For the Birds

Jane AlexanderJane Alexander is best known for her on-screen and on-stage performances. She has won two Emmys, a Tony Award (for The Great White Hope) and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. Though she has made her name in films like Kramer vs. Kramer, All the President’s Men, The Cider House Rules and The Ring, she’s committed to a new cause—the plight of the nation’s birds. Alexander has teamed up with the National Audubon Society, American Birding Association and American Bird Conservancy to raise awareness about the dangers of drilling and other threats to our winged friends.

E Magazine: What led to your interest in protecting birds?

Jane Alexander: In the early seventies, I began to see that the birds came back every year—they considered the place that I lived in the country in Putnam County, New York, to be their home. It’s their home as well as mine and my husband’s and our family’s, so I better start safeguarding where they live.

E: What roles do you serve with the National Audubon Society and the American Birding Association?

J.A.: With the National Audubon Society, I’m on the Women in Conservation Council. I’m on the board for the American Birding Association. And the Audubon has a new partnership with Bird Life International and I am on the stewardship council of that.

E: How will Arctic drilling impact birds?

J.A.: Arctic drilling is very problematic for the birds in the Arctic and particularly the recent leases that have the possibility of being drilled off the coast of Alaska. We have millions of migratory birds from all over the world coming to breed in the Arctic. Should there be a spill, it would be very difficult to clean up, particularly if there was ice in the area because nobody knows how to clean up an ice spill. Many of the birds could be deeply affected. Not only would they get oiled feathers and probably die, but their habitat would be affected because a lot of the habitat is sometimes wet or very damp, and it could impact the ocean coming in and the rivers and the lakes. It’s not just the shore birds that live up there, but raptors that breed in the river habitats and along the ocean cliffs, and the drilling will upset them deeply.

E: How are you raising awareness about the need to protect the Arctic and its birds?

J.A.: I wrote a blog on the Huffington Post. I do things like that and because I’m on these conservation councils of the Audubon and American Bird Conservancy, I’m always trying to work with these organizations and the Natural Resources Defense Council as well, which takes the big guys to court. I try to support them financially, I try to support them when they send letters to members of Congress or to corporations and I try to get the message out myself in whatever way I can.

E: How has your work with the Audubon Society impacted your life choices?

J.A.: I live in a pretty remarkable area of Nova Scotia, the southwest, which is quite pristine and has a lot of migratory birds passing through. So I make sure that just on our own land and property, that we don’t do anything that might impact the migrants negatively. And, of course, the ones that live here as well.

E: What is next for you as an actress?

J.A.: Well, you know, I don’t know. Probably the next thing will be something in film or in television. I do have a film that I did last November in Europe that will be coming out this coming year that is called Mr. Morgan’s Last Love with Michael Kane.