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. Read on to learn more about Audubon’s most important advocacy and policy work across the hemisphere this year!
Great Salt Lake Gets Boost With $40 Million Investment in Water Conservation
In a huge win for birds and the Great Salt Lake ecosystem, Audubon and The Nature Conservancy were awarded an unprecedented $40 million grant to lead and implement a water trust to benefit Great Salt Lake and its wetlands. Audubon’s leadership, scientific expertise, commitment to collaboration, and long-standing conservation record at Great Salt Lake led to this major investment.
Ensuring water flows to Great Salt Lake and its wetlands over the long term is the single most important strategy to prevent further drying of the lake and protecting the birds and people that depend on the health of this irreplaceable ecosystem.
Audubon Helps Get Most Comprehensive Climate-focused Bill Signed Into Law
After months of advocacy by Audubon and dozens of other groups, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act and President Biden signed it into law. This landmark bill provides billions of dollars to help birds and people weather climate change, including:
- $370 billion for the transition to clean energy
- $20 billion for conservation on private lands
- $4 billion for drought resilience in the West
- $2.6 billion for coastal protection and restoration
- $2 billion for wildfire risk reduction, including natural solutions
- $450 million for private forest conservation
- $50 million dollars for national marine sanctuaries
Audubon CEO Dr. Elizabeth Gray Testifies Before Congress
This summer, Dr. Elizabeth Gray testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works about the importance of improving coastal resilience for birds and people. Audubon was asked to represent the conservation community on important climate adaptation issues and provide input on four pieces of legislation, including the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2022. This is a national priority for Audubon, as it would expand the bipartisan Coastal Barrier Resources Act and its system of protected areas, protecting vital coastal ecosystems while saving federal tax dollars. This was the first time Audubon’s CEO has been invited to give congressional testimony in over 10 years.
Audubon Americas Program Launches Conserva Aves to Protect Habitat Across the Hemisphere
Conserva Aves is a strategic initiative that promotes the creation, consolidation, management, and strengthening of 100 or more new local strategic protected areas at the subnational level, regional, municipal, ethnic, and private territories covering more than two million hectares in nine Latin American countries. This innovative approach, in partnership with BirdLife International, American Bird Conservancy, and the RedLAC funds, recently closed the call for proposals phase in Colombia, and soon will have the call for proposals in Peru. Early next year Conserva Aves will reach Bolivia and Ecuador, moving forward with this crucial initiative that responds to climate change challenges in the hemisphere.
Audubon Rockies Helps Secure New Policies to Protect Water in Colorado
Audubon Rockies helped secure several water policy wins in Colorado’s 2022 legislative season. Through their outreach, more than 2,400 members advocated to support the Wildfire Prevention Watershed Restoration Funding Bill, which passed and provides $20 million to restore watershed resilience. An Audubon member also testified in support of Colorado’s newly passed turf replacement program, which incentivizes water-wise landscaping. And finally, Rockies rallied more than 3,400 petition signatures and 440 free responses supporting protection of Colorado’s rivers in the Colorado Water Plan update. In recognition of these accomplishments and more, Audubon Rockies’ Western Rivers regional program manager, Abby Burk, was awarded the Riparian Hero Award from the Colorado Riparian Association.
Audubon Southwest Engages Biden-Harris Administration in Arizona
Twice this year, a U.S. cabinet secretary visited the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center to discuss regional conservation and ongoing inequalities in Phoenix, Arizona.
In February, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland met with Audubon, Congressional and local legislative representatives, tribal leaders, and other local community members to discuss water conservation issues, environmental equity, and conservation investment opportunities along the Rio Salado corridor and throughout the Southwest.
In August, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg met with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, as well as Tribal, congressional, state, and municipal leaders at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center to announce a $25 million federal grant awarded to the City of Phoenix for the construction of a new bike and pedestrian bridge across the Rio Salado. The bridge, once constructed, will sit less than 1,000 feet from Center property and is the federal-to-local investment Audubon has advocated for in the Rio Salado corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods. These recent investments in building connectivity acknowledge the ever-present history of the Rio Salado and its adjacent east-west train lines utilized to separate South Phoenix’s Black and brown communities from the city’s white population to the north, of which Buttigieg took note.
