Left-right: Caleb Putnam, AGL Michigan bird Conservation Coordinator; Troy Peters, AGL Engagement Manager; Stephanie Beilke, AGL Conservation Science Associate; (behind) Nat Miller, AGL Director of Conservation; Justin Stokes, National Audubon Director of Legislative Affairs; Bill Heck, NAS Regional Director, Mississippi Flyway North; Brian Merlos, AGL Michigan Field Organizer; Brooke Bateman, Director of Climate Watch. Photo by Constance Rubin.
Audubon’s new Great Lakes Initiative grew out of national’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and includes a Regional Office and staff in the Chicago area. The Audubon Great Lakes meeting November 2017, focused on building chapter capacities for (1) policy advocacy and (2) conservation projects.
Preserving Our Favorite Birds Will Require Policy Advocacy & Conservation Projects
By Connie Rubin, Canton (OH) Audubon Society Board Member
A meeting of Great Lakes Audubon chapters with Audubon staff from Chicago and Washington D.C. took place Nov. 3-5, 2017, at the Greenbelt Cultural Center in N. Chicago. This is a not-so-brief report of that meeting, which focused (like a laser) on building chapter capacities for (1) policy advocacy and (2) conservation projects.
As preamble, Audubon’s new Great Lakes Initiative grew out of national’s 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and includes a Regional Office and staff in the Chicago area. Providing stronger chapter services and encouraging citizen science are the goals. I encourage you to read the Strategic Plan at http://strategicplan.audubon.org.
According to Thomas Lovejoy, Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., “If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world.” As Audubon members we bring “a centrist perspective” to political advocacy and a deep loyalty to our organization, which itself has a strong and respected legacy of conservation focusing on preserving birds and their habitats. All are central to our continuing success and the reason the capacity-building meeting was convened.
Focusing on Advocacy--Nov. 4, 2017 presentations:
Focusing on Conservation—Nov. 5, 2017
Volunteers Needed for January & May Climate Watch Project
Following the release of Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report in September 2014, members and the public asked “how can we help?” The outgrowth of those requests is the Climate Watch Program, details of which are at www.audubon.org/conservation/climate. As a result of feedback from Audubon members, the program has been made much simpler for citizen activists. You can even do it in your car!
The Climate Watch Project is science-driven “monitoring with a purpose.” Target species with a strong prediction of change, wide geographic coverage, easily identifiable and charismatic have been chosen. Audubon has already created maps, expanded the viewing times to Jan 15-Feb. 15 and May 15-June 15. You only have to do the monitoring once in each month-long time frame (two times total). It is estimated that one volunteer could complete the monitoring within 2-3 hours.
A training video and 12-page Training Manual, including a list of resources, and personal phone calls are available to support member participation. This project lends itself to partnerships with colleges, scouts, other environmental organizations interested in conservation projects.
Becoming an Effective Advocate for the Birds
Utilizing Audubon’s 462 chapters to influence national and state policy decisions in support of preserving bird habitat, and thereby improving the climate for people too, is a national organizational priority. A meeting of Great Lakes regional chapter leaders with national and regional Audubon staff in early November 2017 included advocacy training. Similar training for your chapter is available by contacting Troy Peters, Great Lakes Engagement Manager, at (312) 453-0230 x2004.
The first step to becoming an effective champion for birds and conservation is to think about your own birding “story.”
While your story might not at first “roll easily off your tongue,” it is important to think about and revise it. Keep it simple! Make it personal and local and hopeful! (We can have a positive effect, and need their help. We’re building a movement and need their help.) Your goal is to connect them to the birds we care about! Don’t worry about using scientific information in your story; most people don’t need it. We don’t even have to agree on the effects or causes of climate change to help birds!
Here are additional ways suggested to improve your advocacy:
Begin to develop a positive relationship with elected officials and their staff by first inviting them to come on a hike, educational program, bird walk, or meeting. Invite them to bring their family or grandchildren along. Show them your enthusiasm for birds and the outdoors. Many of them are likely to share that enthusiasm.
Before you meet with them to discuss policy here are important steps to take:
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