Mass Audubon cuts staff, programming throughout state due to revenue decline  

  • Allison Ryan, a volunteer at Mass Audubon Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton, explains the solar panels to Hampshire Regional 7th graders during a program on global warming. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 07, 2020

NORTHAMPTON — Citing a dramatic decline in revenue during the pandemic, Mass Audubon has announced staff layoffs, furloughs and cuts to programs throughout the state, although wildlife sanctuaries in western Massachusetts won’t be greatly impacted, according to the organization.

Among Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries in Hampshire and Franklin Counties are Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Northampton and Easthampton, Conway Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Conway, West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Plainfield, Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Haydenville, Lynes Woods Wildlife Sanctuary in Westhampton, High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne and Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary in Worthington.

Arcadia will be the most affected of these, with one layoff and two workers with reduced hours for full-time positions, as well as five part-time staff with reduced hours, according to Michael O’Connor, a Mass Audubon spokesman.

After closing in March, trails at many wildlife sanctuaries throughout the region are now open to the public, he said.

Mass Audubon President David O’Neill said that about 13% of full-time employees (34 of 260) have been laid off. Sixty additional part-time workers have been affected by layoffs, reduced hours and furloughs.

On Monday, Mass Audubon will bring back 80 staff members who had been furloughed over the past several months, O’Neill said.

“While we’ve made some cuts, we’ve also had the flip side,” he said.

“Some of our sanctuaries and trails are opening. We’re providing some programming again, and we’re bringing back some people to help us. We’ve done it already, and we’ll do that again when things get up to speed.”

O’Neill said despite the challenges of the pandemic, he believes that Mass Audubon’s mission to provide access to protected land and environmental education across the state is crucial.

“We just have to get more aggressive in our fundraising,” he said. “We have to find more ways to diversify our programming. Our goal is to be inviting and welcoming to as many people as we can, and let’s try to solve the most challenging environmental issues of our day, including climate change. We have to push forward on that. There’s a desire to be out in nature. People feel it all over the world. We want to be able to provide that service to the people of the commonwealth.”