Conservation Tools

"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 Chapter Services.

Conservation Planning

Land Stewardship



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.

  • Policy Issues and Action website
  • Sign Up for Audubon Action - encourage your members and others to keep informed and take action on important conservation issues through these email alerts from Audubon
  • Using Audubon's Action Alert System - Do you need help spreading the word about priority issues affecting birds, wildlife and their habitat to elected officials or other decisionmakers? Audubon's Policy team can help! Download the factsheet for using the Action Alert System and the Action Alert template.
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Recorded webinar (June 2013) - Advocacy 101: How to be an Effective Advocate from Your Backyard to Washington, D.C
    Presenters: Sean Mahar, Director of Government Relations and Communications, Audubon New York, and Connie Mahan, Director, Grassroots Outreach, National Audubon Society. 
    Description: Learn what it takes to be an effective advocate for your conservation issues and why it's so important to influence policymakers and others as you take action to protect birds, other wildlife, and their habitats.
    Recording (1 hr) 

Chapters with a State Program are also encouraged to work closely with state staff on state-level conservation issues.

Chapter Advocacy Guide

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

  • Make advocacy an integral part of your Chapter's agenda.  No matter how small the Chapter, it can be a voice joined with the many voices of other Audubon Chapters bringing pressure to bear on local, state and national environmental issues.
  • Choose issues or projects that will excite others in the Chapter, being sensitive to the interests and concerns of the membership.  Chapters whose primary interests are in wildlife and birding may be more inclined to get involved in local wetland issues, while Chapters in a college community may have more members interested in national and international issues.  If you are looking for a new issue, invite speakers on topics of interest to the membership.  State legislatures, county supervisors, and environmental officials can be good speakers and will inspire interest in issues.
  • Identify the Chapter's conservation goals and objectives.  Assess the Chapter's strengths so that realistic goals may be selected.  Try to make the objectives as specific as possible and set guidelines as a yardstick for measuring the success of your efforts.
  • Recruit other members to get involved in the issue.  This is not always an easy task but one person cannot take on the conservation issues program alone.  You may choose to invite outside speakers to present a program or pull together some background material to stimulate interest in a particular issue.
  • Have a well defined plan of action for the issue or project which you can convey to others.  Involve others in developing the campaign.  When delegating responsibilities, try to outline specific duties for everyone who is interested.  Take into account members' particular interests and talents, whether they are writing letters, making phone calls, writing press releases, or designing posters.
  • Give members clear, simple and achievable responsibilities; let them know you will be available to encourage them when they run into problems or difficulties.
  • Watch for signs of burnout among activists.  Volunteers are all too aware of limited hours in the day, no matter how much they want to help.  Sometimes it is necessary to pass the baton and take some time out.  None of us can do it all!
  • Meet with the conservation committee or "advocacy group" regularly to update members on issue campaigns, obtain feedback and offer support.
  • Identify natural allies.  In addition to environmental groups, there may be other non-profit organizations or businesses that can help the Chapter achieve its goals.  Investigate other interest groups that, for economic or other reasons, are sympathetic to the Chapter's goals.  For example, recreation and commercial fishing groups, outdoor outfitters, and state and local officials will also benefit from improved environmental quality.  By including groups that will benefit economically from your efforts, you will be able to present important arguments to counter opponents' concerns about the costs of conservation initiatives such as habitat preservation, recycling, or air and water pollution control.
  • Work with your regional vice president or state representative and keep them informed of the Chapter's efforts.  The regional and state offices will help you coordinate with the state council, local environmental groups, and other public interest organizations.  By forming a coalition with these groups you can multiply the strength of your Chapter's efforts.  In addition to providing resources, co-signing letters to officials, and giving testimony, a unified coalition of varied groups will represent a greater constituency and bring wider recognition and support to the campaign.
  • Be sure the Chapter's position on an issue fits with that of Audubon by staying abreast of news and information published in the Audubon Advisory bythe Audubon Policy OfficeThe Audubon Advisory is a newsletter about what's hot on Capitol Hill and what action Congress took in response to your emails and phone calls. Subscribe to the online newsletter at

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.

Critical Habitats

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, 1660 L St, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 638-4725.

Tree Planting

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.


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

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.

Arctic Refuge

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:

  • "The Refuge: American Wilderness Icon" This 12-minute video takes the viewer on
    a journey through the unparalleled habitat found in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
    [DVD] TIP: I suggest you show this first and follow up with the PowerPoint
  • "50 Years of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." A roughly 20-minute PowerPoint
    presentation that includes a script to narrate beautiful photos of the Arctic Refuge.
    [Both the script and presentation are on the same CD]
  • Spectacular Arctic Refuge postcards (15) -- After the presentation, ask your chapter
    members to fill out a postcard urging President Obama to permanently protect the
    Arctic Refuge once and for all. Please collect the postcards at the end of the meeting
    and mail them back to me in the enclosed Business Reply Mail Envelope.
  • Fun Magnets (3) -- "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Fabulous at 50 ~ Wild
    Forever" TIP: Please encourage people to fill out, and return to you, then do a drawing
    of the postcards and award three participants with a magnet.
  • Arctic Kite Kit -- Be a Part of the Arctic Migration. [see handout for additional
  • Arctic Garden Party Kit -- Arctic Gardens come in all shapes and sizes--from a bird
    feeder at your window, to a section of your yard that you share with migrating birds.
  • Letter to the Editor Template -- Tell your local paper about the Arctic National
    Wildlife Refuge or your Arctic Garden/Kite Event.
  • Arctic Refuge Spring Migration Birding Challenge -- Gather a team and celebrate
    Arctic Refuge birds! The contest runs all spring until May 31. I've included an
    information sheet for you to display at your program and one bird checklist. Please feel
    free to make copies; if you wish to print more in color please download the pdf from
    the Audubon Alaska website:

Global Warming

GW Activist Training Tips

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:

  1. Present background information about the impacts of climate change on wildlife and habitats/natural resources
  2. Discuss different types of legislation (federal and state if appropriate) and what they encompass
  3. Give a 45 minute training on using advocacy tools (e.g., how to write letters to the editor, how to schedule a meeting with a legislator, how to work with the media, etc). PowerPoint presentations* were used to illustrate each tool, and an open dialogue was maintained with program participants, depending on the size of the group.

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


Contact Laurel Mattrey (Audubon CO) with questions about these tips or the Colorado trainings. Audubon's Policy Office offers a wealth of information at, and feel free to contact Sean Saville for any of the following:

  • How to be an effective advocate in less than 5 minutes
  • Chapter Project ideas related to climate and energy
  • How to get work with the media
  • Sample Letters-to-the-editor on climate change
  • How to build effective coalitions
  • How to recruit volunteers
  • How to plan a campaign

Citizen Science

Citizen science is a great way to get amateur and seasoned birders engaged in your Chapter as well as provide valuable data. Audubon sponsors the following citizen opportunities by providing resources and collecting the data.

The Citizen Science portal can be found at with access to all of Audubon's National/International Citizen Science programs.   We invite anyone to submit their email address next to "Want to keep up with Citizen Science?"  to receive Audubon's quarterly eNewsletter covering the results of Audubon's Citizen Science programs, along with opportunities on how to get involved.

Land Stewardship

Resources for Important Bird Area Adoption

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