Seattle Audubon renamed to be more ‘inclusive’ amid controversy

Mar 29, 2023, 7:14 AM | Updated: 9:50 am

birds connect...

In this photo supplied by Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab of Ornithology, pine siskins enjoy a backyard thistle feeder. Chad Witco of Audubon's Migratory Bird Initiative recommends them to attract the lively birds. (Julie Blondeau/Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab of Ornithology via AP)

(Julie Blondeau/Macaulay Library/Cornell Lab of Ornithology via AP)

A significant change has been made to a Seattle organization that is more than a hundred years old. Seattle Audubon Society has dropped the name of the man it was named for and has become Birds Connect Seattle.

Last July, the Seattle chapter’s board voted to drop the name because John James Audubon — who wrote the classic “The Birds of America” book in the early 1800s — was a slave owner and opposed abolition.

Seattle Audubon Society dropping ‘Audubon’ from name

According to a statement from “Birds Connect Seattle,” the March 28 announcement sets in motion “a process of legal and logistical updates, logo design, website re-design, and messaging.”

After deciding the 501(c)(3) organization needed to re-brand itself, board members held focus groups, surveys, and other community conversations. They found the word “connection” came up repeatedly in regard to birds. People said they felt connections to birds in families, habitats, hemispheres, and communities.

J. Drew Lanham, a former board member of the National Audubon Society and a wildlife ecology professor at Clemson University, called the move courageous.

Lanham, who has written about Audubon and left the national chapter over concerns the nonprofit was not doing enough about racial equity, says organizations need to grapple with what to do about problematic monuments.

“To excuse inhumane acts as just being in the context of their time is, I think, a lazy excuse,” Lanham said.

The name change does not reflect the leanings of the National Audubon Society. It recently announced a decision to retain its name, even though the racist ties to John James Audubon have been verified multiple times.

Seattle Audubon is one the largest chapters of the National Audubon Society.

Last year, the Audubon Naturalist Society, a Washington, D.C.-based environmental organization, announced it, too, would be removing “Audubon” from its name, but it is not affiliated with the National Audubon Society.

Birds Connect Seattle hopes to complete its name-change logistics by June.

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Seattle Audubon renamed to be more ‘inclusive’ amid controversy