Placeholder Imagephoto credit: Bay City News Mark Rauzon
Cormorants photographed during the Golden Gate Audubon Society's 2019 Christmas Bird Count.

One of the Bay Area's oldest conservation groups is changing its name to distance itself from its namesake -- a known slaveholder and anti-abolitionist.

Members of the Golden Gate Audubon Society last week ratified the decision of its Board of Directors to officially change the name of the organization to Golden Gate Bird Alliance during its annual meeting.

According to the conservation group, the name change was done after months of deliberation "to express its commitment to inclusion and highlight the importance of collective action in protecting local birds and wildlife."

"Our new name will help make the organization more accessible to a broader range of people," executive director Glenn Phillips said in a statement. "With the threats facing birds today, we need everyone to be able to protect them."

The name change is part of a nationwide reevaluation of John James Audubon as a figurehead for the country's oldest and largest bird conservation network.

When the National Audubon Society announced in March that it would not change its name, a number of chapters including Golden Gate moved forward with their own name discussions.

Golden Gate members voted in favor of removing "Audubon" from their name in April, setting in motion a months-long process of outreach, discussions and voting to come up with a new name for the chapter.

"(John James) Audubon, a 19th century naturalist and pioneering bird artist, was also a slave holder, anti-abolitionist, and a robber of Native American graves -- a history that undermines efforts to build a diverse, inclusive organization," the group said.

The group added that it will retain its affiliation with the National Audubon Society and its relationships with other chapters across the country.

This is not the first time that the conservation organization has changed its name. Founded in 1917 as Audubon Association of the Pacific, the group changed its name to Golden Gate Audubon Society in 1949, a year after joining the National Audubon network.

The Berkeley-based Golden Gate Bird Alliance is one of the Bay Area's oldest conservation organizations, with over 3,000 members. The nonprofit is dedicated to protecting Bay Area birds, other wildlife, and their natural habitats.

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