next cohort of conservationists and how do we ensure it is more diverse than today’s crew? Arizona’s Sonoran Audubon Society has found the winning formula: engage students with meaningful conservation efforts and earn them some career-boosting credentials along the way. Funded by Audubon in Action and Western Water Network grants, they have just completed the second year of surveying for the federally threatened Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo with a team of young scientists recruited from Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Audubon campus chapter. Upon completing the field season, students have the credentials they need to be added to state and federal survey permits (a big gain for students soon to be seeking careers in the field).

Audubon Chief Conservation Officer Judges 2023 Duck Stamp Contest

Marshall Johnson, Audubon’s chief conservation officer, served as one of the judges for the 2023 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Federal Duck Stamp contest. Federal Duck Stamps raise millions of dollars a year for national wildlife refuges and are an important way to get crucial bird conservation work accomplished. This year’s winner was Joseph Hautman (his sixth win overall) for his painting of three Tundra Swans. To celebrate the contest being judged in Bismarck, North Dakota, Audubon Dakotas coordinated two events to showcase the importance of working lands conservation.

Audubon On Campus News: Climate Advocacy, Arts Festivals, and Native Plant Gardens

Engaging Communities on Climate Change
The San Diego City Community College Audubon campus chapter launched their own Audubon Mural project depicting birds threatening by climate change, and organized a symposium to discuss the effects of climate change with members of their surrounding community, focusing especially on how climate change will impact those in Latin America.

HBCU Arts and Conservation Festival
This spring, four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) collaborated on a climate-change and conservation-themed arts festival that featured music, poetry slams, dance competitions, and a variety of youth activists as speakers. The entire event was planned and executed by student leaders and Audubon campus chapter leaders, with support from the Audubon on Campus program during the entire process.

From Partners to Affiliates
In 2021, Bloomington Birders, a small birding club at Indiana University Bloomington, joined Audubon Great Lakes to raise awareness of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act, a federal bill that helps farmers and foresters in Indiana and beyond scale-up their climate-friendly practices to reduce harmful carbon emissions. This advocacy helped the bill secure a victory in the U.S. Senate. Inspired by this campaign work, this year Bloomington Birders founder Matthias Bencko registered the group as an official Audubon on Campus Chapter, a student-led organization that works to create meaningful change on- and off-campus.

Grant Helps Support Audubon Vermont’s Programs to Provide Space for Gender-Creative Conservationists

Audubon Vermont recently received a small but important grant from the Vermont Community Foundation that will allow it to expand its efforts to make the Green Mountain Audubon Center welcoming to all people. The grant will support Audubon's efforts to ensure that gender creative youth feel welcome and empowered to enjoy nature.

Audubon South Carolina Brings Birding to Everyone

This year Jen Tyrrell, engagement manager at Audubon South Carolina, piloted a partnership program with the Charleston Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to teach a course on birding by ear for the blind and visually impaired. This program helps visually impaired people to learn about the birds around them by teaching them how to identify species by sounds. Participants also get a sense of the birds’ shapes and sizes by handling and feeling preserved wings, feet and skulls.

Community Gathering at Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Mississippi

As part of Audubon Delta, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center works to integrate science, education and policy in its programs and events. This year Pascagoula River hosted a number of events, including arts summer camps, an art gallery, volunteer conservation days, native plant sales, early-career development for students, and a local hummingbird festival. Pascagoula River also received a community service grant this year, which staff used to partner with University of South Alabama’s Passage USA program and fund jobs for several special-needs students.

