When Good Organization Do Bad Things

The National Audubon Society was incorporated in 1905 by John James Audubon. Audubon was a naturalist who painted, cataloged, and studied the birds of North America. The organization is dedicated to teaching and encouraging conservation of our natural resources in America. So far, so good. However, in California, they recently overstepped their bounds.

On April 1, CBN News posted a story about a family in California who lost their family vacation retreat to a fire in 2004. The family had owned the retreat since 1924. When the family proceeded to rebuild the five homes destroyed in the fire, they found themselves in a legal battle with the Audubon Society.

The article reports:

To rebuild, the families would need to upgrade the roads leading across Audubon land to accommodate their heavy construction equipment.

But after decades of everyone sharing these roads, Audubon said no and then hit the families with yet another bombshell: It said it had proof their very best acres, the flat ones where their houses had been, were actually Audubon land.

The family engaged in a lengthy legal battle to reclaim their land, researching old property markers, etc.  The new boundaries the Audubon society claimed would have moved the families houses into a part of the land where building homes was not feasible, so the family fought to hold on to their retreat.

The story continued:

Then another stunning surprise in 2010 after years of legal wrangling: Audubon caved and said it would accept the original property lines and let the families use the roads unimpeded.

“They completely capitulated,” Prows stated.

No one outside of Audubon knows why this capitulation, but one more shock was ahead. In 2012, the families’ lawyers discovered with a subpoena that at the start of all this, Audubon had held back from family members some of the surveying maps it had commissioned.

They had also altered the maps they presented to prove Audubon’s claim.

“Audubon had actually doctored the drawings that it showed to our clients,” Prows said. “It took white out, and we have emails from Audubon’s very top people talking about putting white-out on the maps – removing the lines that its surveyors had put on the maps that Audubon didn’t like, showing that the boundary really was in the right place all along.”

The family is now suing the Audubon Society for fraud.  Unfortunately, the donations of well-meaning people will go toward defending and eventually settling this case. The thing to keep in mind here is that the case should never have existed in the first place. Even good organizations are occasionally capable of doing very bad things.

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