American Bird Conservancy Founder to Step Down

Leading Bird Conservation Group Seeks New Leader in 2017

(Washington, D.C., Jan. 24, 2017) Twenty-three years after founding American Bird Conservancy, George Fenwick is stepping down as the group's president. He leaves behind an organization with an international reputation for conserving habitat and combating the most serious threats to native birds throughout the Americas.

Fenwick said the decision to leave had not been an easy one but that the time felt right to take on a new challenge. “ABC is flourishing in all its programs,” Fenwick said. “The best time to change leadership is when the ship is steady.”

Thanks to the leadership of Fenwick and his wife, Rita Fenwick, Vice President of Development, ABC's next president will inherit an organization that is financially sound, with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, a staff of more than 75 employees, and a growing network of partnerships throughout the Americas that deliver impressive conservation results for the hemisphere's most threatened birds.

"In the last twenty 20 years, nobody in the world has done more for birds than George and Rita Fenwick,” said author Jonathan Franzen, an avid birder and member of ABC's Board of Directors. “They created a scientifically rigorous and passionately activist organization that fills a vital niche in the conservation landscape, taking a holistic approach to protecting the birds of the Western Hemisphere in all their diversity and splendor. Under their leadership, ABC has become a model of how to do conservation right."

ABC has conserved nearly one million acres of habitat across more than 70 reserves for the rarest and most at-risk species, including Brazil's Araripe Manakin and Stresemann's Bristlefront, as well as declining migratory species like Wood Thrush and Golden-winged Warbler. The organization continues to lead the way in keeping Hawai'i's native seabirds and honeycreepers from the brink of extinction. And it has supported habitat restoration on a massive scale through the planting of more than 3.5 million trees in reserves and communities in Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere.

“It is not an exaggeration to say that George revolutionized bird conservation in the Americas when he started the fledgling ABC in the 1990s,” said John W. Fitzpatrick, Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “With his passion and commitment, he's turned ABC into a world-class conservation organization. The thing that characterizes ABC is that it's about real conservation—in real places and concerning issues of real importance to bird populations—with measurable results.”

ABC's talented and committed staff has been and continues to be essential to that work. In addition, the group has established a strong, transnational network of partners that are vital to bird conservation; this network continues to grow. Most recently, ABC signed a partnership agreement with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, bringing together conservation expertise and a wealth of scientific data.

As part of the next phase of its work, ABC has scaled up its Migratory Birds program devoted to landscape-scale conservation, working to protect migratory species on their breeding and wintering grounds and at stopover sites in between.

“Full life-cycle migratory bird conservation is probably the most exciting thing we're accomplishing now,” Fenwick said. “With the launching of our Migratory Birds program, ABC is poised to ratchet up domestically and internationally.”

Thanks to the Fenwicks' vision, ABC has proved itself as the group unafraid to tackle the toughest issues in bird conservation, including the dangers posed by pesticides, habitat loss, free-roaming cats, and poorly sited wind energy. It's the only U.S.-based group with a major focus on bird habitat conservation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

"American Bird Conservancy is fearless when it comes to protecting birds," said Larry Selzer, chairman of ABC's Board of Directors. "Its courage and entrepreneurial spirit come directly from George Fenwick, who recognized more than two decades ago that birds needed a great champion. He has built an unmatched organization that punches above its weight when it comes to conservation, and that is well positioned to accelerate bird conservation across the Americas for decades to come.”

Warren Cooke, who recently stepped down as ABC Board chair, praised Fenwick's ability to inspire conservation successes. "Fenwick's successor will find that ABC, with its talented and dedicated staff, is beautifully positioned to continue these accomplishments and to take the mission to the next level,” Cooke said. “I am excited for ABC's future."

ABC has engaged Koya Leadership Partners to partner with the Search Committee of the Board to identify and recruit its new president. Koya invites interested parties to learn more about this opportunity by visiting its website:

ABC hopes to have a new president in place by summer 2017.


American Bird Conservancy is the Western Hemisphere's bird conservation specialist—the only organization with a single and steadfast commitment to achieving conservation results for native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. With a focus on efficiency and working in partnership, we take on the toughest problems facing birds today, innovating and building on sound science to halt extinctions, protect habitats, eliminate threats, and build capacity for bird conservation.



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