Local bird conservation organization drops John James Audubon’s name due to the artist’s racist actions and beliefs

    Madison Audubon's board of directors make unanimous decision to begin the process of seeking a new name


    Madison Audubon, named after 19-century artist and ornithologist John James Audubon,  will be removing the “Audubon” portion of their name and begin the process of identifying a new name for the conservation organization due to its namesake’s white supremacist activities and beliefs, the organization announced in a press release on Thursday.

    “Clearly, John James Audubon’s conduct and the principles he espoused stand in stark contrast to the spirit and ethics of the modern conservation movement,” Tim Norris, Madison Audubon board treasurer, said in a statement. “We need to move forward with a new designation that better reflects the work we do.”

    Audubon is best remembered for his seminal publication The Birds of America (1827-39), an illustrated compendium of the birds in the United States that is still regarded as a singular feat of ornithological art and research. When articles examining his troubling conduct entered serious public discussion in 2020 — including Audubon’s involvement in the trade of enslaved people to fund his work, desecration of Indigenous burial sites, and falsifying of bird research calls for condemnation of deplorable beliefs and the practices that come from them — the Madison Audubon board began reflecting on how the “Audubon” name relates to the organization’s identity and mission.

    Jeff Galligan, Madison Audubon board secretary, reflected on the importance of the change in a press release stating, “Madison Audubon’s value statement says we ‘weave a love of nature and a respect for diversity, equity, inclusion, and access into all of our work.’ As a person of color, it is especially meaningful for me that our organization lives its values through this name change.”

    Addressing the “Audubon” name as a part of the nationwide organization had already taken place in other city’s chapters such as Chicago and Seattle.  

     “We have learned first-hand that the ‘Audubon’ name causes pain, unease, and distrust among our fellow community of bird lovers. Ultimately, this decision honors the work we’ve always attempted to do—to share the joys and benefits of nature with everyone,” said Matt Reetz, Madison Audubon executive director, in a statement.

    To learn more about the decision and process as it becomes publicly available, visit this website. If you would like to provide feedback on the decision, emails are welcome at [email protected].