The Conservation Hero Award Proves That Political Parties can Work Together on Environmental Protection

Conservation Hero Awards |
Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold, Former Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett, Audubon Board Chair Maggie Walker and Former Deputy Interior Secretary David J. Hayes after Scarlett and Hayes received their Conservation Hero Awards. Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

A recent win for all wildlife advocates, the National Audubon Society recently announced bipartisan support on critical initiatives to protect and conserve bird populations across the country. Most important to our mindset and perspective on the outdoors, this collaboration proves that both Republican and Democrat lawmakers can work together, creating more positive change than we can individually. Could birds be the answer we have been lookin for in this country?… “Birds bring people together—public officials from both sides of the aisle have taken important action on a range of conservation issues and we’re proud to celebrate those achievements as we continue our work to protect birds,” said David Yarnold (@david_yarnold), president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. The National Audubon Society recently honored just over a dozen public officials who have taken action to protect birds and the places they need with its Conservation Hero Award.

2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), a federal law that prevents the accidental killing of birds, and over the years has been extremely successful at protecting bird life. Because of the MBTA, oil drillers and power line companies have taken common sense precautions to help prevent bird deaths. Passing the MBTA was Audubon’s founding victory in 1918. The National Audubon Society is marking this centennial “Year of the Bird” by securing state and local proclamations, advocating for the law with a 500-member coalition, presenting these conservation awards and more.

The Conservation Hero Award recognizes members of Congress and other political leaders who demonstrate a commitment to conserving the natural spaces that birds depend on. The awards were given out at a U.S. Botanic Garden event as part of Audubon’s national board meeting.

Below are quotes from each recipient of the Conservation Hero Award:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) serves on the Environment and Public Works Committee and has championed many policies that make the world safer for birds, including banning oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, expanding renewable energy to help address a changing climate, the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

At a time when the environment, clean air, clean water and the public health are under threat, I am proud to stand with the National Audubon Society in their important efforts. We know that birds play an important role in North American ecosystems, in tourism, and in our economy, and I look forward to continuing to work together on our shared priorities.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is currently serving his third term in the Senate where he is the leading champion for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports important habitat for birds. Sen. Burr is working to ensure the Fund is permanently reauthorized this year.

I’m honored to be recognized by the National Audubon Society, and I’m proud to work with them on reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is critical to promoting American conservation. From the Appalachian Mountains to the Outer Banks, North Carolina is home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife that add to the richness of our state. It’s our responsibility to protect and preserve their habitats so future generations can enjoy the natural beauty of our country.

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) previously served as Delaware’s governor, leaving a legacy as a great steward of his state’s natural resources.  As the Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee, he continues to work to protect funding for the EPA and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well as preserve the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

I’m very proud to work alongside the Audubon Society and the dedicated advocates who work every day to conserve unique birds and their homes in Delaware and across the country.

Delaware is proud to offer vital habitat to birds like the threatened Red Knot – an incredible little bird that travels from South America all the way to Canada and stops along the way in the First State to refuel on horseshoe crab eggs for the rest of its journey. The Red Knot faces grave threats due to a changing climate, but, thanks to conservation efforts, Delawareans and visitors can look forward to their annual stop in the First State for years to come.

Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has consistently lead on protecting the National Parks and serves as the co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus. He is co-sponsor and champion of the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act (S.1537), which aims to sustain threatened populations of migratory birds.

I am honored to receive the National Audubon Society’s Conservation Hero award. Hundreds of bird species migrate through Ohio each year, making Lake Erie one of the most popular destinations for birdwatching… Birding contributes more than $20 million to Ohio’s tourism industry and attracts visitors from across the world each year. I am proud to work with my colleagues on the Migratory Birds of the Americas Conservation Act to protect and conserve more than 380 species of birds. I will continue to lead efforts in support of programs, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act, that protect critical bird habitats in the Great Lakes region and abroad.

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) represents Florida’s 26th District which is home to the Everglades.  He the co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which is seeking common ground on advancing solutions to address our changing climate.

Whether it’s the Anhinga in the Everglades or the ibis down in the Florida Keys, South Florida’s bird population is an essential part of the ecosystem, we need to take action to protect our environment now to ensure we don’t leave future generations with an environmental debt they won’t be able to repay. I’m proud of the work being done with my colleagues in the Climate Solutions Caucus to depoliticize climate issues in Congress, and I’m grateful for the National Audubon Society’s support of our important mission.

