A new president for Audubon Mexico
By Sheridan Sansegundo
Sociedad Audubon de Mexico, which has become an increasingly vibrant part of life in San Miguel de Allende in the past few years, recently welcomed April Gaydos as its new president. She takes over from Linda Whynman, who has stepped down after seven years leading the society. “When Saul and I moved to Mexico,” said Linda, “Audubon was the only source of organized outdoor activities such as hiking and birding. Then, as so often happens here if you can stand on two feet, someone says ‘Do you want to be on the board’?”
After some changes in leadership, Linda came forward and unleashed her boundless energy as president. “There was no real database, no website and I think those are the things I am most satisfied about — having taken the society into the 21st century technically.”
Audubon had been running some recreational tours and it was on Linda’s watch that these became the very popular Audubon EcoJourneys, run by Rodrigo Lopez Valdes and Colleen Besman. The small group tours combine nature and culture on trips all over Mexico.
Two years ago, Audubon launched its environmental grant program, whereby local organizations receive funding from Audubon de Mexico to conduct projects that address critical environmental and social challenges.
Under Linda’s guidance, Audubon has also facilitated the individual purchase of kayaks for birding and exploring the Presa and the Río Laja. “The more people we get out on the water, the more people become aware of these precious resources,” said Linda, a long-time paddler herself.
April came to San Miguel with a good deal of ecological experience. In Portland, Oregon, she helped start the Urban Watershed Institute, which provided green development training for government and industry professionals. When she moved to Palm Springs she helped form the Office of Neighborhood Involvement and later became the vice-chair of the first Palm Springs Sustainability Commission.
She had scarcely been in San Miguel for a couple of months when Linda, knowing a good thing when she saw it, got her to join the Audubon board.
April is particularly interested in local water issues. Last year, she represented Audubon in forming the Citizens Observatory for Water and Sanitation (OCAS), which is working on strategies to conserve our aquifer and to improve the health of our waterways. She also is working with Audubon partners, Amigos de la Presa and Salvemos a Rio Laja, in supporting a study of and recommendations for the troubled Los Cachinches Creek which runs from El Charco through town, ending up in the Presa.
Both Linda and April feel that the transition from previous to new president has been smooth and are confident that the good works begun with the establishment of Sociedad Audubon de Mexico over 46 years ago will continue and grow.
As for the future, April says that she would like to step up Audubon’s work in the community. “I don’t know if people realize the extent of the issues we face here,” she says. “The water in our aquifer is dropping at an unsustainable rate and our soils are being depleted because of poor agricultural practices. On the Río Laja people are bathing and washing their clothes just downstream from a sewer drainpipe. Drinking water in some of our rural communities is highly contaminated, which is creating serious health problems. Lung diseases are on the rise in communities that rely upon wood fires for cooking. Trees are being cut down to fuel these fires, which leads to desertification and habitat loss.”
“I know this sounds really depressing,” she adds, “but these circumstances are all solvable, and that’s what motivates us to keep raising money for our programs and keep thinking about how we can do what we do better.” That, and appreciation of the beauty and nature of San Miguel and the birds and wildlife that also call it home.