American Birding Podcast



The People Have Spoken!

2011 Member meeting ©Debbie Barnes_0012
Family snapshot: ABA members assembled in Colorado Springs for the annual membership meeting 23 July 2011 (photo ©Debbie Barnes)

You'll be hearing more from me soon on this, but I wanted to put out the amazing news that the ABA's proposed change to its Articles of Incorporation affirming that the organization can and should take advocacy positions in support of its mission passed. But it didn't merely pass. With an unprecedented number of members voting (1748), 96% supported the change. 96%!!! When was the last time you heard of 96% of people agreeing on anything? (I should also mention that all 5 directors on the ballot, Carl Bendorf, Mike Bowen, Kenn Kaufman, Lou Morrell, and Charlie Teske were elected, by even higher margins).

Again, there will be plenty of opportunity for us to discuss what this change means in practice. But to people who I've heard say that birders are only interested in vacuuming up more check marks for their list, with no thought or feeling of responsibility for the birds, people, and places involved, you're wrong. At least when it comes to ABA members. And to the small number of ABA members who I believe genuinely support our mission but worry about this change leading to a loss of focus, or the ABA somehow morphing into any number of other environmental organizations, fear not. The ABA is still the ABA. Yes, it needs to grow and change, but it will always focus on the interests of birders. That's why we're here.

If you've ever wondered what over 1700 proxy ballots looks like, that's what's sealed up in the pile of bags on the table in front of me. Thanks to Debbie Barnes for taking these photos. And thanks to Liz, Lynne, Lisa, LeAnn, Erika, and Jim for processing and tabulating them. It took several days of work to do it all!

And thanks so much to you, the membership of the ABA, who participated in person or by proxy. Your support means everything to us.

2011 Member proxies ©Debbie Barnes_0013

Your ABA president, delighted by the overwhelming and positive response from the membership (photo ©Debbie Barnes) 

Here's the text of the old Article VI and the revised version just approved, taken from this year's proxy [I've added (Old) and (Just approved) for clarity]:

(Old) Article VI – “No part of the activities of the Corporation shall be carrying on propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, or participating in, or intervening in (including the publication or distribution of statements), any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.”

The ABA Board of Directors recommends that you approve the following change to Article VI of the organization's Articles of Incorporation:

(Just approved) Article VI – “To the extent allowed by law and regulation, including but not limited to section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the Corporation may carry on advocacy, or otherwise attempt to influence legislation that affects the mission and purpose of the Corporation. However, the Corporation shall not participate or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements) any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.”

Statement of Support: In order to effectively carry out its mission to inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds, the ABA must from time to time take positions on legislation or otherwise advocate for the rights and interests of birders and the protection of wild birds. Such advocacy must be clearly in support of our mission, must comply with the financial limitations prescribed by the Internal Revenue Code, and may not include support or opposition for political candidates. The proposed amended ARTICLE VI addresses an ambiguity in the current Article VI and clarifies the ABA's ability to advocate for the rights and interests of birders. Please vote to approve this change.


And here's my statement from the letter to members that accompanied the proxy. I first mentioned the slate of director candidates, then turned to the Articles change:

You’ll also see a proposed change to our Articles of Incorporation. This is technical stuff but significant as it will bring the language in the Articles related to our ability to take positions on issues of consequence to birders into alignment with the ABA’s mission to inspire all people to enjoy and protect wild birds. Such issues include access to and protection of birding areas, and the conservation of wild bird populations. I feel this change is absolutely vital if we are to be relevant and effective as an organization.

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If you have cheers, jeers, inspirations, thoughts and/or concerns, please leave them in the comments. It's all a work in progress and one of the main purposes of this blog is to be a channel of communication between the ABA staff, board, and membership (and potential membership).

For now, I just want to say, one more time, THANK YOU! Thank you for your participation and involvement. And thank you for your trust. It's an honor to serve the ABA community.