Natural Balance

Tuesday, May. 27, 2014 3:55 pm

In a way, you could say the academic drive that eventually led Doug Bechtel ’89 to his new job as executive director of Audubon International started in a Shakespeare class at Grinnell College.

A class in which he struggled.

“The Grinnell faculty fostered in me and my classmates high educational, intellectual, and ethical standards,” says Bechtel, who makes a living promoting habitat and conservation now. “While I loved my science classes, my favorite Grinnell course of all was a Shakespeare class. I got a ‘C.’”

The academic rigor wasn’t the only thing Bechtel liked about Grinnell. He also cherished his Grinnell days for the “enduring friendships with Grinnellians and how their dynamic energy, enthusiasm, and social and environmental ethic shaped me as a person.”

For more than 25 years, Audubon International has helped land managers, businesses, the lodging industry, and recreational facilities reduce their impact on nature and improve ecologically sustainable practices, Bechtel says. (The nonprofit organization is not related to the National Audubon Society.)

Audubon International’s largest certification program, measured by membership and revenue, focuses on golf-course management, including water quality and habitat work.

“We are all focused on providing great service, protecting natural lands where you work and play, and reducing our impact on nature,” Bechtel says.

Grinnell is a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program, Bechtel notes proudly. The College’s athletic fields are in the certification program now, an effort led by Jason Koester of the facilities management staff. When that work is complete, “Grinnell’s sports fields will be a valuable addition to Grinnell’s commitment to sustainability,” Bechtel says.

Based in New York, Audubon International works with organizations in 36 countries. Bechtel had served as associate director of environmental programs for the organization and became executive director in April this year. He was also director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy’s New Hampshire chapter for more than 15 years.

Audubon International helps nearly 2,500 golf courses, hotels, residential communities, and industrial facilities in its effort to encourage good management of natural resources.

“Our members and partners are enthusiastic about working toward a common goal of environmental stewardship,” Bechtel says. “I am happy to be leading a great team of dedicated environmental professionals providing services, expertise, and environmental education to ensure we live in harmony with the habitats in our communities.”

Bechtel earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Grinnell and a master’s in botany from the University of Vermont. An avid outdoorsmen, he enjoys birding, hiking, and cross country skiing. He lives in Bennington, Vermont.