On the evening of Thursday, March 1st, the National Audubon Society hosted its annual Gala to honor the legendary Sir David Attenborough, environmental justice leader Peggy Shepard, and renowned conservation expert Dave Morine at the iconic Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. The New York City skyline served as a picturesque backdrop for the night and guests were greeted by beautiful faux birds nestled throughout the space.
Those in attendance included, David Yarnold, Audubon’s President and CEO; Maggie Walker, Chair, Audubon’s Board of Directors; Dan Lufkin, Senior Advisor of Culbro, LLC; Rhett Taylor, President, Red Sky Productions; Jane Alexander, award-winning actress and former head of NEA, Ron Magill, American wildlife expert and photographer; and Eames Yates, Senior Series Producer, Mashable; among other environmentalists, conservationists and supporters of the Audubon Society.
Sir David Attenborough, the legendary naturalist, author, and pioneer of the nature documentary, was presented with the coveted Audubon Medal, one of the highest honors in conservation on the heels of the recent BBC Series, Blue Planet II premiere. The medal recognizes outstanding achievements in conservation and environmental protection and only 53 people have received the medal to date in the National Audubon Society’s 113-year history. During his speech, Attenborough praised the Audubon Society saying, “I believe that we are on the cusp of turning the problems into solutions and if we are, it’s something you [the Audubon Society] have stuck up for, cared for and are fighting for.” He also addressed why he continues to fight for the conservation of our planet. “Sometimes people say to me, aren’t you too gloomy talking about all the disasters going on in the world? All the catastrophes happening right now? And the answer is, is that you have to – you have no alternative but to be concerned.”
Dave Morine, a renowned expert on conservation through land acquisition, was presented with this year’s Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership. The Lufkin Prize is awarded to those who have dedicated their lives to the environment and on-the-ground conservation. As a recipient, he will also receive $100,000 to continue this important work. Morine spent nearly two decades leading The Nature Conservancy’s efforts to secure land for the long-term health of habitat, ecosystems, and biodiversity. During his tenure, he also oversaw the conservation of more than three million acres of forests, wetlands, deserts, islands and rivers across the United States. During his speech, he provided several colorful anecdotes from his years in the field and at the negotiation table.
This year’s President’s Award was presented to Peggy Shepard, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice and a past member of the Audubon New York Board of Directors. WE ACT’s mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low-income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. While accepting her award, Shepard shared how her work has impacted low-income and communities of color and how she is “committed to encouraging [Audubon’s] investment in equality, inclusion, and the culture change that is required to bring equity to scale.”
The theme for this year’s event was Year of the Bird. Audubon, along with its partners at National Geographic, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and BirdLife International, are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the most important bird conservation law on the books – the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, by engaging participants in a year of personal actions to protect birds and the places they need.
About the National Audubon Society: The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the- ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety