Some observers may fear that Ron Forman's history as CEO of the Audubon Nature Institute may indicate that he is a man of environmentalist
sensibilities - and that these may conflict with New Orleans' dire need for economic recovery post-Katrina. Fortunately, Ron Forman's record at the Audubon Nature Institute demonstrates flexibility in this regard, and an ability to accomodate even those contributors with a questionable environmental track record.
Despite the Audubon Nature Institute's tag-line of "Celebrating the Wonders of Nature", its stewardship of Audubon Park has often been controversial, especially in the lack of emphasis given to preserving the natural aspects of this gem of a public park. In the interests of providing more money for park upkeep, in 2001 Ron Forman spearheaded spending $6 million dollars of public money to build a new executive golf course in the middle of Audubon Park that entailed cutting down trees, constructing man-made hills, digging new lagoons, mowing down wild bird habitat, and demolishing a botanical conservatory to make way for a parking lot. While the controversial golf course and its even more controversial clubhouse apparently haven't yet made any profits to contribute to the preservation of Audubon Park, the intention was laudable and ingenious. Visit Save Audubon Park
for an extensive historical account.
The environmental group "Earthday Resources" wrote of Audubon's new golf course:
"Why would a nature center have a golf course? Golf courses are bad for the environment and the pesticides used on them may drive more species into extinction. Making golf courses bigger is even worse. A larger golf course will take away green space and use more water and pesticides. And you thought the name Audubon is always synonymous with protecting birds."
Another environmental controversy in Audubon Park occurred during construction of the Audubon Tearoom, which heavily utilized endangered Brazilian cherry and mahogany hardwoods in its construction. Click here
for a discussion.
Unlike most other groups purporting to concern themselves with worldwide nature issues, under Ron Forman's stewardship, the Audubon Nature Institute has avoided jumping on the dreaded anti-development bandwagon of saving natural habitat at any cost. Audubon Nature Institute's senior vice president and director of the Audubon Institute Center for Research of Endangered Species (AICRES), Dr. Betsy Dresser, who also works with Advanced Cell Technologies, says that "saving habitat, which is not simple and is incredibly complex, is not going to save endangered species." Cloning is a much easier and less complex way to save endangered species, and is one that does not get in the way of economic development
National Wetlands Coalition
According to ecopledge.com
The Audubon Nature Institute is a member of the National Wetlands Coalition, a greenwash group bankrolled by big oil and land developers that lobbies to weaken the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. The ANI belongs to this organization along with such earth-friendly companies as ARCO, the American Mining Congress, Chevron, Exxon, and the National Association of Homebuilders.
Shell Oil, Chevron-Texaco and ExxonMobil continue to be substantial donors to the Audubon Nature Institute, a glowing testament to Ron Forman's ability to work hand-in-hand with organizations whose ambitions may seem, on the surface, to be diametrically opposed to the goals and intentions of his own institution.
Perhaps, even in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, voters can be encouraged to not be panicked into sacrificing jobs and economic growth by opposing "responsible" wetlands development, just because of claims that each mile of healthy wetland may reduce storm surge by half a foot (more here