Conservation Influencers

National Audubon Society


The Massachusetts Audubon Society dates back to 1896, when it was founded to protect waterbirds. Within a few years, similar Audubon Societies were established across the breadth of the United States of America. And in 1905, the different groups formed a national organization known as the National Association of Audubon Societies for the Protection of Wild Birds and Animals (National Audubon Society since 1940). But its network of local chapters has always operated autonomously.

In 1962 Rachel Carson, an already influential member of the National Audubon Society (NAS), published Silent Spring. It was a largely technophobic book that painted a dystopian vision of the future, which popularised the fear that the modern world is toxic. Her influence is credited with transforming NAS into a new type of environmental campaigning group, one that believed that ‘you can’t be too safe’ (aka the precautionary principle). That dictum applied especially to the so-called detrimental impact of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDT), which Carson mistakenly claimed caused mutations of the human gene (See National Pesticide Information Center Fact Sheet). However, Silent Spring was not Carson’s first book or, arguably, her most influential.

Carson’s earlier, often overlooked, work was her aesthetic, ethical, environmental philosophical trilogy on ocean ecology: Under The Sea-Wind, a Naturalist’s Picture of Ocean Life (1941); The Sea Around Us (1951); and The Edge of the Sea (1953). According to Susan Power Bratton, the first of these three books, Under The Sea-Wind, suggests a ‘trans-ecotonal sea ethic’. Or in other words a ‘transboundary imagination’, in contrast to the traditional land ethic that mankind was familiar with.

Bratton says that Carson’s novel way of looking at the world acknowledges that human perception is ‘inhibited by ecotones’. Put another way, humanity finds it difficult to look beyond land-based boundaries and to perceive the scale and complexities of the oceans. It was from this ‘new’ paradigm, posited by Carson, says Bratton, that the environmental campaigners ‘learned to think like a mackerel’.

Inspired by Carson’s trilogy and Silent Spring, NAS’s president Carl W. Buchheister defended Rachel Carson when she was attacked by the chemical and agricultural industry. His successor Elvis J. Stahr, former Secretary of the Army, continued to change NAS, which was founded to conserve North American waterbirds, into a lobby with geopolitical ambitions. For example in the 1970s, NAS organised a national boycott of Japanese and Soviet goods ‘in protest of the failure of those countries to accept quotas ordered by the International Whaling Commission’. (see: National Audubon Society records 1883-1990s).

Today, NAS has around 460 local Chapters, more than 20 state offices and 44 Audubon Centers located in the USA.


David Yarnold, President & CEO.


A large Board, supported by a nine-person-strong Executive Board, chaired by Maggie Walker.


According to its annual report, in 2020 NAS’s expenses were USD126,036, 000, its income was USD161 million. 

About the directory

Conservation Influencers is a searchable directory of the animal activist, environmental and ecological lobby. It examines the history, mission, methodology and reputation of NGOs to assess their impact on the global conservation cause.


Wildlife Conservation Society

In 1906, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) put an African man on display in Bronx Zoo’s Monkey House. In 1918, one of WCS’s founding fathers, Madison Grant, published Passing of the Great Race, which Adolf Hitler referred to as his ‘Bible’. Another leading creator and early leader of WCS, Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr, was also a founder of the American Eugenics Society. His son headed WCS from 1940 to 1968, overseeing a series of major initiatives in Africa. There, WCS became one of the architects of the prohibition movement, which put wildlife for consumptive use and vast regions of land out of bounds to humanity. In 2020, WCS distanced itself in public from the racist views of Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn Sr. But it has yet to issue a critical account of the legacy of Fairfield Osborn Jr, even though he led WCS into the modern era while sharing similar politically-inspired ecological goals to his father and Grant. WCS devotes considerable financial resources to influencing outcomes at CITES. WCS’s CEO reportedly earns USD$1,320,978.