Two days. Three sessions. Fourteen guest speakers. And, an array of advocacy opportunities for conservation-minded voters and volunteers across Maryland and DC. This was the foundation for the 6th annual “I Bird. I Vote.” Conservation Summit, hosted by Audubon Mid-Atlantic’s Maryland-DC staff and chapters February 26 and 27, 2021.
The Friday evening session led with Maryland’s Congressional Delegation including U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (represented by Shannon Frede), Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, Rep. John Sarbanes, and Rep. Jamie Raskin. The elected officials highlighted federal priorities including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the 30X30 Campaign for Nature, and the Ocean-based Climate Solutions Act. National Audubon Society speakers took the stage next, turning the focus toward Audubon’s targeted efforts to elevate coastal conservation, bird-friendly buildings, and offshore wind power with presentations from Charlotte Runzel, Connie Sanchez, and Shilo Fenton, respectively.
On Saturday, state initiatives were the focus with Senator Clarence K. Lam, M.D. leading a discussion of the Maryland Sustainable Buildings Act (HB0236). Presentations from conservation organizations across the state followed with speakers from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Safe Skies Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Preservation Maryland. This panel drew compelling connections and laid out clearly defined opportunities for active engagement to help pass 2021 legislation that protects and preserves birds and the places they need.
In addition to opportunities for legislative advocacy, participants were treated to presentations on Audubon’s coastal conservation work, the Patterson Park Audubon Center, and the Green Leaders program by Dave Curson, Susie Creamer, and Nicho Nguyen, respectively. Of special note was a panel discussion with current Green Leaders and the unveiling of a Green Leaders program video. Rounding out the afternoon, Suzanne Biemiller, the executive director of the newly created Audubon Mid-Atlantic, shared her vision for collaborative initiatives as the Maryland, DC, and Pennsylvania teams join together. And, the five local Audubon chapters each provided inspiring updates on their conservation work and outreach efforts including Angela Moxley, Audubon Society of Central Maryland; Ken Cohen, Prince George’s Audubon Society; Hugh Simmons, Chesapeake Audubon Society; Chris Murray, DC Audubon Society; and Tiffany Farrell, Southern Maryland Audubon Society.
The 6th Annual “I Bird. I Vote.” Conservation Summit was organized by the Advocacy Committee of the Maryland-DC board and offered a safe, virtual experience that succeeded in delivering action-oriented information to advocates across the region. Here’s to a legislative session and a coming year that positively impacts birds, people, and the places we share.