Earth Day Message from Doug Bechtel, Executive Director

Last month, I facilitated a symposium on urban wildlife at the Northeast Association of Fish & Wildlife Agency (NEAFWA)’s 2016 conference. This annual event brings together Fish & Wildlife staff, academic professors, researchers, and students, and non-profit wildlife conservation scientists. Every year, wildlife colleagues discuss conservation topics such as fisheries management, wildlife connectivity, and habitat restoration. 

Urban habitat and wildlife conservation are relatively minor topics within the conservation community, at least until more recently. When proposing this symposium, I expected to have difficulty finding speakers and an engaged audience. However, I was heartened and inspired to receive sincere interest and support for the urban themes presented in the symposium. Topics ranged from urban coyotes, to conservation planning in downtown New York City, to habitats on golf courses across the Northeast. 

Audubon International has long existed at the fringe of the traditional environmental movement. Our mission, brilliantly conceived nearly 30 years ago by Ron Dodson, was to embrace the need for developed landscapes to reduce their impact on nature, provide clean water and habitat, and support wildlife in settings where people have altered the ecology. In the past five to ten years, it has been encouraging to watch major institutions adopt the need to think and act more sustainably by implementing business and conservation strategies which focus on environmental protection, social justice, and economic vitality. Universities are adopting sustainability programs, offering more courses and majors to help our next generation achieve these goals. Major corporations now have sustainability staff and major programs that reward achievements in environmental and resource conservation. Foundations and agency funding are accepting these approaches for protecting and conserving resources.

In our growing role within the conservation movement, Audubon International explores the many ways in which developed landscapes and properties can contribute to a healthy ecosystem. We are thrilled to see an increasing recognition of this need to incorporate human developments into a stewardship ethic. Emerging strategies for protecting basic ecological services in human settings are not only gaining acceptance among conservation biologists, they are now a business imperative.

Over the course of the next month, people worldwide will be celebrating Earth Day, International Migratory Bird Day, and Endangered Species Day. I am sure I am missing a few notable “days”, but heck, every day is Earth Day, right? As you celebrate Earth Day (or Earth Week, or Earth Month), I encourage you to expand your vision of what it means to protect nature. People need trees, birds, and green space both in the mountains on the horizon and in the neighborhoods and cities where they work, live, and play. 

Doug Bechtel 

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