Glenn Nelson, the Seattle chapter’s community director, told CNN on Wednesday that part of why the local organization took action toward the name change is because the larger national organization has not explicitly acknowledged whether it plans to change its name.
“If you agree that the ‘Audubon’ name is harmful to people, then every second that you bear it is harming people, and we want to stop that in a way that we can control,” Nelson said.
The National Audubon Society is the country’s leading bird conservation organization.
Last summer, the Seattle Audubon Society sent a letter to the National Audubon Society “to initiate…an inclusive and transparent process toward removing John James Audubon from our shared organizational namesake.”
“Our members, volunteers, and staff are focused on a future where the perspectives and contributions of all people are valued — especially those who have been systemically excluded,” Catania said in the statement.
Nelson said the Seattle chapter plans to hold a series of inclusive discussions with internal and external stakeholders about the group’s name and mission with the hope of settling on a new name by the end of the year.
The name change is only a first step toward real organizational change and the group intends to focus more on environmental justice and urban conservation efforts, Nelson added. He said the name change is also important to welcome more communities of color into conservation spaces given that marginalized groups have historically been excluded from birdwatching and outdoor communities that are predominantly white, older and have a history of being elitist.
“We’re blocking BIPOC communities from being involved in the conservation movement and BIPOC communities are the ones who experience the impact of environmental calamities first, and disproportionately,” Nelson said. “We’re essentially excluding them from their own rescue in a way.”