OK, so John Flicker has resigned from leading Audubon after 15 years at the helm. I first met him right after he came on board. I had been an intern in the DC Audubon office earlier that year (1995) when Peter Berle was on his way out as Audubon president. I was trying to set up a North American birding big year birdathon as a fundraiser for Audubon, and trying to get Audubon backing for the venture. I took a bus from Austin out to Cape May to meet with John Flicker about it at the Partners in Flight meetings in October 1995. He was new on the job, and for whatever reason, my project didn't really float his boat, and two months before I was to start the birding big year I got word that Audubon wasn't going to support it. I was young, inexperienced, and a bit dispirited and so I put the birding big year dreams on hold.
I interned in the Southwest Regional Office of Audubon for a little bit when I first arrived in Austin. One of Flickers first moves as president of Audubon was to shut down the regional offices and create state offices. They opened a state office in Austin, and when they ran out of money a couple years later let almost everyone go, then started over again, leaving a lot of us wondering what was going on.
A few years later I was the Executive Director for Travis Audubon in Austin. John Flicker came out for meetings at Hornsby Bend. He had announced his 2020 vision that included building 1000 Audubon nature centers by 2020. We had an old 1916 farmhouse at Hornsby Bend that we wanted to renovate as a nature center, but he didn't like that idea so much. He wasn't making a lot of friends in Texas, but I still didn't really know him.
In 2004 I was hired to work in the Audubon Science office. I got to spend a little time with John Flicker over the last few years, including an afternoon with him and Richard Louv at the Aullwood center in Ohio, and some birding trips in Utah, but we weren't ever close. I really liked his 20/20 vision--focused on nature centers and the creation of state offices, but those expansion efforts seemed to be stalling out. Budgets were tight and morale was often low.
John Flicker did help Audubon start to focus more on birds after a couple decades of trying to be a flavor of the month environmental organization. You can read Flicker's own statement about his legacy here. He was a polarizing figure for many, and was accused of not understanding Audubon's chapter level grassroots. A Take Back Audubon movement even tried to depose him at one point. I have my own take on all this, but am more interested to hear other perspectives on Audubon: The Flicker Years.
What were the good and bad from the John Flicker years, and what changes if any should Audubon consider under new leadership?
This Birding Life Episode 50!
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