Over the decades, the Audubon Society expanded its mission of protecting birds from plume hunters to lobby for federal policies on air, water and endangered species. Today, the Audubon Society funds conservation programs for birds but also encourages initiatives to control invasive species, manage the human population through family planning and protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Much of the society's work involves ecosystem restoration. The organization targets three high-risk areas: the Everglades, the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes.
- The Everglades. When the Audubon Society began its 19th century crusade against plume hunters, it focused primarily on the Florida Everglades, an area home to about 350 species of birds [source: Audubon Society]. Over-development, pollution and the mismanagement of water now threaten the 3 million acres of wetland. The Audubon Society, which has established and maintained sanctuaries in the area for more than 100 years, made preserving the Everglades a national priority in 1992 when it set up the Everglades Conservation Office. The office influences policy and provides scientific and technical assistance to restoration efforts.
- The Mississippi River. With 60 percent of North America's birds relying on the habitats of the Mississippi River, the Audubon Society makes protecting this ecosystem a priority [source: Audubon Society]. The river's altered flow blocks natural flood plains and deprives wetlands, a coastal buffer, of nutrient-rich sediments. Pollution accumulated over the river's 2,350 miles also threatens the Gulf of Mexico's delicate coastal ecosystem, creating dead zones.
- The Great Lakes. Four hundred species of birds live or migrate through the Great Lakes and their surrounding wetlands [source: Audubon Society]. But development, dams and invasive species threaten the fragile ecosystems. The Audubon Society designates Important Bird Areas (IBAs) around the Great Lakes Basin and targets vulnerable areas for protection and restoration projects.
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Snowy egrets in the Florida Everglades
The Audubon Society's plans to restore ecosystems like the Everglades, the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes require an enormous amount of funding. In November 2007, Congress overrode President George W. Bush's veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The act allocates $23 billion for flood protection and navigation, with $6 billion going toward ecosystem restoration.
Next, we'll find out about the Audubon Society's local initiatives.