“If our collective Audubon leadership can first envision and then implement a strong, mutually supportive partnership between Chapters and National-from conservation to fundraising and outreach-we will be able to create an environment of mutual respect, trust and confidence throughout.” Ad Hoc Chapter Task Force Report to the National Audubon Society Board of Directors, January 2005
The following information is provided to help supplement Chapter programs, projects, and materials. If you have any additional requests or questions, please contact email@example.com.
Audubon's Public Policy Office in Washington, D.C. houses our dedicated team of advocates, experts, and grassroots outreach staff. The Policy team has developed the following resources for Chapters. If you have any questions about the content on these pages, or about any national policy issues, please contact Policy staff.
Chapters with a State Program are also encouraged to work closely with state staff on state-level conservation issues.
One of the great strengths of Audubon’s Chapter network is that it is a living, breathing force of positive change for the environment. No other organization has such a broad network of citizens working in every state to make a difference for the environment.
Chapter advocacy comes in all sizes and shapes. Some Chapters work on issues that are of both regional and national significance, while others work mainly on local issues. Some Chapters are protecting open space in their towns or counties through acquisition or regulatory means, and other Chapters are saving critical wetlands in their state.
Chapter advocacy varies from region to region as well. Chapters in the Pacific Northwest are working to save what remains of the ancient virgin forests of that region, and Chapters of the San Francisco Bay area are trying to stop filling of more Bay wetlands. Chapters in the Central Midwest and the Rocky Mountain regions are heavily involved in saving water flows on the Platte River, thus preserving critical habitat for sandhill cranes, while those in Florida are working to expand Everglades National Park and Chapters throughout the Mid-Atlantic region are working to save local wetlands. Furthermore, Chapters all across the country are working keep the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska closed to oil drilling.
The list of Chapter conservation and advocacy projects goes on and on and includes many recycling projects, wildlife monitoring programs, toxic waste cleanup efforts and innumerable other grassroots activities. One could write a book on Audubon activism, how to get involved, and be an effective advocate. Yet, advocacy is rarely learned from books. It is learned from other people and from experience, simply by picking up a pen or the telephone and communicating your views to public officials.
Key Elements of Successful Chapter Advocacy
Think Globally, Act Locally! Ideas for Chapter Activism Projects
Work with the State Legislature
Brush up on the workings of your state legislature. What important environmental bills are before the legislature and which state legislators are supporting them? Become familiar with the budget process and work with other local environmental groups to lobby for more money for open space or funding of non-game wildlife tax check-off legislation.
Your Chapter can become involved in surveying critical habitats in the community. Find out whether the lands are publicly or privately owned and what zoning restrictions apply. Develop an understanding of how the local planning commission and zoning board works. Does a citizens’ advisory board exist for particular development projects or for the county or state parks commission? Are there people in the Chapter willing to attend citizen advisory board and planning commission meetings or zoning board hearings to present an environmental perspective?
For information about accepting land from potential donors, land trusts and conservation easements, obtain the Conservation Easement Handbook, 2nd Edition, from the Land Trust Alliance, 1313 H Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 638-4725.
Initiate a tree planting project of native species that involves the local community and focuses on the value of forests in reducing the greenhouse gasses that cause global warming. Develop a series of lectures given by local experts, such as Park Service interpreters and Forest Service rangers, university professors, extension officers, and others. This will raise awareness and encourage participants to take other actions and personally and locally to complement measures taken at state, national and international levels to slow global warming.
The tree planting program can become a focal point for community service and attract endorsements from a wide range of businesses, agencies and other organizations. With a broad base of support, your Chapter can more easily obtain the financial resources and in-kind services needed to implement the program. One Chapter in the Pacific Northwest had their tree saplings donated by the local board of Realtors. Consider obtaining endorsements from the local Garden Club Chapter, League of Women voters, citizens advisory board for state or county parks, state natural resources agency, soil and water conservation district, other regional and state environmental groups, local legislators, and Audubon.
National and Regional Campaigns
Get involved in one of Audubon’s high priority campaigns. Contact the director of grassroots programs in the Washington, D.C., office and your regional vice president to discuss how your Chapter can plug into these national campaigns. Depending on where your Chapter is located, Audubon may need your help preserving the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, wetlands protection, endangered species legislation, the Everglades campaign, or another issue of national significance. Visit Issues and Action to learn more about becoming involved.
The Armchair Activist program is directed primarily to Audubon members who are too busy to participate in Chapter meetings but who really want to make a difference. The program enables these members to contribute to critically important local, state, national, and international issues – without leaving home. Because all Armchair activities are done regularly, usually once a month, and require a time commitment of just one half hour to three hours each month, participants are able to help protect the environment in ways that suit their busy lives.
One of the most popular Armchair activities is the Letter of the Month Club. Each month, participants receive a sample letter targeting a specific environmental issue which they can then personalize and copy or rewrite and send to key legislators or other public officials. Participating Chapters can also establish a Telephone Rapid Response Team – a telephone tree dedicated to making critical, timely calls to Members of Congress and other public officials to communicate Audubon’s position on an issue up for vote. The Armchair Activist program provides a mechanism for Audubon members to combine their efforts at letter-writing and telephoning into a nationally powerful force. It has the potential to unleash 10,000 letters at once in response to a national alert, something that individual Chapters could never achieve.