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) is co-founder and co-chair of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which has grown to 78 members, with equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. He has been outspoken in his support for clean energy, protecting Florida’s coastline from offshore drilling and restoring the Everglades.

Climate change poses a particular threat to South Florida’s wildlife populations, especially vulnerable bird species living in and migrating through the region, congress must act on climate change mitigation and resiliency plans to protect wildlife and their habitats from the effects of sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, and devastating storms.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) is a longtime environmental steward and champion for birds and is sponsor of the Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act (H.R.4480). Serving on the Natural Resources Committee, he works to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and defend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

I am tremendously honored to be recognized by the National Audubon Society, a group I have been proud to work with, and who have played a key role in bringing together so many people to stand up for birds and our environment. We really are at a crossroads on so many environmental issues, and Audubon has an important role to play. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, legislation that is so critical to protecting birds and their habitat, is under attack, but I remain optimistic that we will successfully push back on these issues because of the critical help of Audubon and its partners.

Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), serving her first term in Congress, has quickly become a leader on conservation issues including successfully advancing updates to the Coastal Barrier Resources Act system, which protects vitally-important habitat for shorebirds.

Delaware is known for being the First State in the Union, but we’re also known as a popular stopover destination for a wide diversity of birds to refuel and continue on with their journey. When we preserve their ecosystem and habitat, we are also driving tourism and recreation that ultimately strengthens our coastal communities; I am honored to be named a 2018 Conservation Hero, and I look forward to continuing my work together with the National Audubon Society.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC), has been a leader on conservation issues throughout his public service career, from preventing offshore drilling to protecting critical programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund to his long-time focus on mitigating climate change.

I’m honored to receive this award from the National Audubon Society; I think it’s important that we recognize how important our environment is for all creatures great and small and to treat it like it’s an investment in our future – because that’s how I see it. Accordingly, I look forward to working to continue efforts to conserve our natural as well as our financial resources.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) has led bipartisan efforts to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and currently serves as the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee that oversees conservation priorities like restoring the Colorado River and the Everglades. He has set a collaborative example on conservation of important places in Idaho for birds and people. “I am honored to receive this award,” said Representative Mike Simpson.

As a life-long Idahoan, I care deeply about the environment and ensuring we have clean air to breathe and water to drink. That is why I have supported conservation programs during my time on the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. I appreciate the work Audubon does in Idaho to improve wildlife habitat by working with local stakeholders.

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) actively supports the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and EPA funding, and is a leader in the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus. “I am honored to receive this prestigious award from the National Audubon Society,” said Representative Elise Stefanik.

The National Audubon Society does tremendous work to preserve our natural ecosystems so that birds and wildlife can thrive. As the proud representative of the Adirondacks in Congress, I will continue to partner with Audubon to ensure future generations can enjoy our rich natural treasures.

David J. Hayes, former Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary under Presidents Clinton and Obama, is now a Senior Fellow at the Hewlett Foundation and a Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in law at the Stanford Law School.  In government, Hayes was a leader in tackling climate change, which is the greatest threat that birds face. Along with Lynn Scarlett, he has become a vocal champion for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. “I am honored to receive this award from Audubon,” said David J. Hayes.

It was Audubon’s effective advocacy that helped me to defend the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the Clinton Administration, and in the Obama Administration, to oversee the first ever management plan for the 23 million acre National Petroleum Reserve. That reserve now protects the millions of birds that nest, molt or rest in and around Teshekpuk Lake and other North Slope hot spots before journeying across the Americas.

Lynn Scarlett, Former Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary under Pres. G.W. Bush, now serves as Co-Chief of External Affairs Officer and Global Climate Strategy Lead at The Nature Conservancy. In government, Scarlett was a leader in tackling climate change, which is the greatest threat that birds face. Along with David Hayes, she has become a vocal champion for the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

As I contemplate the Audubon Conservation Hero Awards, I think of my mother, for she is my hero,” said Lynn Scarlett. “She took me into the woods to hear the trill of the Yellow Warbler and to find a Scarlet Tanager high in the tree canopy. She surrounded me with Audubon bird posters. She instilled in me a passion for nature—and the imperative of caring for the world around us. Thus, this award is a tribute to my mother—and all who lend a caring hand to lands and waters that the rich diversity of life might flourish.

Let this action inspire you to protect the climate and environmental initiatives most dear to your heart. And who knows, you may be the next catalyst for change that birds and all wildlife need so dearly.

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