The Audubon Society of the District of Columbia was founded on 18 May 1897 "...for the protection and study of birds..." The original by-laws placed governing authority for the Society in a fifteen member Executive Committee which supervised the election of officers, appointed committees, managed finances, and arranged for publications and meetings. Officers of the Society included a President, Honorary Vice-Presidents, a Secretary, and a Treasurer. When the Society was incorporated in 1947, new by-laws were instituted which abolished the Executive Committee and replaced it with an annually elected Board of Directors. In December 1959, the name of the Society was changed to the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States, Inc. (ANS). In 1969, the Society moved into its headquarters at Woodend, a thirty room mansion on forty acres of land in Chevy Chase, Maryland, which was bequeathed to ANS by Mrs. Chester Wells. The Atlantic Naturalist, the Society's official organ, was published from 1950 to 1976. In 1976, Audubon Naturalist News became the primary ANS publication.
Although the Society was founded "for the protection and study of birds," it has been active in all areas of wildlife protection, the preservation of natural areas, and pollution control. The Society has lobbied for environmental legislation, promoted environmental education, and disseminated environmental information through its publication program. Conservation efforts of the Society have included blocking the construction of highways along the C & O Canal and through Rock Creek and Glover-Archbold parks; the preservation of Dyke Marsh in Virginia; assistance in the formation of the Potomac Valley Conservation and Recreation Council; and the protection of bald and golden eagles.