Skagit Audubon
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Watching birds, protecting habitat, connecting with nature

President's Message by John Day

Dear Members and Friends of Skagit Audubon Society,

I’m sure that many of you have heard one way or another that Seattle Audubon Society recently decided to drop the Audubon name and is in the process of choosing a new one.  You may be aware that the National Audubon Society (NAS) has also started the process of considering whether or not to change its name. 

The issue here, as I understand it, is that despite what John James Audubon did to increase the public’s awareness and knowledge of North American birds, he was himself a slaveholder and made his racist views of Black and Indigenous people well known.  This is seen by many as a significant barrier for minority people to joining Audubon or participating in Audubon-sponsored activities. 

As you can well imagine, the name change issue has not been without controversy.  There are a number of important considerations in addition to trying to make Audubon more welcoming to minorities, including the strong positive “brand” association the name has historically had with bird protection and conservation in general.  There are also very practical concerns about all the other changes that have to be made when an organization changes its name.

A number of us on the Skagit Audubon Board of Directors have felt the need to start our own discussion about re-naming, because we share concerns such as those outlined above on both sides of the issue and because we don’t want SAS to be caught completely “flat-footed” by ongoing developments.  We’re not in a hurry, though.  We will be learning much more about the national level process in the next few months, as NAS has announced that it has formed a Board Task Force to make a recommendation to the entire NAS Board in February of next year on whether or not to rename the Society.  Our understanding from NAS is that even if they decide to change their name, local chapters will not be required to follow suit.

Going forward, it will be very important for us to hear from you all on this very important topic.  One option would be to set up an online or mail-in poll to gauge membership concerns.  The SAS Board will be looking at that and other possibilities in our upcoming meetings.  In the meantime, here are a few links to online articles that you may find informative on the issue:

An essay in Audubon Magazine by Black American ornithologist J. Drew Lanham titled “What Do We Do About John James Audubon?”: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/spring-2021/what-do-we-do-about-john-james-audubon

A September 29, 2022 article from the Salish Current online news website titled “Audubon:  Changing names to step out of a racist shadow”: https://salish-current.org/tag/audubon/.  Additional articles:  Article by a former NAS CEO here: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2020/revealing-past-create-future and one that links this issue to the parallel one relating to the names of certain birds: https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2020/birding-and-conservation-groups-are-beginning (see also https://americanornithology.org/english-bird-names/whats-next-for-english-bird-names/ from the American Ornithological Society) or this detailed discussion of the history of Audubon, the man: https://www.audubon.org/news/the-myth-john-james-audubon.

Happy Autumn, Everyone!

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Skagit Audubon

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Skagit Audubon Society holds monthly meetings on the second Tuesday of each month except for the months of July and August. We meet at 7:00 pm at Padilla Bay Interpretive Center (Google map), 10441 Bayview-Edison Rd. Mount Vernon. Meetings are open to all.

The board of directors meets at the same location at 7:00 pm on the first Tuesday of each month, except for the months of July and August.