This year our conservation leaders, bird advocates, college students, ambassadors, volunteers, and scientists accomplished amazing things. Through early-December, more than 199,000 of us contacted decision-makers more than 783,700 times on behalf of birds. All of the accomplishments listed below come from the hard work and dedication of our members, chapters, volunteers, and staff. We're very proud of what we have been able to accomplish together over the past 12 months.
Keep reading to see the most important ways that our flock worked together this year.
Defending and Strengthening Foundational Bird Conservation Laws
It’s been an eventful year for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a 102-year-old law that forms the foundation for the modern bird conservation movement. In July, the Department of the Interior (DOI) advanced its proposed regulation that guts the MBTA. Reaction was swift and furious, and Audubon and a broad coalition of partners generated more than a quarter of a million comments decrying the move.
Simultaneous to our efforts to block DOI rewriting the MBTA rules, we were in federal court fighting this rollback as part of National Audubon Society vs. the Department of the Interior, and in August we won. The DOI filed a notice on October 8 stating that it intends to appeal the decision.
At the state level, California and Vermont passed and enacted bills to reinstate bird protections to backstop the federal rollbacks. Audubon was critical to the creation and passage of these bills; advocates in Vermont testifying on behalf of the bill were instrumental in its success. California’s bill was signed into law in 2019 and Vermont’s bill was signed by Governor Phil Scott on October 8. Meanwhile, Virginia has announced it intends to issue regulations that would protect birds and create a new permitting program.
We’re also working with Congress to pass a bill that would both reinforce the MBTA and provide a permitting framework for industry. This bill, the Migratory Bird Protection Act, passed out of committee in the House and is awaiting further action.
Feeding Baby Seabirds in the Atlantic
In early August, Atlantic seabirds got a big boost. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission was formed to coordinate and manage fishery resources, voted unanimously to recognize the important role Atlantic menhaden play for birds, fish, and other wildlife on the Atlantic Coast, and the need to manage that fishery with an eye to overall ecosystem health. The vote sets the stage for not only healthier fisheries from Maine to Florida, but for fisheries that better support birds like Atlantic Puffin and Least Tern. Collaboration from all levels of Audubon, working together, made it possible. Conservation and policy staff at the state and national level were key to providing knowledge of how fishery practices affect birds, while our chapter network engaged local decision-makers on how important strong bird populations are to their constituencies.
Saved Critical Old-Growth Forest in Alaska
Audubon helped save portions of the Tongass National Forest on Prince of Wales Island from logging interests after it and its partners won a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Justice declined to appeal the decision. Large old-growth trees and rich ecosystem of Prince of Wales Island contributes to the region’s tourism, fishing, and recreation, and are critical habitats for wolves, deer, and birds like Queen Charlotte Goshawk and Prince of Wales Spruce Grouse.
Climate Action Across the Country
Climate was a hot topic around the Audubon network, with a number of policy wins that show how climate and natural solutions are bipartisan issues.
Coastal Resiliency Win in South Carolina
This year the South Carolina legislature passed the Disaster Relief and Resilience Act to help mitigate many of the problems caused by sea-level rise, which makes flooding a persistent problem in the state. This law, which Audubon has long supported and helped get over the finish line, creates a new state resilience office, led by a state resilience officer, sets requirements for statewide resilience planning, creates a new revolving loan program that will help finance the voluntary buy out of repetitively flooded properties and restore those properties to a natural state; and requires local governments to incorporate resilience into their comprehensive plans.
Vermont passed the Global Warming Solutions Act
The Vermont General Assembly passed the Global Warming Solutions Act into law this fall. The legislation sets carbon pollution reduction targets, requires the development of a state plan to achieve those goals and includes natural climate solutions in that plan, and creates an enforcement provision for the public to sue the state for non-compliance with implementing that plan. Audubon Vermont joined together with a broad coalition of organizations across the environmental, housing, social services and energy sectors to help advance the bill.
Connecticut passed a climate bill that explicitly addresses environmental justice; Governor issues an executive order mandating climate mitigation strategies
Audubon Connecticut helped push a significant step forward for environmental justice in the state with the passage of HB 7008. The legislation requires facilities like power plants, waste treatment facilities, and other large air-emissions producers that impact the environment to communicate more with the public and lawmakers about those impacts, and increases the opportunity for frontline communities to be heard by decision-makers. Audubon Connecticut testified earlier this year and advocated for bipartisan support of the bill.
Additionally, Audubon Connecticut staff lent its expertise on wetlands, rivers, and environmental funding to a new executive order that strengthens Connecticut’s efforts to mitigate climate change and establishes a Governor’s Council on Climate Change to offer recommendations for addressing the impact of climate change on our human and animal communities, our infrastructure, and our economy. This kind of executive order is one of the best paths forward to creating impact at scale when tackling large issues like climate change.
