ASWP Position Statements

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) is a welcoming, diverse, growing organization working to meet the needs of today’s birdwatchers and nature lovers.

Please read below to learn more about our positions on John James Audubon's history as well as our statement on racism.


Statement on John James Audubon

Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) is a welcoming, diverse, growing organization working to meet the needs of today’s birdwatchers and nature lovers. Like many streets, companies, and organizations nationwide, our name—Audubon—connects back to John James Audubon, an individual who painted birds and helped to popularize birdwatching.

Our organization:

  • Has spent over 100 years making a positive impact in the natural world.
  • Connects people to nature and makes learning accessible to people across generations and cultures.
  • Is forward-thinking and committed to engaging the wider community in facing the challenges of inclusivity, climate change, and man-made issues impacting wildlife.
  •  Believes that by acting as a responsible steward of the nature world, we set an example to make our region a better place for birds and for people.

While we appreciate the value of John James Audubon’s artwork and the interest it built in birdwatching, we acknowledge his troublesome history. We’ve been a leader in holding discussions with Audubon chapters across the country to talk about the implications of keeping our name—or changing it. The goal is to have a comprehensive vision moving forward, one that we all can be proud of and that speaks to our successes as public-serving organizations.

We acknowledge that John James Audubon:

  • Was a slaveowner and a racist
  • Invented birds he’d claimed to have discovered and falsified scientific data to meet his own needs.

In keeping with our commitment to open dialogue, ASWP held public conversations about the
Audubon name and wrote about his misdeeds in our publications. We’ve discussed the issue frequently at staff and board meetings, and with colleagues across the country. We have learned that people are quick to separate ASWP from John James Audubon’s personal history—that the public views ASWP as an organization that empowers all people to connect to birds and nature.

The conversation is not over. We will continue to listen and talk as our organization grows to meet the needs of tomorrow’s birders and nature lovers.

Statement on racism

Dear Friends,

Whether it’s the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis or the incident in Central Park with Chris Cooper, it is clear to anyone with a conscience that racism continues to be a pervasive problem in America. These videos provide a glimpse into the day-to-day realities that are life, and death, for people of color in our country.

Silence adds to this problem and Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (ASWP) believes that we must all reflect on, and speak to, the root causes of racism. We condemn racism and discrimination of any kind and want to do what we can to take meaningful action. We know we don’t have the answers, but are committed to listening, learning, and working every day to effect change. But I need your help. As the organization's Executive Director, I invite you to contact me directly and let me know what our staff and board should be doing to address the problem.

Sadly, because the roots of racism run deep, we know that change will not come quickly enough. Until such time, ASWP makes the following offers to everyone, but especially to our friends of color:

  • You are always welcome at any of our locations and are encouraged to explore our facilities, trails, and reserves at any time. If you ever experience a problem or feel uncomfortable at one of our locations, please let me know immediately.
  • If you are unable to get to one of our locations, or feel uncomfortable getting here, please let me know. We will help to find safe transportation.
  • If you would like to go birding or explore nature anywhere in the area and believe you would be safer in a group, please let me know and we will find someone to join you.

ASWP is committed to making our programs, projects, and places as inclusive and welcoming as possible. Nature should be accessible to everyone. I ask you to help us with this goal and thank you for your continued support.

Jim Bonner

Executive Director

(412) 963-6100, ext. 11

Things you can do right now

Read recent articles related to this topic, such as:

People called police on this black birdwatcher so many times that he posted custom signs to explain his hobby - Washington Post

#BlackBirdersWeek Aims to Raise Awareness, Grow Community - BirdWatching Magazine

“How Am I Going to Be Perceived as a Black Man With Binoculars?”: J. Drew Lanham on Christian Cooper and Rules for the Black Birdwatcher - Vanity Fair

"These Black Nature Lovers Are Busting Stereotypes, One Cool Bird at a Time" – CNN

Birding While Black, J. Drew Lanham on race, belonging, and a love of nature –

Nine New Revelations for the Black American Bird-Watcher - Another great piece by our friend Dr. Drew Lanham from Vanity Fair