Conference Notes: 2017 Audubon Conference

Conference Notes: 2017 Audubon Conference

Jul 28, 2017|BirdingNews| by Holbrook Travel

Earlier this month, Holbrook’s Debbie Sturdivant Jordan and Chris Bensley attended National Audubon’s 4-day biennial convention in Park City, Utah. In addition to sponsoring and exhibiting at the event, Holbrook participated in a popular session, “International Alliances Program (IAP): Bird-based Tourism in Latin America.” A key feature was a presentation on the bird-based tourism initiative Flyway Expeditions.

Birding Means Business – Getting Results from Ecotourism

The session provided sobering data on the destruction of important migratory flyways, particularly in northern Guatemala. A lack of economic opportunities has driven activities that degrade natural resources, such as unsustainable timber extraction, poaching, and land clearing for agriculture.

Early results from the IAP program have shown great promise: 276 guides trained at the basic level (72 at the advanced level), 5,526 children received environmental/bird education classes, 408 local business owners participated in trainings, and there’s been a 95% reduction in poaching in Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize.

The project has focused on areas where a large percentage of the populace lives below the poverty line, where ecotourism supports economic development, empowers communities, and improves local lives— while preserving and creating value for natural habitats. Holbrook is honored to support this program and is actively soliciting birding leaders and fellow birders to participate in the special Flyway Expeditions program.  

Convention Theme and Keynote

Themed “Elevating Audubon," the event was ideal for learning, networking, collaborating – and birding! The convention was full of inspiring speakers, in-depth workshops and discussions, and exciting field trips and birding adventures (Utah has more than 450 bird species).

The event brought together the vast network of dedicated chapter, state, national, and international leaders from across all four flyways and was full of camaraderie and networking that only the Audubon Convention can provide with birding as the thread. Birding quiets the mind and makes you focus on what’s around you. Birds are sentinels; we need to listen to what they are telling us. 

Maggie Walker, Audubon Board Chair, reminded us that “Audubon is a thread that runs through the fabric of this country, guiding America’s relationship with nature for over a century.” At a time when conservation needs to trump apathy, she cautioned, “We know how to get things done. Don’t mess with bird people." 

David Yarnold, Audubon President, gave the keynote with ideas for “What can I do?” citizen science to help in this world at a critical time. This included Audubon programs such as Climate Watch, Great Backyard Bird Count, Hummingbirds at Home, and Christmas Bird Count. Dr. Drew Lanham gave an engaging, thoughtful talk on the importance of inclusiveness and diversity in birding, among other themes. (Watch the keynote here.)