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The Lane County Audubon Society has been advocating for birds and connecting people with nature sine 1971…52 years! Those of us who joined the Audubon team did so because the name was recognizable as an organization that made a difference for birds. Recently, we have learned a great deal about the man whose name the organization bears. Although John James Audubon was famous as an illustrator of birds, his legacy is abhorrent. He was a racist, anti-abolitionist, a slave owner, a slave trader, and somebody who dug up indigenous remains. And he committed fraud.

Myrtle WarlberLocally, we place high value on building an organization that is inclusive and that makes everybody feel welcome. Our Mission Statement and Inclusivity, Equity and Diversity Statement can be found at: We also adopted the First Saturday Bird Walks to create a safe space for women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. We want to keep protecting birds and other wildlife and their habitat. We want to connect people with nature and enable them to take actions that help our feathered (and other) friends. We want to continue to have educational activities for children and adults and to foster an enjoyment of the natural world. We truly believe that it is only by all of us working together that we can achieve results.

We are cognizant of the name recognition of “Audubon” and of our association as a chapter of National Audubon. We think the connectivity of chapters across the nation has a real impact and wish to keep that affiliation. Likewise, within our state as the Oregon Audubon Council, we have worked with our fellow Oregon chapters to unite our voices for legislation and other actions that benefit wildlife and protect nature. We are in communication with other Oregon chapters in an endeavor to keep our coalition together as the various chapters make their independent decisions about what name they will use. Locally, it has also become a topic of discussion that the person named Lane, for which our county was named, was also a slave holder. This creates a blank slate for potential naming possibilities, if we decide to make that change.

Birders with binocularsAs our Board and our membership grapple with the various possibilities this discussion entails, we hope our community understands that this will be a slow process for us. We are an all-volunteer organization with no staff and no headquarters. In addition to the process of deciding on a name change, we have many administrative and legal tasks to undertake. We are solvent and careful with our money, but limited in funding. Name changes are expensive. For example, changing the name on a webpage is not that difficult, but changing the domain name costs money. As does web hosting, changing letterheads, reprinting materials, revising our non-profit status with the state and federal bureaucracy, and many other items to maintain our functions. We are a non-profit 501(c)(3), and as such must be diligent in taking the necessary steps for taxes, banking, receiving donations, writing checks, and other organizational matters.

We welcome ideas from members, as well as suggestions for processing a potential name change. You can share them at

Co-authored by President Maeve Sowles and Conservation Chair Debbie Schlenoff