Among the most endangered ecosystems in North America are the once immense grasslands that span from Canada, through the heartland of the United States, and into northern and central Mexico. More than 50 percent of North America’s vast native grasslands, an area that once covered roughly 585 million acres, has been developed or converted to other uses over the past century. The grasslands that remain have been degraded by a range of factors, including invasive & woody plant encroachment, fragmentation from urbanization, energy development, and unsustainable livestock management practices---all of which are incompatible with the habitat needs of many grassland birds and other wildlife. As a result of the combined impact of these factors over many decades, grassland birds are now among the suite of species in sharpest decline and are widely recognized as species of conservation concern.
To protect these iconic American birds, Audubon has established the Conservation Ranching Program to work with private and public partners to create market-based solutions that help ranchers manage their land in ways that support healthy grassland ecosystems. Audubon has developed land management protocols that improve habitat, while creating opportunities for ranchers to reach new and growing markets for their products. Public partners and private sector experts have been enlisted to help spread and encourage these practices, and we are now connecting certified ranches to retail markets.
Audubon has created a “bird-friendly” certification using the Audubon brand that can be used by those who voluntarily implement land management protocols on their ranches. This “seal of approval” with the trusted Audubon brand will expand marketing opportunities for participating ranchers and help to attract buyers in a market that is expanding exponentially. In fact, over the last 15 years, the market for certified sustainable products has grown from $5 million to $2 billion. Market analyst’s project that this segment will grow to $15 to $20 billion in the next decade. If you add the fact that there are more than 46 million birders in the U.S. alone, the opportunities to broaden markets and generate premiums for products that display the Audubon logo and that support bird-friendly habitats is sizeable.
Audubon is advancing this market-based approach by:
• Refining land management protocols that sustain native grasslands and the birds that depend on them.
• Supporting farmers and ranchers and working with branded program, processors, distributors and retailers to establish a path to market for Audubon-certified products, primarily beef.
• Leveraging Audubon’s stellar brand to drive consumers toward certified bird-friendly products.
• Measuring success with ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the biological response to our bird-friendly land management protocols as a condition for certification.
The Southern Great Plains Coordinator works with ranchers, partners, and Audubon flyway and state staff to coordinate the expansion of Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and the Chihuahuan grasslands of northern Mexico. S/he is responsible for recruitment of ranches; development of Habitat Management Plans; coordination of workshops to provide production assistance; development of program protocols and their adherence in all participating landscapes; coordination of agreements and relationships with state and federal agency partners, peer organizations and NGOs; coordination of supply-chain and retail/market-side partnerships; and support of monitoring and ranch certification.
This position will be a direct report to Audubon’s Director of the Conservation Ranching Program.
• Recruit ranches into the program by Identifying potential participants, building relationships, and assisting interested ranchers with program entry. Develop positive relationships with producer groups, landowner associations or other entities.
• Work with producers, NGOs, and agency partners to develop regional habitat management protocols and bird species target lists pertinent to each of the ecoregions in which the program is operating.
• Work with a range ecologist consultant or agency partner to complete Habitat Management Plans for all participating ranches.
• Coordinate and manage agreements and relationships with state and federal agency partners, including opportunities for program funding.
• Coordinate and manage partnerships with peer conservation organizations and program stakeholders.
• Coordinate the development and management of supply-chain and retail/market-side partnerships, which may include retail stores, restaurants, branded programs, coops, etc.
• Cooperate with state staff and NGO partners to coordinate ecological monitoring on all participating ranches, including bird counts and potentially the measurement of vegetation and soil health.
• Assist the preparation of funding proposals, and meet with program donors and supporters as needed.
• Ensure adherence to policies and procedures, and positively represent National Audubon Society at partnership meetings, conferences, etc.
• Answer general inquiries from the public about Audubon and the Conservation Ranching Program. Maintain a working knowledge about Audubon strategic plans, priorities and programs nationwide.
• Assist staff in participating states to coordinate local promotion, education and outreach.
Qualifications and Experience
• Bachelor’s degree in rangeland ecology, natural resource management, environmental science, sustainability, or related field.
• +3 years’ experience of program management in organizations that have a reputation for strategic thinking and organizational excellence.
• Working knowledge of grassland ecology and habitat management is preferred.
• Knowledge and appreciation of the ranching culture, range management issues, and sustainable ranching practices is strongly preferred.
• Experience in the practice or promotion of sustainable agriculture, sustainable foods, grassfed beef production or related supply chain development is ideal.
• Must possess excellent written and oral communication skills.
• Ability to work independently, take initiative, and make decisions in the absence of specific directions.
• Ability to effectively coordinate with staff, and interact positively with others to advance the Audubon mission.
• Proficient in Microsoft Office including Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word required, ArcGIS experience helpful; experience in additional systems and platforms a plus.
• Must possess a valid driver's license, have access to personal transportation and be able to work independently.
• Passion for the mission of the Audubon, as well as knowledge or interest in bird conservation initiatives, conservation policy, habitat restoration, and environmental education is ideal.
• Ability to work occasional evenings and weekends, and travel up to 50% of the work schedule.
• Ability to walk uneven trails, drive on unpaved surfaces, and lift up to 50 lbs.
Apply directly to Audubon's Career Site: