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History of the Northern Arizona Audubon Society

The Northern Arizona Audubon Society is formed by volunteer group of bird and nature enthusiasts serving the Sedona and Flagstaff region. We form one chapter of the National Audubon Society, and our mission is to promote the understanding and appreciation of birds and other wildlife, and the conservation and restoration of their natural habitats.

To fulfill our mission, we host events to share our knowledge and passion, we participate in citizen science, we engage in advocacy action and we promote conservation of all animal and plant species. You can help! Whether you become a member, donate or simply share your appreciation of bords, you are making a difference.

Please explore our website for our current activities and thank you for being interested in where we've been and what we've accomplished!

Founding Principles

From its inception, our Chapter had a clear Mission:

  • Promote the understanding and appreciation of birds and other wildlife
  • Promote the conservation and restoration of their natural habitats

As this history shows, our Chapter has striven to live up to the Audubon legacy of conservation all the while having fun and enjoying our “feathered friends”.

Early Years

  • Founding

Birders in the Verde Valley initially started the Northern Arizona Audubon Society and we officially became a Chapter of the National Audubon Society in 1972. In 1978 we became a non-profit and have the IRS 501c3 status.

Our “Founder” was Will Osborn who was supported by a number of other like-minded birders.

Two true NAAS Pioneers: and Virginia Gilmore and Wilma Morrison .

In the beginning of our history, the geographic boundaries extended from the White Mountains all the way to Prescott. Of course, in subsequent years both Prescott and the White Mountains (originally a satellite of NAAS) grew and formed their own chapters.

  • In those early days, the best method of communication with members was by way of a printed newsletter. We started publishing the Black Hawk Watch, which has become an institution within our chapter and is published five times per year.
  • Flagstaff and a “bi-level chapter”

Over thirty-five years ago, interest in our activities in Flagstaff grew to the point where we started to hold a variety of programs in Flagstaff. The thriving birding scene in Flagstaff has led us to the unique position where we have become a “bi-level” chapter with monthly programs, field trips and many other activities being held both “above and below the rim”.

Dedication to the preservation of habitat

Even in our early years, our chapter was active in many efforts to insure that a legacy of a thriving bird population was preserved and passed on to succeeding generations. Here are some examples of what our early leaders were able to accomplish.

  • Anita MacFarlane, Godmother of the Sedona WetlandsAnita MacFarlane, Godmother of the Sedona Wetlands.

    In the early 1980’s, our Chapter worked with other community and environmental organizations at both a local and national level to help obtain congressional passage of the Arizona Wilderness Act. We lobbied at the local level and even sent a group of our members to Washington to talk to our representatives.This effort paid off in 1984 when our congressional delegation unanimously supported passage of this bill. This meant that hundreds of thousands of acres of federal lands were incorporated into the National Wilderness Preservation System. Every time you visit Sycamore Canyon, West Clear Creek, Fossil Creek, Kachina Peaks and dozens more sites around the state be appreciative of the efforts of our early members.

  • Before the City of Sedona was founded, commercial interests were trying to dramatically increase development in Oak Creek. The “crown jewel” of these efforts was a proposal to construct a major resort in what is now Slide Rock State Park. Our Chapter actively challenged this and crossed the state in support of efforts to block a rezoning proposal in Oak Creek. At one point some forty-five members drove to Flagstaff to a Coconino County Supervisors meeting to publicly oppose this. Because of our efforts and those of like-minded organizations, Oak Creek is now protected.
  • While it is hard to believe, at one time the Verde River was mined for sand and gravel. Companies used heavy equipment to remove this material and severely damaged the riparian habitat in the process. Again, we opposed these actions and, ultimately, these activities were stopped.
  • The Sedona Wetlands Preserve is a wonderful facility owned by the City of Sedona. In the late 1990’s, Anita Macfarlane and other members started to champion development of a constructed wetlands at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Perseverance pays off and in 2013, the preserve was opened. Since then well over 200 bird species have been seen there, making it one of he premier birding hot spots in northern Arizona.
  • Verde Valley Bird and Nature Festival

Initially conceived in 2001 as a celebration of birds in Dead Horse state Park, the festival has now grown into the premier watchable wildlife event in Northern Arizona. NAAS was one of the founding organizations for the festival and our members form the core of its volunteers.

  • Important Bird Areas

Audubon designates important Bird Areas (IBA) in recognition of an areas global or national importance to bird conservation. Northern Arizona is fortunate in having four IBA’s: Lower Oak Creek, Anderson Mesa, Tuzigoot and Upper Verde River Wildlife Area. NAAS has been actively involved in supporting the creation and promotion of local IBA’s

  • Christmas Bird Counts

For over thirty years, our Chapter has organized annual Christmas Bird Counts as part of the larger Audubon bird count tradition. 



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Northern Arizona Audubon

P O Box 1496 Sedona, AZ 86339

Sanctuary Locations:

Bubbling Ponds
1950 N Page Springs Rd
Cornville AZ 86325

Sedona Wetlands
7500 W State Route 89A,
Sedona, AZ 86336
(Inbetween mile markes 365 & 366) 

Picture Canyon
N. El Paso Flagstaff Rd 
Flagstaff, Arizona

Kachina Wetlands
2263 Utility Rd,
Flagstaff, AZ 86005

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