NJ Audubon News: New Jersey Audubon embraces modern connectedness through reorganization

New Jersey’s oldest conservation organization is restructuring itself to bring the weight of its conservation excellence to bear on the state’s environmental challenges. 

Founded in 1897 to help conserve and restore New Jersey’s wildlife, New Jersey Audubon evolved to become an environmental leader.  As a leading conservation organization in New Jersey NJ Audubon is finding new ways to increase its conservation results.

After 115 years, New Jersey Audubon is engaged in a planned evolution. Building on our expertise in education and public policy, NJ Audubon is bringing together more recent efforts in research and stewardship to ensure an integrated approach to delivering conservation success.  Experience has proven that linking education, advocacy, stewardship and research approaches yields the most successful and significant conservation accomplishments. This integration will be facilitated through the focus on three main regional centers, while continuing to ensure that residents enjoy access to programs and events.

“We have a committed and talented staff,” explains Eric Stiles, NJ Audubon’s President.  “But with over a dozen facilities, our talent was spread thin and not evenly apportioned.  Bringing together staff with different skill sets at strategic centers facilitates coordination and creative solutions.  It also means more of our member’s support can go into mission and less into maintaining aging bricks and mortar structures.” 

Those three regional centers are the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville, the Plainsboro Preserve serving the Princeton Area, and the Cape May Bird Observatory.  Each will serve, respectively, a North, Central and South Jersey region.

Smaller, satellite centers, whose programs will act in concert with the three main centers include: Nature Center of Cape May, Lorrimer Nature Center in Franklin Lakes, the Wattles Preserve in Warren County and the Government Relations office in Trenton.  NJ Audubon will be closing two New Jersey Audubon facilities, Rancocas Nature Center and Weis Ecology Center, looking to transition these sites to other conservation entities.

The nature-center based system evolved more than fifty years ago.  It was designed to serve the needs of a Society less mobile and less ”connected” than today’s and a membership whose social and communication needs were largely met, face to face, at functions held at local nature centers.

Today, no New Jersey resident lives more than an hour’s drive from the resources of one of New Jersey Audubon’s three regional centers, or more than a click away on the internet.  Our vision calls for an organization that will be more program and event based, rather than center based. Increasingly, our conservation staff will bring their environmental message to the doors of schools and community-based organizations.  By meeting people where they are, NJ Audubon will more effectively engage the citizens of New Jersey’s, beyond those who can visit our centers.

Nothing has revolutionized the way NJ Audubon communicates and interacts more than the internet. Buildings that once served as social hubs have been outflanked.  NJ Audubon members now have the resources of their organization at their fingertips.

“We’re still a social species” observes Pete Dunne, New Jersey Audubon’s Chief Communications Officer.  “With internet access and through NJ Audubon’s website, we are able to create encounters with nature that are spontaneous and opportune.  Members won’t have to drive here to learn what’s happening somewhere else.  They won’t have to wait all week for the Friday morning bird walk and hope there is a good flight that day.”

Members and the public can go on-line and learn about events and programs, and engage with other members and staff, thanks to one of the various social media outlets.  NJ Audubon will also continue to engage people through the friendly, face-to-face interaction that comes with visiting a NJA Center or plot their calendars around New Jersey Audubon’s array of regularly scheduled programs and events.

Summarizes President Stiles, “New Jersey Audubon isn’t changing our mission, including our focus on connecting people with nature.  We’re improving the way we deliver it. By uniting our forces we will reach more of NJ residents and visitors, we will be able to reach more racially socially and economically diverse audiences, and we will achieve greater conservation accomplishments thanks to a more integrated and efficient approach.”


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