Glenn Olson

Glenn Olson has served in the role of the Donal C. O’Brien Chair in Bird Conservation and Public Policy of the National Audubon Society since July 2009. This endowed Chair honors the former chair, and was established when Audubon realigned its field programs to catalyze full life-cycle bird conservation throughout the Western Hemisphere. 

Olson was appointed by Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Council (NAWCA) in 2010 and was reappointed by Secretary Sally Jewell in 2016. He also serves on the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Advisory Council and was on the Blue Ribbon Panel for Sustaining America’s Wildlife, sponsored by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and chaired by former Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.

In a career that has spanned 40 years with the National Audubon Society and prior to serving as the O’Brien Chair, Olson served in a variety of leadership positions including Audubon’s Senior Vice President and Director of Field Programs, responsible for launching a network of 27 state programs across the country. Olson was Executive Director of Audubon CA and helped spearhead a CA Climate Atlas on Birds that was later expanded nationally. Previously Olson was Western Regional Vice President overseeing Audubon’s programs in California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada. He chaired and helped found the Central Valley Waterfowl (now All-Bird) Joint Venture and chaired the CA Dept of Fish and Game’s Raptor Management and Conservation Advisory Council. Olson began his Audubon career in 1976 teaching at the Audubon Camp of the West in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming.

Regarding the National Wildlife Refuge System, Olson’s key initiatives included:

  • Launching the Klamath Basin Bald Eagle Festival (now over 25 years old) that provided key local support to acquire the Bear Valley Bald Eagle Roost of 600 birds as a unit of the NWR;

  • The acquisition of 780-acre Christman Island at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers, which formed the basis of the San Joaquin River NWR when Audubon transferred the site to the USFWS;

  • In Oregon, Audubon helped catalyze the acquisition of the 16,000 acre Nicol Ranch as an addition to the Klamath Forest Marsh NWR;

  • Restoring the 600-acre Upper Beach Lake area that galvanized local support for the Stone Lakes NWR in Sacramento. Also, at this time, Audubon acquired and restored the 850-acre Paul Wattis Waterfowl Sanctuary, which winters upwards of 500,000 waterfowl in the Sacramento Valley.

Olson holds a master’s degree in public health from UCLA and a bachelor of science degree in zoology from UC Santa Barbara. He studied in the Galapagos Islands on a scholarship from the Charles Darwin Research Institute and inventoried Golden Eagle and raptor populations in Southern California as a research assistant at the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology. Olson has received Audubon’s Charles H. Callison Award and the Golden Egret Award in recognition of his conservation achievements.

Olson and his wife Devon have 3 grown children and 9 grandchildren. They are active outdoors people and love to spend time in the saddle, bike riding. Glenn also enjoys bird hunting in the Fall and bird-watching the rest of the year.