Audubon Members Speak Up for Birds at Advocacy Day

More than 80 members from across the state met with their lawmakers to advocate for family land protections, wetlands, and conservation funding.

From the mountains to the coast, Audubon members gathered virtually and in-person to meet with their lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly on May 22. More than 80 advocates turned out for birds this year, coming together to speak up for Audubon’s 2024 policy priorities: wetlands protections, the state’s conservation trust funds, and family land protections. 

In meetings throughout the day, our advocates made connections with their lawmakers and reinforced just how many of their local constituents care about birds and conservation. 

“We had a great showing this year. But even more impressive were all the ways our members stepped up and led the charge on advocacy,” said Engagement Director Ben Graham. “They scheduled their own lawmaker meetings, organized their local delegations, and dug into our policy solutions for birds. We’re hopeful that all of the hard work and passion will pay off this legislative session.” 

Audubon members met with more than 50 Senators and Representatives, in many cases tracking down lawmakers in the hallways and reconnecting with elected officials they have built relationships with over the years.  

In a meeting with Senator Bill Rabon, Cape Fear Audubon members and state staff were able to thank the Senator for his leadership on last year’s Native Plants Act, a landmark bird-friendly bill that requires native plants be used on all state parks, historic sites, and roadways. Audubon and our members have partnered with Senator Rabon on a series of native plants bills, culminating in last year’s landmark legislation.  

For many chapters, the turnout was their strongest yet, and included a diverse mix of younger people alongside long-time Advocacy Day participants. “It was a real sign of hope, for people and for birds, that younger folks were standing up and speaking out about things and issues they care about,” Forsyth Audubon Advocacy Chair Kim Richmond said.

In a meeting with Senator Paul Lowe, her chapter was able to talk through questions and local issues relating to the heirs property bill, which would help family landowners keep their land and habitat entact. Senator Lowe is a primary sponsor of the bill and has built a strong relationship with Forsyth Audubon over the years, including joining the chapter for local bird walks.

Senator Paul Lowe with Forsyth Audubon members. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara
Senator Paul Lowe with Forsyth Audubon members. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara

Audubon's 2024 Policy Priorities:

Protecting family land: The heirs property bill, known formally as the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act/Senate Bill 548, would give family landowners more due process to hold on to their land in the face of forced sales and help ensure they are eligible for federal conservation funding. This is especially important in rural areas that are dealing with development pressures from North Carolina’s rapid growth. The bill passed the house in 2023 and needs to pass the Senate this year to become law.  

Conservation Trust Funds: North Carolina's conservation trust funds are essential for maintaining our states clean air, water, and habitat. Due to their importance for birds and people, we are asking that the Land and Water Fund and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund each be increased to $45 million in recurring funding, and that the Ag Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund be increased to $15 million. 

Wetlands: Last year, wetlands received a one-two-punch with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that changed the definition of a protected wetland under the Clean Water Act and a NC General Assembly bill that required the state to match the federal definition, thus wiping away stronger state statutes that had been on the books. As a result, millions of acres of wetlands in North Carolina lost protections. Given the importance of wetlands to birds and people, we are advocating for these protections to be restored in the future. 

Cape Fear Audubon and Audubon North Carolina staff with Senator Bill Rabon. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara
Cape Fear Audubon and Audubon North Carolina staff with Senator Bill Rabon. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara

Advocacy Day wouldn’t have been possible without our chapter advocacy leaders, who supported their local advocates every step of the way. Thank you to Manisha Desai, Joe Amodeo, Jazmine Ellis, Sarah Branagan, Allen Kindman, Carol Hamilton, Anne Wilkinson, Kim Richmond, Mary Freudenberg, and John Koon! 

As this year’s short legislative session continues, we’re hopeful our priority issues will make progress.

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