Sarah Rose is now in her second week as Audubon California’s new executive director, and she’s diving into her role, meeting staff, board members, and supporters. She even joined a small group of Audubon advocates at a rally last week in Sacramento against the federal government’s push for new offshore oil drilling. Rose came to Audubon California from the California League of Conservation Voters and the CLCV Education Fund, where she served as chief executive officer. We caught up with her during this busy second week for a few questions:
California is an amazing collection of natural places. Is there one place in California that stands out for you?
It’s so hard to pick! My first real California experience was driving north on 101 through the Avenue of the Giants. I had never seen trees so big and so majestic. Standing in those groves, the quiet and peace, and sense of time both standing still and going on forever. It is really powerful. And I spend a lot of time in the Sierra and at Lake Tahoe. I love being in the mountains, and the lake is just stunning.
What kinds of outdoor recreation do you enjoy?
I’ve always loved hiking – urban, nature, wilderness – anything to get outside. I am also an avid downhill skier in the Sierra, runner, and backyard amateur gardener. But I know I’m going to have to elevate my birding game.
Did you have a specific experience that made you want to pursue a career in conservation?
I can’t think of anything in particular. I grew up in Minneapolis and the city has a long history of investing in parks and public open space. I learned to swim in my neighborhood lake – the city is full of lakes, and all of them are connected by biking and walking paths. Those paths are used all year, even in the winter, and bring everyone together to share in that public space. I learned early on that the reason our lakes were swimmable, and the waterfronts preserved for public access, was a result of some forward-thinking people who realized that we have a responsibility to make sure that our natural places are protected for everyone to enjoy and that we all benefit when these spaces are protected.
Do you have one conservation victory of which you're particularly proud?
I have been lucky to work to protect Californians and our environment for more than 20 years. Along the way there have been many victories. At the top of the list include the passage of SB 32 (California carbon reduction goals), the ban on lead ammunition, and the ban on microbeads in beauty products in California.
What about Audubon made you interested in coming to this organization?
Audubon has an incredible network of passionate, engaged supporters who care deeply about birds and their habitats. We are facing some really challenging threats to our environment that will impact our communities, our natural places, and the birds and other wildlife that depend on these places. Working with Audubon, we have the capacity to play an important role in shaping policy and conservation work to support a healthier and more sustainable future for our families and our birds.
What role do you see chapters playing in the larger Audubon movement?
Chapters are the foundation of the Audubon movement. The chapters are what connects our work to local communities and landscapes. They are how people connect and share their love of birds. This passion is what makes Audubon special and is why Audubon can make a difference.
At CLCV, you were immersed in policy work. Would you like to see Audubon California increase its work on the policy front?
Audubon has a really important role to play as a leader for bird-friendly policies in California, and we also have an important role to play in leading this work at a national level. What we do here in California has an outsized impact for birds and habitat here in our state, but also sets the bar for other states to follow.
We ask this question to everyone: What's your favorite bird?
So hard to pick. My daughter is really into owls – and I think owls are pretty awesome – so I’m going to go with the Great Horned Owl. It’s big, powerful, and graceful. On the other end of the spectrum, the finches that like our backyard feeder are a favorite part of my day.