Hunters still boss after changes at Sierra Club, Audubon
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2010:
SAN FRANCISCO, NEW YORK–January 2010 leadership changes at
both the Sierra Club and the National Audubon Society appear to leave
both organizations squarely in the hunter/conservationist camp.
Michael Brune, 38, heading the Rainforest Action Network
since 2003, succeeded Carl Pope as executive director of the Sierra
Club, but Pope remained the senior figure in the organization, as
executive board chair.
Holding undergraduate degrees in economics and finance,
Brune previously worked for Greenpeace and the Coastal Rainforest
Coalition, now called ForestEthics.
Both Brune and Pope stated as Brune assumed Pope’s former
post that the Sierra Club priorities would continue to be promoting
clean energy and combatting climate change.
Under Pope, the Sierra Club chief executive since 1992,
the club did a great deal to raise awareness of the environmental
cost of meat-eating–mostly without mentioning animal welfare issues.
But the Sierra Club also aggressively courted fishers and hunters,
for reasons Pope explained in 2006 to Washington Monthly managing
editor Christina Larson. In the mid-1980s, Larson wrote, Pope
“noticed articles in Outdoor Life attacking the Sierra Club as
“At that point,” Pope told her, “I realized we were
dealing with a conscious political strategy to separate rural hunters
and fishers from urban environmentalists. It wasn’t about hunting
and fishing. It was about politics.”
Pope created a section of the Sierra Club web site especially
to attract hunters, including photos of club officers posing with
huntng trophies. Offended, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
founder Paul Watson resigned from the Sierra Club board in 2006,
after an e-mail dispute with Pope over which of them best represented
the spirit of John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club in 1892.
Muir condemned sport hunting as “the murder business,” but
eventually admitted hunters as Sierra Club members and officers as a
matter of political expediencey. Muir’s most enduring political
success was courting the support of Theodore Roosevelt, an avid
hunter. As U.S. president 1901-1908, Roosevelt designated 150
National Forests, five National Parks, and 18 National Monuments,
together protecting 230 million acres of wildlife habitat.
The Sierra Club today has an annual operating budget of $85
million, with 1.3 million members and donors, and a staff of 530.
The National Audubon Society, founded in 1905, is so close
to the same size that which is bigger tends to reflect relative
fundraising success in any given year.
John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society
since 1995, resigned at the end of 2009, turning the office over to
Flicker, who came to the National Audubon Society from The
Nature Conservancy, sought to redefine the Audubon focus from
traditional habitat conservation to nature education, via the 43
Audubon regional nature centers.
The National Audubon Society was founded by George Bird
Grinnell, who earlier cofounded the Boone & Crocket Club with
Theodore Roosevelt to regulate trophy hunting. The initial focus of
the National Audubon Society was regulating competitive birding.
Birding, until Roger Tory Peterson popularized non-lethal sighting
verification with a camera during the 1930s, was done mainly with
shotguns. Species “life lists” were compiled from inspecting the
dead. Painter John James Audubon was honored in the title of the
organization as the shotgunner with the best-verified “life list” of
Under Flicker, the National Audubon Society remained mostly
aligned with hunters, but opposed the use of lead shot, and agreed
with the humane community that the deadly avian flu H5N1 is a global
public health threat chiefly due to factory farming.
Flicker’s successor, Frank Gill, and his wife Sally, are
both self-described “avid hunters.” Gill was the National Audubon
Society chief scientist 1996-2005, after spending 25 years at the
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, eventually becoming
vice president, and serving a stint as president of the American