The National Audubon Society named Donal O’Brien as the 51st recipient of its prestigious Audubon Medal, in recognition of his dedication to advancing conservation on a global scale for five decades.
A giant of conservation, Donal served in leadership roles in numerous organizations, including 25 years on the Board of the National Audubon Society, 15 of them as Chairman. In this role he was largely responsible for introducing a globally significant conservation initiative to the Western hemisphere: the Important Bird Area program. To date, 2,500 places across the United States, encompassing more than 300 million acres, have been identified as vital to bird survival.
“Few Americans have contributed as much to conservation as Donal O’Brien,” said B. Holt Thrasher, Audubon Chairman. “He not only introduced critical new conservation initiatives to the western hemisphere, he also provided some of the steadiest and inspired leadership that Audubon ever had.”
Donal’s reach and influence within the conservation community is legend. In CT, he was appointed as Chairman of the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality by three governors, and also served as Commissioner of the CT State Board of Fisheries and Game. Elsewhere, he served as Chairman of the Atlantic Salmon Federation, former Vice-Chairman of the Board of Governors of The Nature Conservancy, and Former President of the International Council for Bird Preservation.
“Before joining Audubon I learned much about the huge role that Donal O’Brien played in increasing its reach and influence across the US. I was even more amazed at how he managed so many responsibilities so well,” said David Yarnold, Audubon President.
Donal managed his conservation duties while leading a career as partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy in New York City. He was chief legal counsel to the Rockefeller Family & Associates, and President of the Rockefeller Trust Company.
Previous winners of the Audubon medal include Robert Redford, E. O Wilson, Roger Tory Peterson, Ted Turner, William Conway, Rachel Carson, Walt Disney, Stewart Udall, Julie Packard and Richard Louv.
Donal was honored at a dinner October 2 in Greenwich.