Record-Breaking Funding Allocated for Everglades Restoration
Audubon advocated for the nearly $1.1 billion that will be provided to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Program to support important projects. This funding comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that was signed into law in 2021 and represents a sweeping investment in the world’s largest ecosystem restoration project—America’s Everglades.
Audubon Has Seat at the Table Over Orphan Well Management
Christopher Simmons, senior manager of public lands policy at Audubon, was appointed to the Colorado Orphaned Wells Mitigation Enterprise Board by Colorado Governor Polis. The board will make decisions regarding $115 million in funding to plug, reclaim and remediate orphaned oil and gas wells, which can restore habitat for birds and address pollution issues for communities, including those facing historic inequities.
Advocacy by Audubon New York Helps Secure Protections for Wetlands Throughout the State
This year, reforms to New York state's Freshwater Wetlands Act makes it possible for state authorities to protect more than a million acres of critical wetlands and tens of thousands of smaller, unmapped wetlands that exist across the state. The environmental community has been fighting for these reforms for decades, as wetlands fell victim to unchecked development, the spread of pollution, degradation from invasive species, and the increasing impacts of climate change. Wetlands are also at risk due to shifting federal protections, as court decisions have cut back the types of waters protected under the federal Clean Water Act. These changes have threatened federal protections for critical habitats across New York State and escalated the urgent need to reform the New York State Freshwater Wetlands Act. A coalition of partners that included Audubon New York were vital to making this legislation reform a reality.
Save the Seabirds Fly-in Brings New Voices to Congress
Audubon hosted a hybrid 2022 Save the Seabirds Fly-in on Capitol Hill and online this October. During the event, staff and chapter members from eight states met with 15 congressional offices both virtually and in person to advocate for seabirds and the forage fish and coastal habitats they rely on. In addition to staff from Audubon Delta, Audubon California, and Audubon Great Lakes, our participating chapters included the University of South Carolina campus chapter, Little Red River Audubon Society, Mississippi Coast Audubon Society, Portland Audubon, Detroit Audubon Society, and Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society. As a result of Audubon’s advocacy and education during this event, new Members of Congress added their support to the Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act, which helps protect forage fish.
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.
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.
Audubon Working to Address Climate Change in Minnesota
Audubon helped push the State of Minnesota to finalize and adopt a Climate Action Framework that aligns with the goals of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Audubon Minnesota Iowa Missouri’s Dr. Dale Gentry, Director of Conservation, and Lindsay J. Brice, Policy Director were appointed and served on the statewide Climate Smart Natural & Working Lands and Resilient Communities workgroups. They reviewed and recommended changes to the final plan.
Audubon Minnesota Iowa Missouri Secures Funding for Tallgrass Aspen Parklands
Audubon received $2.14 million in funding from the state of Minnesota for the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands program, which protects and restores critical bird habitat in designated Important Bird Areas on public and private lands in a region that experiences intense migration. Since the program began in 2012, more than 1,700 acres have been restored in addition to the protection of 900 acres through conservation easements. This new funding enables Audubon Minnesota Iowa Missouri to scale this work on an additional 1,700 acres. A recent $418,500 National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grasslands grant through the Conservation Partners Program will further Audubon’s impact in the region over the upcoming years as we expand restoration in this critical area for birds.
Hundreds of Artists Contribute to The Birdsong Project
Audubon partnered in The Birdsong Project‚ an unprecedented outpouring of creativity by 200+ of the biggest names in entertainment to celebrate the joy of birds and inspire conservation action to protect them. Produced by Grammy Award-winning music supervisor Randall Poster, the collection is available on all streaming platforms and as a 20LP vinyl box set, all proceeds of which benefit Audubon. The project earned media coverage ranging from The New York Times to Rolling Stone, plus social media elevation by such mega-celebrities as Leonardo DiCaprio and Yoko Ono. You can listen to The Birdsong Project here.
