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The Meaty Article

What to do with the ABA?

There has been much criticism of the ABA in recent years, with shouts that the organization is dead, or should be scrapped. While I agree there are deep issues that have to be addressed, the argument that it has lost all relevance does not just yet hold true. The majority of existing members seem happy with the orga- nization, so it can remain relevant to an ever diminishing group of birders. My biggest issue with the ABA, is that it can be so much more relevant to the birding community by taking a look at itself, it’s membership, and potential new members to assess what it is and what it can be, not what it was.

found astounded me; most people were birders of “average” ability and experience. We only had a few top-notch birders attend the confer- ence, and having met more and more ABA members since, I think that this is pervasive throughout the ABA mem- bership. This represents a stunning opportunity, as in the US and Canada there are thousands of people who t this description and are not yet mem- bers of the ABA. If it marketed itself as what it really is, rather than what a tiny elite thinks it should be, it could be an organization of one hundred thousand plus enthusiastic members who help each other, regularly inter- act with each other, and promote the organization.

There has been a perception amongst the sta and board mem- bers that it is an organization for superb, experienced birders and hardcore listers. I would like to oer some information based on my survey of each of the 200 people who came to the Tropical Birding Quito Conference. I wanted to know how experienced, keen, and t they were in order to put them in the appropri- ate group for birding trips. What I

Beyond ideas for recovering old members and gaining new ones, it has to focus on what it has to oer the membership. It needs to work through localized ABA events that are not prot driven, but rather, service driven such as weekends in birding sites around the country where local members can meet members from other parts of the country. These are not complicated events that require

I dream of a birding organization that gets people into birding all over the world and keeps them involved in the hobby; anything short of this is an underachievement at best. So every- one reading this has an obligation to spend a little time and try to get a non-birding friend out to see what an amazing thing we do. Ask yourself: how many people have I introduced to this, the greatest of hobbies this year?

A personal reflection by Iain Campbell

much sta time but are of great value for participants. It needs to have programs to encourage birders, such as free “introduction to birding” talks given at other kinds of organized groups such as Sierra Club, hunting clubs, schools, or anywhere else we can gather interested people together in a room. One strong oer from the ABA has been the work with youth birding, but that needs to be broadened to include members of other organizations like the Audubon societies and bird observatories. This eort should also include a new birder program dierentiated from the young birder program so that 50-year-olds who join do not feel as if they have missed the boat. Through an outreach program, it has to try and get people from other sectors of society too, such as minority groups and inner city residents. In short, encourage and facilitate birding for everyone.

As a vendor I rst heard the strong cries of the imminent doom of the ABA at the Tucson conference in 2005. Since then the cries have become more of a constant drone, and the death of the organization has not yet occurred. I do believe that the ABA will continue to exist in one form or another for a long time, but possi- bly becoming more irrelevant with every passing year of inactivity.




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