From Our President: NAS Convention Report

In mid-July, I attended the National Audubon Society (NAS) convention held at Skamania Lodge above the Columbia Gorge in Washington. I had never attended before because the last convention in our region was 15 years ago! Chapter leaders, NAS Board members and staff from all over the United States, and international partners were there—over 500 people in all! I met and visited with folks from around the country and Mexico. At every event, people were friendly and eager to meet each other. Over the weekend, concurrent sessions covering nine topic areas were held. It was difficult to decide what to attend.
 
I learned of a new NAS climate change initiative that will be publicized this fall that involves using bird data paired with earth temperature modeling to predict how bird populations will be affected over the next few decades. I also signed LCAS up to access a GIS mapping tool developed by Esri, a mapping software company. The LCAS Board can decide how we might use it. One idea is to share local birding data as an overlay to the parks and open spaces in Lane County. We might need some time and volunteers to get it up and running, but the mapping tool is a great opportunity offered by NAS.
 
NAS president David Yarnold held six small-group sessions for chapter leaders who wanted to meet with him. I attended one with people from New Mexico, North Carolina, Idaho, Ohio, Florida, Kansas City, Klamath Falls, Sequim (Washington), San Diego, and Mendocino (California). Yarnold asked us what challenges we face and how NAS could help us. He was approachable and interested in our stories. The attendee from New Mexico was a 29-year-old chapter president—the youngest in the country! I spoke with him about getting younger people involved and asked whether Audubon is boring or irrelevant to his age group, and he said NO! He thinks young people just need to know they can become involved in and contribute to activities. He was an inspiration.
 
At the final dinner I sat at a table with two NAS Board members and three women who work in urban areas on programs to prevent bird collisions with windows. They were from Chicago, New York City, and Minneapolis, and they are trying to roll out an NAS program using the projects and training tools they have developed in their local chapters. They are the experts on bird-window collisions in the United States. By the way, the keynote speaker was Paul Bannick, author of The Owl and the Woodpecker, who presented at one of our chapter programs three years ago!
 
I came away, frankly, impressed! The energy and commitment exhibited by both attendees and the NAS organization was awesome. The convention gave me a sense of belonging to a larger dynamic and diverse group. NAS leaders made the convention attendees feel that they, their work, and their opinions are valued and contribute to the greater good. The new NAS leadership’s welcoming attitude and the way they reached out to the whole network of chapters that create National Audubon Society was refreshing. Their parting statement was that “what WE do as a Chapter matters—THANK YOU!”
 
For more information, see http://www.audubonconvention.org. The Esri GIS mapping tool is at http://www.esri.com.
 
Thank you to the National Audubon Society and the Board of Lane County Audubon Society for providing financial sponsorship for Maeve Sowles and Dick Lamster to attend the 2013 Audubon Convention.