MADRAVENSPEAK: Why Does John Muir Audubon Society Have a Bird-Killing Activist on Its Board of Directors?

15 Mar


Planetary extinction toll: “Songbirds down 50 percent since 1965; marine birds down 30 percent since 1995.” — “Call of Life” documentary 

Many people think the Audubon Society is a nonprofit standing up for the life of birds. I did. But the mission statement of the Madison Audubon Society says little of saving birds. The group focuses on habitat, funding, education, and administration. John Livingston (1923-2006), executive director of the Canadian Audubon Society in the early 1950s, quit in the early 1960s because “the demands made on me by the Audubon head office in the United States were rather different from saving wildlife — they expected me to concentrate on administrative and financial affairs.” (Farley Mowat interview, 1990)

Jim Shurts is on the board of the Madison Audubon Society. Ironically, he is “board sanctuaries chair.” He is also the contact person for the John M. Keener chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, which is dedicated to “to preserving our sporting traditions by creating healthy forest habitat for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other wildlife.” The site claims, “Our members are mainly grouse and woodcock hunters who support national scientific conservation and management efforts to ensure the future of the species.”

The focus is on preserving hunting by providing bird habitat for killing recreation.

Shurts is one of those hunters. He served 10 years on the Conservation Congress as a hunting activist, particularly a bird-hunting activist. In August 2011, after attending the Hunter Heritage Conference’s meeting for Learn to Hunt organizers, he was quoted as saying, “My sense is that others at the conference found it helpful, and like me, enjoyed meeting others fighting the same fight. The primary highlight was the opportunity to meet with others who are active with hunter recruitment and share common goals.”

What better way to fight for hunter rights and recruitment than to infiltrate nonprofits that might work to protect the birds you are working to kill? As John Livingston wrote, “It is so sad to see conservation groups falling into that trap, becoming instruments of the very organizations they are trying to oppose.”

The Madison Audubon Society is listed as a partner of the Wisconsin Waterfowl Association, as is the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, a coalition of over 180 killing groups of all sorts. The WWA home page states, “From restoring wetlands to fighting for hunters’ rights in Madison, WWA is there for you.” And Audubon is there for them.

Norman Myers, Oxford University professor of environmental science, says: “This mass extinction issue is surely a greater crisis than any disaster — greater than terrorism or even a nuclear exchange. And I am choosing my words carefully. It is the biggest crisis since man came out of the caves 10,000 years ago — no less.”

Yet some nonprofits dither in outdated paradigms, betraying wildlife in the guise of helping.

Many of the older nonprofits have “feel-good” wildlife viewing programs, but do little to address the mounting deadly threats to wildlife and birds. The bargain has been struck with hunter members to “save habitat for killing” and focus on habitat, not the animals, and certainly not stand up to hunters to save our wildlife from deliberate suffering and violent death by dog and gun.

I once told Dick Chier, then vice president of the hunter-dominated Conservation Congress, “I will build you a lovely home in a beautiful habitat. But in return, every year, spring and fall, I will lure your children, friends and family out for picnics where I will slaughter them, bag limit two per day. Is that the home you want?”

Repeated requests for an interview with Audubon Executive Director Matthew Reetz went rebuffed. He did send me an Audubon statement against the proposed sandhill crane hunt, which will be up for a vote statewide at the annual Conservation Congress meetings at 7 p.m. Monday, April 13, in every county.

The Audubon Society could do a campaign to end the mourning dove kill, end killing our ducks and geese, end killing crows, grouse, chukar partridge, woodcock, quail. We should end the use of lead shot, left in habitat from massive overkill, which additionally painfully kills annually over a million songbirds in Wisconsin.

For years I have pressed Audubon to do an education campaign to alert its members that they can run for election to the Conservation Congress, a citizen advisory board to the Legislature, on the second Monday in April every year. Then members could represent bird-loving citizens in governing our birds, wildlife, publicly purchased lands, waterways, and forests. For 88 years, this advisory group has been 99.9 percent controlled by hunters, trappers and hounders. Although the Audubon Society has alerted its members to hunter-crafted proposals, they have not educated their members that real political power to help birds resides in being the delegates who craft the proposals that go on the Conservation Congress ballot and then to the Legislature to become law.

Ultimately it is the Audubon Society members who can push their organization to save birds, not just save habitat for killing them. Time is running out.


The Humane Society’s Humane Lobby Day is Tuesday, April 7.

The Conservation Congress hearings on April 13 will include election of delegates and votes on: hunting sandhill cranes, expanding the bear hunting season, shooting ranges, wolf hunt changes, monarchs and more. Attend, vote and run for election. If you want to vote on delegates, you should arrive well before the 7 p.m. starting time because the delegate vote is first on the agenda and you have to register in order to vote.

Please also sign the NRDC petition against the two federal bills that gut the Endangered Species Act and remove protections from Great Lakes and Wyoming wolves permanently with legislation subverting the ESA. The courts have been the only protection and this legislation removes them from oversight as well. Please call your federal legislators both in the senate and house to remove themselves from co-sponsor of these deadly bills. Over 1145 wolves have been killed legally and illegally in Wisconsin in the past three years – every wolf they could find. We are back at no wolf recovery in this state. These bills are H.R. 884 and H.R. 883. The NRDC petition is here:

Thanks for helping our birds! And spreading the word for change. Please join our membership (where we do stand up for birds and wildlife themselves) at to assist in tabling at various public events like Vegan Fest, Bob Fest and other events that can get the word out about the crisis of life on this planet.

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1 Comment

Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Uncategorized


One response to “MADRAVENSPEAK: Why Does John Muir Audubon Society Have a Bird-Killing Activist on Its Board of Directors?

  1. Exposing the Big Game

    March 15, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Exposing the Big Game.


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