Backlash hits Audubon after refusal to drop slave-holder’s name

Source: Politico | March 16, 2023 | Robin Bravender

A vice chair of the National Audubon Society’s board and two others resigned from the organization’s board Wednesday after the conservation group announced it would keep its name tied to enslaver John James Audubon.

Three members of the National Audubon Society’s board of directors resigned Wednesday in response to the conservation group’s announcement that it will retain its current name tied to the enslaver and bird artist, John James Audubon.

The national conservation organization is facing an internal backlash after publicly announcing that its board of directors decided to keep its current name after a yearlong deliberation. The decision outraged employees, prompted an uncomfortable all-staff meeting and drove three board members to resign in protest.

Stephen Tan, a vice chair of Audubon’s board, and two other board members — Sara Fuentes and Erin Giese — resigned over the decision, according to a person who was informed about the resignations and was granted anonymity to discuss personnel moves that haven’t been publicly announced.

Tan, Fuentes and Giese did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Tan is a partner at the Seattle-based law firm Cascadia Law Group, Fuentes is vice president of government affairs for the nonprofit Transportation Institute, and Giese works at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay’s Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, according to their profiles on Audubon’s website.

Tan was the leader of a task force commissioned by the Audubon board to consider whether to rename the group, according to the person who was informed about their resignations. Fuentes was a member of that task force.

Audubon Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Betty Su declined to say which three of the 26 board members resigned yesterday, citing “respect for board members who have not announced their decision publicly” in a statement.

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