Tropical Audubon Society Heritage

Compiled by Dan Jones

Established as a National Audubon Society chapter in 1947, Tropical Audubon Society (TAS) traces its origins to the Coconut Grove Audubon Society (CGAS), founded April 16, 1915, as Dade County’s first Audubon organization. Kirk Munroe chaired the organizational meeting while Mary Barr Munroe, his wife, served as CGAS’s first president. Area pioneer families were among the charter members, including Mathesons, Deerings, and the “other” Munroes.

CGAS met in member homes and advocated for bird and general wildlife protection, encouraged placement of game wardens to protect plume birds, provided ornithological education to school children and the general public, and also collaborated in the movement to establish Everglades National Park. Due to the rigors of World War II, however, CGAS went inactive in 1942. It was not until January 21, 1947, that former members and other interested parties would meet to form a new chapter shepherded by Charles Brookfield, then employed by National Audubon Society. They would settle on a more sweeping name, Tropical Audubon Society, which grew, with Brookfield’s indispensable guidance, from CGAS’s 1915 roots. Hence, the centennial of Audubon presence in Miami-Dade County was marked in 2015.

The conservation ethos on which both societies were founded has never been more consequential than it is today.

Tropical Audubon Society has always been positioned on the frontlines of conservation and environmental protection issues in South Florida. From opposing a Jetport in the Big Cypress/Everglades in the last century, to presently standing firm against contamination of our drinking water and for maintenance of the Urban Development Boundary, to advocating for mitigation of Sea Level Rise, TAS’s nonpartisan activist role is increasingly crucial. To distill its scope of work, the health and protection of our water resources — both fresh and salt for wildlife and humans — are central to TAS’s modern mission along with the traditional Audubon emphasis on bird/wildlife protection and birding opportunities.

Looking ahead, TAS has launched the Audubon Ambassador Program to enlist and train future advocates for South Florida’s environment. One session of the hands-on workshops and field trips is capped by a tour of the historic Doc Thomas House. As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “The more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future."