By: Jacqui Bishop, Oregon Chapter Executive Committee Member
I recently had the privilege of representing the Sierra Club at this year’s Wilderness Week lobbying event in Washington DC. To prepare for the lobby, the Oregon delegation, consisting of myself and other Sierra Club volunteers, Stacey Decker, David Stowe, and the tireless Jill Workman, scheduled meetings with our State’s Senators and House Representatives. On the first day of the Wilderness Week lobby, wilderness activists from environmental nonprofits from around the country joined together at the beautiful offices of the Pew Charitable Trust to hear lobbying tips and tricks from professional consultants, staffers, and federal agency officials. The key message I took away from our training day was to frame your message in a way that aligns with the goals of your elected official and above all to keep the message simple!
On day two we joined our incredible DC based professional Sierra Club lobbyists, Athan, Michael, Matt, and Jenny to meet with individual congressmembers and staffers. In teams of four we shared the Sierra Club message. One person would speak about finding a political vehicle to push the logjam of wilderness bills through the legislative process. Another one of us would talk about adding climate change considerations into the final product of Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, another would speak on finding a political fix to release the $90 million of appropriated funds earmarked for mitigating the devastating effects of the US-Mexico border wall on migration corridors, wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, and private property near the border. Finally, if we were meeting with a Senator then we would ask them to pass the Gulf Oil Spill Response bill that the individuals and environments in our southern states need so badly.
For two days we met with Senators and Representatives, attended congressional receptions, and went on amazing tours of the capitol, senate, and house buildings. One of the Sierra Club’s most supportive Oregon congressman even took the four of us on a once in a lifetime VIP trip to watch the House of Representatives vote!
Going on this lobby was extremely inspiring and educational. The open access to influence political leaders, and the realization of the critical role that constituents and lobbyists play in the flow of information on the hill both reinforced my respect for a democracy responsible for balancing the diverse needs of its many constituents. I look forward to helping the Sierra Club continue this important political work!