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.
Deepened Our Commitment to an Anti-Racist Future
Part of becoming an anti-racist organization means grappling with the racist personal history of John James Audubon. His contributions to ornithology, art, and culture are enormous, but he was a complex and troubling character who did despicable things during his life. Earlier this year, our president and CEO David Yarnold penned an article letting our members and audiences know that Audubon is committed to doing anti-racist work transparently, patiently, and inclusively, resisting quick judgments or easy outs.
We have already received overwhelming support for our anti-racist commitments from Audubon members, staff, and volunteer leaders, but we know the work is far from done. Here are some of the ways we committed to transparent and necessary social justice work.
Black Birders Week
In response to the racist incident in New York’s Central Park where a white woman threatened Christian Cooper’s life while he was birding, Tykee James, Audubon’s government affairs coordinator and fellow Black birders, scientists, and naturalists responded with Black Birders Week. Instead of focusing on trauma, the more than thirty organizers planned a week centered around strength, pride, style, humor, and fun.
Through online programming, social media activities, and livestreamed discussions, the Black birding community came together to shine a light on the dramatically different experiences people of color have in conservation spaces. More than 300,000 viewers tuned into two community-led discussion panels, which Audubon livestreamed on its Facebook page. According to James, the overwhelming support for Black Birders Week is “a snowflake in what will become an avalanche.”
Engaged in Tough Conversations
The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others showed that the country’s deeply flawed criminal justice system must change. Black Americans should not face lower odds of survival and prosperity across every measure of wellbeing in this country, but they do. These events have sparked a global conversation on the ways in which racism pervades our social and legal institutions, including our systems for protecting the environment.
Throughout the summer, Audubon Vermont catalyzed these conversations on important social and environmental topics. Their youth-led “Tough Conversations” webinar series touched on a multitude of topics including environmental and racial justice and climate in the age of COVID-19. The three-part series reached more than 50,000 people who wanted to hear from emerging voices in the environmental and policy arena. Audubon is prepared to be challenged, informed, and armed with tools to take action, and so are tomorrow’s leaders.
Introducing: The Newly Renamed Blue Ridge Audubon
In Asheville, North Carolina’s growing movement to lift Black voices and address past and present wrongs, the former Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society exists no more. On July 21st, this the Ashville-based chapter officially adopted the name Blue Ridge Audubon, in recognition of the natural beauty and unique biodiversity of these mountains. Nancy Casey, president of Blue Ridge Audubon says her chapter says the new name is just the first step in building a truly inclusive and welcoming outdoors for everyone.
“Blue Ridge Audubon is committed to making the outdoors and the joy of birds a safe and welcoming place for Black people and all others,” Casey Says. “We are proud to call this region home and are committed to protecting all that makes it so special for birds and people.”
Found New Ways to Celebrate Pride Month
It was a rough year for people who love birds, exploring the outdoors, and our Let’s Go Birding Together (LGBT) series. Every June marks Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, usually just shortened to Pride Month. Since we could not have parades, picnics, or bird walks, Audubon staff adapted and celebrated with people where they were—in their homes and backyards and online.
Thanks to a bit of ingenuity and a willingness to experiment we still were able to celebrate (and groove) during Pride month. Audubon California hosted a Let’s Go-Go Birding Together social hour that drew more than 60 bird nerds, members of the LGBTQIA++ community, and allies. The group spent the hour learning how to transform into a Painted Bunting with drag queen and Disney Prince, L Y L E and seven bird-inspired dance moves with 2020 Artist In Residence at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center, the Sarah Bush Dance Project. Since its airing, the tutorial video has been viewed more than 73,000 times.
Worked to Combat Community Displacement
The Audubon Center at Debs Park introduced "Greening in Place: Protecting Communities from Displacement," a comprehensive resource for park agencies, conservation organizations, local decision makers, and community advocates to engage in equitable green infrastructure development.
Green infrastructure projects are often financed with public dollars, with the stated intent of building healthy communities for underserved populations and of improving access to green amenities in under-resourced, low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. But such investments, together with shifting job and housing markets, can also set in motion or intensify a process of gentrification and displacement—a process called “green gentrification.”
The Greening In Place guide created by Debs Park in partnership with SEACA-LA, Public Counsel, and Team Friday assesses displacement risks associated with green infrastructure investment and provides a number of recommended strategies to reduce the potential harmful economic impacts such investments may have on vulnerable populations. The guide was made possible by Prop 1 funding through the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. You can get the toolkit here.
Because of a lack of infrastructure and awareness at the local, state, and federal levels, accessibility in the outdoors can be especially challenging to those with mobility impairment. Birdability will help change that. Audubon worked with Travis Audubon Society board member Virginia Rose to launch Birdability Week and the Birdability online portal. Community-led panel discussions on how to make birding more inclusive, and how to improve access for those living with mobility impairment, were livestreamed on Audubon’s Facebook page and viewed more than 23,000 times.
Want to help make birding more inclusive? One easy thing you can do is rate your local birding spots for accessibility using the Birdability site.