Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flicker Stepping Down as Audubon President

Effective tomorrow, John Flicker is resigning as president of the National Audubon Society after holding the position for 15 years. Board member and ornithologist Frank S. Gill will become interim president. Here is what Audubon says about the transition:

Audubon will launch a nationwide search for a new leader to help carry its hundred-year legacy of bird and habitat conservation into the new decade and beyond. Former Audubon Chief Scientist and current National Board Member, Frank Gill, PhD will serve as interim president during the search. ...

During Flicker's tenure, Audubon focused on keeping common birds common, educating the public and decision makers about the important role of birds as indicators of environmental health, and connecting new and diverse audiences to nature and their power to protect it. Flicker envisioned a network of Audubon Centers nationwide to build that connection. Today, 43 Audubon Centers engage more than a million people each year in nature discovery and conservation action. Urban Centers in places such as Los Angeles, Baltimore, Phoenix and New York City are helping to revitalize abused landscapes and empower local communities.

Flicker led Audubon through dramatic growth in revenue and programs and as the organization identified more than 2,400 Important Bird Areas across America, working toward their restoration and protection, often in concert with conservation efforts across the hemisphere. He helped educate the public about the alarming decline of bird species through Audubon Citizen Science that fueled headline-making reports and that now forms the foundation of ongoing analyses by an alliance federal agencies and non-profit groups. He championed landscape-level conservation efforts that brought huge strides in conservation of the Everglades and the Long Island Sound. And he brought Audubon's considerable credibility and political clout to the fight against climate change.
Frank Gill is the author of a science textbook, Ornithology, and co-author of the International Ornithological Committee's list of recommended English-language bird names.

Without knowing the internal dynamics that led to Flicker's resignation and Gill's appointment, it is hard to know whether we should read anything into the move. The replacement of an activist with an ornithologist is interesting, if not necessarily indicative of a shift in emphasis. It is also not clear if the interim appointment will have an advantage over other candidates for the position. In any case, I hope that the next president can find a better answer to the question of Who Advocates for Birding? (pdf) raised in the recent issue of Birding magazine.

Someone who knows Audubon much better than I do gives the move a thumbs-up.