Recently, the National Audubon Society Board of Directors announced its decision to retain the name Audubon after a year-long investigatory process. The Board of Directors shared their belief that keeping the name will allow the National Audubon Society to focus its efforts and resources on meeting our mission to protect birds and the places they need long into the future.
You may be aware of the life story of John James Audubon. He is acknowledged as an artist and naturalist who illustrated 435 birds in his volume Birds of America. The reprehensible part of John James Audubon’s life is that he enslaved human beings, desecrated the graves of Indigenous people, and participated in efforts to claim white superiority over people of color. This history is traumatic, as is ongoing systemic racism in the environmental movement.
Since this announcement, I have heard reactions to the National Audubon Society Board’s decision from colleagues, partners, chapter leaders, and members. Some of the responses to this decision have been strong, expressing deep hurt, anger, and disappointment.
Unlike Audubon chapters, which are independent organizations, Audubon California is a state office of the National Audubon Society and cannot change its name. Today, I want to say, on behalf of the California team:
We are committed to reckoning with racism, past and present. We recognize that consistent actions that take into consideration, and represent, diverse communities in California are the only ways to ensure meaningful equity, diversity, and inclusion. At Audubon California, we will continue to advocate for environmental health, climate resilience, and equitable access to nature in all that we do.
We commit to learning every day how to be better partners, better advocates, better colleagues, and better conservationists. Our communities and the birds we love need this from us.