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Deeohn Ferris, JD, is President and Founder of Sustainable Community Development Group, a not-for-profit national research and policy innovator dedicated to advancing sustainability and public health through equitable neighborhood development, smart growth and the green economy.

Ms. Ferris is a lawyer whose interdisciplinary career spans government, industry and the public interest.  At US EPA, she directed nationally significant compliance and enforcement litigation.  She served as environmental counsel to the American Insurance Association; and was the first African American senior environmental policy director at the National Wildlife Federation where she was honored with the Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award.  Ms. Ferris is the environmental justice pioneer who launched the Environmental Justice Project for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law where she provided counsel on novel legal cases and helped to convene the first-ever Congressional House and Senate environmental justice hearings.  While there, she led the groundbreaking national campaign that resulted in the federal call-to-action Presidential Executive Order 12898, the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and the federal Inter-Agency Workgroup.  Next, she established the Washington Office on Environmental Justice which provided representation in the nation’s capital and the United Nations for a multi-racial international grassroots coalition.

Ms. Ferris has extraordinary experience advocating on behalf of and working with communities in countries on 5 continents.  She has lectured and worked in China, Turkey, South Africa, Nepal, India, Bolivia, Mexico, Brazil, Fiji, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the US and throughout North America.  Her work spans critical public policy issues that range from managing the Exxon Valdez natural resources damages litigation, to publishing a national biotechnology newsletter, The Gene Exchange, to training judges and lawyers from nations in Southeast Asia, to advising NGOs at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa; the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre Brazil; and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She is a nationally recognized equitable development proponent and provider of public policy expertise and technical assistance that tackles sustainability in under-resourced and low wealth neighborhoods.  She was on the ground floor of enacting the 2002 federal brownfields law; providing expert Congressional testimony that leveraged community support for the nation’s premier land revitalization statute.  Since 2010, she has served on the national planning committees for the annual federal New Partners for Smart Growth conferences and the biennial federal Brownfields conferences. She represents Sustainable Community Development Group as a member of the national Smart Growth Network.

In 2013, Ms. Ferris was the very first recipient of the National Association of Local Government Environmental Professionals’ Environmental Justice Award. Her public service involves numerous appointments including the US EPA Advisory Committee that drafted All Appropriate Inquiry, the national environmental due diligence regulation; the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology; the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences Advisory Committee; and the US Department of Energy Citizens’ Monitoring and Technical Assessment Fund.  Ms. Ferris was a peer reviewer for US EPA’s RCRA Subtitle C Definition of Solid Waste Regulation.  She was also Vice Chair of the American Bar Association’s Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Ecosystems Committee; and a National Smart Growth Awards review panelist from 2008-2010 and in 2013.

Environmental Justice Pioneer Deeohn Ferris Joins the National Audubon Society As Vice President for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

NEW YORK—Today, the National Audubon Society announced the appointment of Deeohn Ferris, J.D., as vice president for equity, diversity and inclusion at the venerable conservation organization. Ferris is a pioneer in the environmental justice field, with extensive experience in law and policy. She has worked on community regeneration with federal agencies, governments, foundations, communities of color, low income, and tribal and indigenous organizations in the United States and countries on five continents.

“My definition of equity is community building and inclusive community engagement in planning, decisions and investments that broaden pathways and access to environmental benefits and opportunities,” said Ferris. “I am thrilled to contribute to the work that Audubon is doing to build a more equitable and inclusive conservation movement and to make strides together to strengthen and build on this progress. Every community is entitled to a healthy environment, to the beneficial effects of birds and nature, and the ability to impact decisions about their lives and places.”

“Equity, diversity and inclusion are core values and strategic imperatives for Audubon, and Deeohn Ferris brings a truly formidable set of skills, accomplishments, and relationships,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “What we do is what matters, and Deeohn’s decades of work at the intersection of equality and environmental issues makes her a natural fit to lead Audubon’s efforts. She is a doer with a remarkable track record of success in broadening equity and inclusion.”

Ferris comes to Audubon from her position as president and founder of Sustainable Community Development Group, a not-for-profit national research and public-policy social venture enterprise. She has been a thought leader for equity and inclusion throughout her career, fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders and across interdisciplinary sectors. Ferris began her career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She served as counsel to the American Insurance Association and was the first African-American senior policy office director at the National Wildlife Federation. After that, she launched the Environmental Justice Project for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Ferris is recognized for her success in building complex coalitions with a wide variety of community, governmental, nonprofit, philanthropic and private sector leaders. She has over 20 years of expertise in groundbreaking environmental advocacy, rooted in her leadership of the landmark national campaign that resulted in the federal Presidential Environmental Justice Executive Order 12898. Ferris capitalized on this momentum by establishing the Washington Office on Environmental Justice representing hundreds of communities and faith leaders in the United Nations, Congress and other legislative bodies.

Ferris will lead equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives across Audubon’s 700-person staff, board of directors, 1.1 million members, 463 local chapters and more than 60 local and regional advisory boards.

Audubon’s statement on equity, diversity, and inclusion reads in part:

“Just as biodiversity strengthens natural systems, the diversity of human experience strengthens our conservation efforts for the benefit of nature and all human beings. Audubon must represent and reflect that human diversity, embracing it in all the communities where we work, in order to achieve our conservation goals. To that end, we are committed to increasing the diversity of our staff, board, volunteers, members and supporters, and to fostering an inclusive network of Audubon centers and chapters in all kinds of communities, from rural to urban.”

Ferris will join Audubon August 1, 2017, and will be based in Washington, D.C., reporting to Chief Network Officer David J. Ringer.

The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more and how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.


Contact: Nicolas Gonzalez, ngonzalez@audubon.org, 212-979-3068.