Chapter History

The Elisha Mitchell chapter (now Blue Ridge Audubon) of the Audubon Society was formed in 1986. To form a chapter, we had to to recruit fifty members, publish a newsletter, hold public meetings, and form a Board of Directors. The initial board was made up of retirees, government employees, private business people and students, all with the common goal of forming a local conservation group.

After four months, we were officially chartered as the Elisha Mitchell chapter of the National Audubon Society, taking our name from Dr. Elisha Mitchell. Dr. Mitchell was a North Carolina native, a doctor of Divinity and an early conservationist. Our membership grew and included both Buncombe and Henderson counties.

One stipulation for forming a chapter was participation in a "major conservation project." Shortly after receiving our charter, we were asked to participate in the preservation of a parcel of land adjacent to Beaver Lake in Asheville, North Carolina. The land was scheduled to be developed as a strip mall. The chapter spearheaded the effort to preserve the property and now owns and manages it as the Beaver Lake Bird Sanctuary.

The focus and willingness of that original group of organizers to bring a credible, activist-oriented conservation group to Asheville has been instrumental in the ongoing success of the chapter.

In 2020, we changed our chapter name to Blue Ridge Audubon: a name that honors the natural beauty and incredible biodiversity of the mountains we call home. As an organization that values diversity in birds and people, we decided to change the name because the old name didn’t honor or foster human diversity. Elisha Mitchell was an early conservationist. He was also a vocal proponent of slavery. The new name is a small but important step in making the birding community a welcoming place for all.

Interested in learning a bit more about our chapter's history? Click here for a list of the chapter's board members and committee chairs, beginning with the inaugural Board of Directors of 1987. Over the years, the hard work of these folks has made our many accomplishments possible.