New York renewables plan includes protections for at-risk species
Audubon New York made sure that New York State’s future wind-power projects will protect critical habitat. The projects will require overall environmental and fisheries mitigation plans, provisions to mitigate impacts to wildlife from noise, vessel strikes, and lighting, and a provision for financial and technical support for monitoring wildlife and commercial fish stocks, through a minimum contribution of $10,000 per megawatt. This adds up to $25M for all monitoring efforts across New York state. These new plans are a direct result of our advocacy work with the New York State Environmental Technical Working Group
Louisiana Sets Up a Net-Zero Task Force; New Orleans Adopts Net-Zero Carbon Standard
Two executive orders in Louisiana help set the state up to achieve its stated climate goals of net zero by 2050. The first EO established the Climate Initatives Task Force; the second establishes a Chief Resilience Officer within the Office of the Governor. Work around climate resiliency and net zero will fit into Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, a key framework to help protect Louisiana from the effects of sea level rise. Audubon was an important partner in helping create the Coastal Master Plan and works to keep those projects funded, especially via Deepwater Horizon settlement money.
Additionally, The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously to adopt a Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standard, mandating net-zero carbon emissions by 2040, and a zero-carbon energy portfolio by 2050. Audubon and its partners played a major role in the campaign to get this standard adopted.
Washington State Passes Four Climate-related Policies
Four policies focused on fighting carbon emissions and building a sustainable energy future passed the Washington State legislature this year, including a bill that helps farmers access funds to to better achieve lower emissions and higher carbon sequestration; a bill that requires state agencies to emissions reduction targets; a supplemental budget item to fund better renewables siting; and a requirement to make more electric or other zero-emissions vehicles available for sale in the state. Audubon was instrumental in building grassroots support for the passage of these bills throughout the state, especially the Sustainable Farms and Fields bill, which advances natural climate solutions.
Arkansas Finalizes Rule on Solar Energy
The Arkansas General Assembly approved a rule that makes solar energy more accessible to individuals and businesses in Arkansas and protects full retail credits for all consumers who wish to install solar panels and then sell their excess energy back to the grid. An Audubon-led coalition was key to the crafting of this policy and to its eventual adoption.
Virginia Adopts First Statewide Clean-energy Standard in the Southeast
The Virginia Clean Economy Act, the first statewide clean-energy standard in the U.S. Southeast, passed and was signed into law this spring. Audubon chapters throughout Virginia met with legislators to lobby on behalf of the bill. The legislation provides a blueprint to 100% carbon-free energy production; enacts a binding energy efficiency standard to reduce overall energy consumption; sets a path to closing all fossil fuel emitting power plants in Virginia by 2045; and requires utilities to increase wind and solar energy every year through a mandatory renewable portfolio standard.
30 By 30 Win in California Paves the Way for Indigenous Land Stewardship
This fall California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order directing state agencies to begin an effort to catalogue, study and protect the state’s diversity of wildlife species and to enlist the help of cities, ranchers, farmers and industry in preserving California’s vast expanses of working lands. The goal is to set aside 30 percent of the state's open spaces for conservation by 2030. The order will help ensure access to nature for all Californians, especially those living in nature-deprived communities. This EO is based on the Audubon California-sponsored assembly bill AB 3030, which follows the “30 by 30” international movement to set aside 30 percent of the earth’s land area to preserve wildlife habitat and protect against climate change. It also recognizes the rights, stewardship, and wisdom of Indigenous People and prioritizes ensuring the benefits of cleaner lands, waters, and air are shared by all people.
Building a Secure Water Future for Everyone
Water security is a critically important topic across Audubon, not just in the arid West, but also in hydrologically complex landscapes like the Florida Everglades. Audubon’s work was key to making sure there’s enough water to go around for everyone.
Three important bills on water resource management pass in Utah
Audubon has been working alongside key stakeholders to develop solutions to increase Utah’s flexibility in managing water resources for agricultural, municipal, and environmental needs. Three new bills—all of which have been signed into law—will help achieve those goals.
The Water Banking Act authorizes a 10-year water banking pilot program that allows water rights holders the opportunity to temporarily and voluntarily lease their water rights included in a water bank. The objectives of the Act include promoting optimal use of the public’s water, transparency, and access to markets. The Act’s provisions also are intended to facilitate sustainable agricultural production, meet municipal demands, and help meet water quality standards and provide for a healthy and resilient natural environment.
A second bill makes it easier for water users to share water or otherwise split water allotments—so-called split-season use—so that everyone has enough during the specific time of year that they need it.
Finally, the Watershed Council Act authorizes creation of local basin councils as a forum for addressing watershed issues with local interests and expertise. The bill also establishes a statewide Utah Watersheds Council to provide a forum to encourage and facilitate discussion and collaboration.
Water Users Can Now Opt to Leave Water in Rivers
After a multi-year, multi-stakeholder effort from Audubon and others, a bill expanding the Colorado Water Conservation Board short-term water loan program passed with widespread bipartisan support. With this new law, water users will have more flexibility to divert less or no water during dry years, which allows for more water to stay in a river—ultimately benefiting our environment, wildlife, and local economies.
Everglades Gets Record-setting Funding to Improve Water Use
Audubon Florida helped secure record-high Everglades appropriations at both the state and federal levels. From Governor Ron DeSantis’ call for recurrent, aggressive funding for water projects with special emphasis on water appropriations to further Everglades restoration, to historic federal appropriations, the more than $600 million dollars will help build a secure future for both birds and people in the state.