Organize or become involved in a community-wide recycling program. Begin with some initial research on your community’s current waste management program. Find out the amount and type of waste that is generated in the community. Who collects trash, how is it collected and where is it disposed? Does the community bury, burn, or recycle its solid waste? Who is responsible for waste management in the community? Is more than one government agency involved? What local ordinances or regulations cover waste disposal? Are there any state regulations in effect that are stronger than the federal regulations? Are any new waste incinerators being constructed? Investigate successful recycling programs in other communities. After obtaining the relevant background information, develop a campaign for mandatory curb-side recycling, a bottle bill, city-wide composting, or household hazardous waste collection. Or start a campaign to encourage major businesses in the community to switch to recycled paper and other products. Combine your advocacy efforts with a public education program directed at recycling.
Community Right to Know
Find out what industries in your community produce, use, or dispose of toxic materials. You might start by asking the local fire department. Under the “Community Right to Know” provision of the Superfund amendments of 1986, industries are required to let their communities know what type of hazardous materials they have on site and how they are using, storing, and transporting them. Additional information can be obtained from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, 218 D Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003, 202-546-9707 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer Lobby Training
Send a Chapter representative to an Audubon lobbying training session, otherwise known as “Boot Camp.” Audubon’s Policy office in Washington, D.C., holds various trainings annually, introducing participants to Congress and federal agencies and is intended to hone the political skills of Chapter leaders. The training is done in conjunction with Audubon’s high priority campaigns. For more information, contact Audubon’s Public Policy Division at 202-861-2242.
Raise your community’s awareness of the interrelationships among population, consumption and the environment – at home and internationally. Consider events such as hosting films and speakers or conducting a town meeting. You may want to form a coalition with other local groups. Many environmental, population, religious and women’s organizations are interested in this issue. Every community faces the issue of how to simultaneously meet human and wildlife needs. Consider a project to reduce local consumption, or get involved with local growth management and habitat planning agencies. If your elected officials do not seem concerned about these issues, let them know the community demands it.
The documents linked below accompany the Celebrate the Arctic Kits (no longer available). Chapters are welcome to make copies of the documents for distribution during education events. The kit contains:
Audubon views global warming as one of the greatest threats to birds and habitat today, and Chapters are becoming increasingly interested in educating their members and the general public on the issue. A stellar example comes from Colorado, where a team composed of staff and members from the Audubon Colorado state office, Audubon’s national Policy Office, Colorado Chapters and other environmental organizations are collaboratively presenting a series of Global Warming Activist Trainings throughout the state. Four trainings in four different regions have been offered to date. The goal of the trainings is to engage Audubon members and other interested citizens in learning about the impacts of climate change on the environment and to empower activists to take effective political action to enact state and federal climate change legislation. Laurel Mattrey, Development Manager with Audubon Colorado, shares the following tips for planning a Global Warming Activist Training.
Work with partners. Your Chapter or another entity may initiate and coordinate a training session, but bringing in partners helps share the labor and costs involved, and brings in a wider range of information and perspectives. Each organization can also help promote the event within their own network of members and supporters. Along with environmental groups, consider including faith-based, agricultural, educational, renewable energy, health, and local government organizations and agencies.
Know your audience. It is important to consider your target audience to understand what will interest them and to ensure appropriate messaging from the marketing stage through the presentation stage. For example, in order to attract groups with different perspectives, you might give a different title to a global warming activist training in a progressive college town versus one in a rural oil and gas development area; e.g., callingl the former “Global Warming Activist training” and the latter, “Colorado Wildlife and Resource Advocacy Workshop: Climate Change and Conservation.” For the biggest impact, determine which region or demographic is most important for you to reach. Be sure to invite your local officials to attend the training, including County Commissioners, local Land Use Boards, mayors, city council people, staffers for your federal Senators and Representatives and State legislators.
Promote your training. In addition to asking your partners to help with outreach, connect with local and state environmental groups and encourage them to invite their boards and their members and to post your invitation in their newsletter, websites, or Facebook pages. Post fliers that will have good visibility, and include an RSVP phone number and email address so you can get a good sense of who will be attending and so that people can contact you with questions. Submit an overview of the event to post in newspaper calendars.
Schedule appropriately. Consider when your participants will be most likely be available, and check local community calendars for conflicting events that may be of interest to your target audience. Audubon Colorado ran its workshops in the evenings for 2 to 3 hours, and dinner was provided. The itinerary typically followed this format:
Present authenticated information. Audubon Colorado does its best to present information about climate change and legislation that is straightforward and scientifically authenticated. Audubon’s Policy Office offers a variety of useful supporting materials* and can also help update you on the latest climate change legislation.
* Audubon’s Policy Office provides Global Warming fact sheets and PowerPoint presentations for download at no cost at http://www.audubon.org/globalWarming/factsheets.php.
FOR MORE INFO:
Contact Laurel Mattrey (Audubon CO) with questions about these tips or the Colorado trainings. Audubon's Policy Office offers a wealth of information at http://www.audubon.org/globalWarming/, and feel free to contact Sean Saville for any of the following:
Land Conservation Options for Chapters - presentation by Debi Osborne, Audubon Director of Real Estate. Audio/visual recording (visuals begin about 3 min, 40 sec into the presentation)
Download slides as PDF