New Name for the Chapter?
by John Shenot
This April, the FCAS Board of Directors began to con-sider whether it is time to change the name of our organ-ization. There are two major reasons why we are exploring this possibility. First, as reported in this newsletter, we significantly expanded our chapter boundaries in 2021. Since that expansion happened, I’ve frequently found it necessary to explain to local government officials and others that “Fort Collins Audubon” is headquartered in Fort Collins, but represents and serves Audubon members across nearly all of Larimer County and por-tions of Weld County. The organization’s name doesn’t accurately describe who we are or where we work. When I invited members to fill out a survey in September 2021, more than a third of those who responded thought we should change the chapter name for that reason alone.
The second reason to consider a name change is the growing controversy over whether bird conservation organizations should tie their identities so closely to John James Audubon. It is an undisputed fact that Audubon, the man, was a slave owner — in accordance with the laws of his time, but long after many countries in the world had abolished that barbaric practice and abolitionists here in the United States were calling for its end. Does this fact diminish Audubon’s artistic talent or his immense contributions to fostering appreciation for the birds of North America, which eventually led to conservation efforts and the creation of the National Audubon Society? I don’t believe it does, but I also believe the mission of FCAS is more important than our “brand” (i.e., our name). And it may be that honoring a slaveholder in our organization’s name hampers or will someday hamper the achievement of our mission because it offends and repels potential allies in the communities we serve.
To be clear, the Board of Directors has not commit-ted to a name change. In fact, we cannot do so with-out a change in our bylaws that would have to be approved by our members. But long before any name change is proposed, we will be launching a process to solicit input and reactions from our mem-bers and other local stakeholders. Stay tuned for more details in the months to come.