Connecticut Passes Law to Protect Fish that Seabirds Need for Food
With support from Audubon Connecticut and partners, Connecticut passed a new law to protect important forage fish species in Connecticut coastal waters, limiting the harvest of little fish like Atlantic silverside, sand lance, and others to no more than 200 pounds per day. This law will help ensure that Least Terns and other seabirds have plenty to eat and to feed their chicks.
Audubon Finds Broad Support for Clean Energy in Indiana
An Indiana statewide poll released by Audubon Great Lakes found that voters in Indiana, regardless of political orientation, overwhelmingly support having more renewable energy in Indiana. The polling also found that 75 percent of Hoosiers, including an overwhelming majority of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, support net metering policies that fairly compensate customers who generate their own electricity, usually through solar panels on their rooftops, for electricity they add to the grid. Following the release of the poll, almost 300 Audubon members in Indiana reached out to their state senators in support of SB 248 to strengthen net-metering protections in the state.
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.
Michigan Climate Plan Improved Thanks to Audubon Members and Concerned Residents
This year, more than 900 Audubon members across the state encouraged the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, and the Council on Climate Solutions, to strengthen a draft plan designed to help the State of Michigan achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Thanks to that outreach, the final plan contains important improvements, including a call for the state to generate 60 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources, cut 28 percent of the state’s emissions by 2025, and retire coal-fired power plants in the state by 2030. It also explicitly addresses climate equity concerns, calling for at least 40 percent of any state funding that will be used for climate and water-related infrastructure to go to BIPOC and disadvantaged communities. Finally, thanks to Audubon and member input, the plan now recommends responsibly siting solar farms on state-owned lands to minimize their impacts on birds.
Audubon Finds Strong Support for Wetlands Protections in Indiana
Indiana has lost 85 percent of its wetlands, forcing birds like the Black Tern and Yellow-headed Blackbird out of the state to find suitable habitat. A diverse group of experts and stakeholders in Indiana that make up the Indiana Wetlands Task Force have agreed – loss of wetlands is negatively impacting Indiana residents, and we need to do more to protect this important natural resource. The Indiana Wetlands Task Force was established as part of Senate Enrolled Act 389, which rolled back protections for more than 400,000 acres of wetlands in Indiana.
Earlier this year, Audubon Great Lakes released findings from an Indiana state-wide poll, which found that Indiana residents across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support wetlands protections. The Task Force cited these findings in their final report, which outlines the steps needed to take to protect them.
Audubon Helps Bring Bird-friendly Clean Energy to Washington State
Audubon Washington led efforts to bring Washington State University’s Least-Conflict Solar Siting project, which identifies areas with the least potential for conflict over the siting of large-scale solar energy projects, to the state’s Columbia Plateau region. This region, which is in eastern Washington state, features environmentally sensitive sagebrush habitat and is home to a variety of sagebrush-dependent species like the Greater Sage-Grouse, and proper siting of renewable energy is critical to minimize impacts to these ecosystems. Now that the process is underway, Audubon is focused on protecting sagebrush birds and the habitat they rely on while pursuing policies to help accelerate the deployment of responsibly-sited renewable energy. Going forward, Washington State University is engaging Audubon and other stakeholders, as well as tribes and key agencies, to use local input and spatial data to produce maps and an associated final report by June 2023.
Audubon Supported Climate, Conservation, and Environmental Justice in Pennsylvania
This spring, Audubon Mid-Atlantic staff and members voiced support of a Pennsylvania budget that includes more than $696 million in Growing Greener funding, including more than $150 million to the commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. More than 1,500 Audubon members reached out to legislators this spring to urge them to support these appropriations. And in the November election, rural voters in Carbon County, Pennsylvania voted overwhelmingly (83 percent) to support an Audubon-backed $10 million bond supporting open space, agricultural areas, and water protection.
Audubon Helped Secure $1.25 Million for USGS Water Survey
Audubon’s Saline Lakes (part of the Western Water program) and policy teams helped secure $1.25 million dollars in Congressional funding for the U.S. Geologic