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Receives $6 Million in City of San Antonio Bond Funds

After a robust community campaign led by Audubon Texas, in May voters approved $6 million in City of San Antonio municipal bond funds be directed to support improvements at the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center. The proposed improvements support the City’s four guiding principles of this bond initiative and will make a great impact for birds and visitors alike, by creating equity in public amenities in a traditionally under resourced community, increasing visitor accessibility, expanding regional connectivity to the citywide hike and bike trail system, and improving a world-renowned riparian corridor and recreation area.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin Tours Site of Audubon Great Lakes’ Restoration Work in Wisconsin

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin went birding with Audubon in Allouez Bay in Superior, Wisconsin to learn about Audubon Great Lakes’ plan to bring back declining bird populations across the St. Louis River Estuary region, and to discuss bipartisan conservation and climate solutions to protect Wisconsin’s birds and people. The event brought together project partners, including representatives from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, Duluth Audubon Society, and Chequamegon Audubon Society, as well as local representatives from the City of Superior.

Audubon South Carolina and Hilton Head Audubon Help Pass Green Space Measure

Beaufort County, South Carolina voters passed a Green Space sales tax to be used to purchase land and save it from development. The tax will start in May 2023 and run for two years or until $100 million has been collected. Audubon South Carolina and Hilton Head Audubon helped educate voters about the proposed sales tax increase and were instrumental in getting the measure passed this November.

Audubon Delta Helps Restore Least Tern Breeding Habitat

This past April, Audubon staff, volunteers, and Gulfport High School students restored habitat along a stretch of recreational beach in Harrison County, Mississippi. The work took place in a globally recognized Important Bird Area in Gulfport which is vital to the life cycle of a small but mighty bird, the Least Tern. Every summer the IBA hosts between 400 and 500 pairs of breeding Least Terns. Thanks to a grant from Restore America’s Estuaries, who partnered with Citgo Petroleum, a total of 2,500 new beach plants were installed to help stabilize the mainland beach habitat. Audubon Delta worked in partnership with Gulfport High School to provide a field-based opportunity to students who were eager to help build back their community’s resilience. In addition to the plantings, Audubon designed and produced “Dune Restoration” signs that will stay up year-round to protect the new vegetation and habitat.

Lights Out Gains Momentum Across the Country

Lights Out continues to gain momentum across the country, with several city and statewide programs launched this past year to ensure safer skies for birds, thanks to the work of Audubon chapters and state teams. The network now includes more than 40 cities, with the following recent additions: Greensboro, NC; Harrisburg, PA; Miami, FL; Nashville, TN; and regional efforts in Connecticut, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and the Dakotas. With the recent launches, we now have Lights Out efforts underway in 18 out of the top 20 cities most threatened with light pollution.

Lights Out For Birds in Colorado

Last spring, Colorado Governor Jared Polis proclaimed April 2022 Lights Off for Bird Migration Month, just one year after the launch of Lights Out Colorado, which was started by Audubon Rockies, Denver Audubon, and International Dark-sky Association–Colorado.

Chapters pass five local Lights Out policies in North Carolina

Momentum is growing for Lights Out programs across North Carolina, thanks to advocacy from local chapters and campus chapters. Since last fall, five North Carolina cities—Asheville, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Matthews, and Raleigh—have adopted Lights Out programs to darken the night skies during migration.

Lights Out, Texas! campaign 

Earlier this year, Audubon Texas became the lead facilitator for the Lights Out Texas campaign. The state office worked with partners to produce all new outreach and social media toolkits, Spanish language resources, and much more. Due to that investment, #LightsOutTexas messages since the beginning of fall migration have reached more than 6 million people online.

Chapters involved in Lights Out work in 2022 include Wyncote Audubon (PA), Valley Forge Audubon (PA), Houston Audubon (TX), Bexar Audubon (TX), Tropical Audubon (FL), Appalachian Audubon (PA), Menunkatuck Audubon (CT), Cumberland-Harpeth Audubon (TN), Mesilla Valley Audubon (NM), Tucson Audubon (AZ), Sonoran Audubon (AZ), Desert Rivers Audubon (AZ), Maricopa (AZ), UNC Asheville Audubon on Campus chapter (NC), Blue Ridge Audubon (NC), and T Gilbert Pearson Audubon (NC).