This morning the American Birding Association announced that its board of directors has named my friend Jeff Gordon as its new President. I've known Jeff since I moved to Texas in the mid-1990s. Jeff was working for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, and brought me on to lead bird tours at the Harlingen Birding Festival. Jeff moved to Delaware shortly after that and I only saw him infrequently for a few years, but it has been fun to spend more time together since I moved out to nearby Pennsylvania. Besides being an expert birder, Jeff is a great human being, with all the organizational and interpersonal skills needed to be a great ABA President.
The ABA board has clearly signaled that they are taking the desires and needs of the birding community seriously. It is heartening to see all of the congratulations and well wishes going on across the blogs, email lists, and Facebook. But this isn't the end, it is only the beginning. It might be tempting to celebrate today and then go back to birding as usual. For all of us who care about the ABA, and the future of birding as a sport/hobby/be-all-end-all or whatever, what Jeff and the ABA need now more than our congratulations is our support.
Here's what you can do right now to support Jeff and the ABA:
1) Join the ABA. If you aren't a member, it's time to pony up and join the party.
2) Up your commitment. Add an extra donation to your membership to help the ABA grow.
3) Give a gift membership. Especially for a young birder in your local birding club that is just starting out.
4) Get your friends to join. This is OUR ABA. Invite your friends to the party.
5) Give of yourself. If you have an idea for how the ABA can better serve us as birders, contact Jeff and volunteer to make it happen. It isn't the job of the ABA board or staff to do all the work while we members just enjoy the benefits. This is YOUR ABA so take ownership of it and do what you can to make it the kind of organization you want it to be.
The ABA is just over 40 years old. In 40 more years, in 2050 there will be 110 million additional Americans. How many of these people will be birders? How many birds will there be for us to watch? If population trends continue, some of our birds aren't going to make it. What will we think looking back on these next 40 years? Did birders come together as a force for good in protecting the wild birds that we love? Will the ABA remain an organization for mostly white, well educated, and economically prosperous members, or will its membership reflect the ethnic, educational, and economic differences among the birding community and larger American society in general? Now is the time to answer those questions, and to build the birding community and an ABA that we will all be proud to have been a part of.
So Jeff, congratulations. But even more than my congratulations you have my support. I look forward to a future of ABA and birding that will be both more fun for more people as well as a greater force for good in the world!