This is post 1 of 2 in "Advocating for Our Environment by Engaging with Our Government."
Engaging with government processes can be daunting, especially if we don't understand all of the opportunities and tools available to us. But it's imperative that we use our power as citizens of a constitutional republic to speak up for wildlife and wildlands across the continent. In this series, you'll learn about why advocating for our environment matters and how to effectively engage with our government to effect change. You'll also learn about local opportunities to take action for the wild creatures and places we all love. All posts in this series…
After the recent mid-term elections, several staff members here at Wildlands Network were reflecting on how we as citizens can engage with and influence government and agency decisions that impact environmental regulations on the ground. We talked about voting in local, state, and federal elections, but we also noted several other ways we can engage with decision-makers and influence how our government—at all levels—operates, and ultimately how our society moves forward.
We realized, however, that others might not understand all of the opportunities to engage with local, state, and federal governments that we work with every day as environmental advocates. At Wildlands Network, we often send out “e-alerts” that ask you to sign petitions, write comments, or contact legislators, and we take it for granted that others understand that lingo and why it matters to engage in this way.
After some thought, we decided we could provide some more insight about why these actions matter, as well as more in-depth explanations and examples of how you can influence decisions that impact both the environment we live in and depend on and how our society moves forward. And so we bring you a blog post series about the importance of involvement in environmental advocacy.
In this series, we will not touch on every possible opportunity citizens have to engage with government and agencies, but we will talk about the main advocacy opportunities that we usually pass on to you as wildlife and wildlands supporters. We will also provide some specific and timely actions you can take in several areas around the country. We hope this helps and encourages you to join us in making our voices heard in the months and year ahead.
Why Should We Participate?
Have you ever seen a social media post, read a newspaper story, or heard a headline on TV that makes you think, “Why are they doing that?” Do you find yourself listing ways you would do it differently or why that particular story makes you angry, sad, happy, or encouraged? Have you ever wondered if there was a way to let someone else know your thoughts, rather than talking to your TV or newspaper or yourself? Do you think your ideas, concerns, questions, or thoughts can actually help move a process forward?
One way to make change happen is to start engaging in the process of change.
One way to make change happen is to start engaging in the process of change. Some of the most influential and historical changes in our country—even if the general public doesn’t realize it—have come down to active and engaged citizens who voice their concerns or educate others about what they think about a law, an agency action, or a local issue.
We can become active citizens by participating in our local communities and with our government processes through a variety of activities, including volunteering or writing letters. But all of our participation, no matter its form, will be taken into account (even if we don’t think so), and we can move the needle toward change.
The consequence of non-participation is that other people who do participate will make and form societal norms, the laws you abide by, and the community you live in. If it concerns you that others will increasingly influence how and where you live, then participation in our government processes is key in helping shape the world in which you live. We are fortunate to live in a society that encourages our participation in a variety of ways.
Ways We Can Participate
As we move through our brief blog post series, we will take an in-depth look at the ways we can engage with our agencies and government. We encourage you to join us in these actions.
Here’s a brief list of ways we can influence and engage with our government. We will explore some of these topics in more depth in later blog posts, so stay tuned!
- Voting in local, state, and federal elections
- Commenting on local, state, and federal projects
- Signing petitions
- Attending public meetings
- Meeting with agency personnel
- Contacting local, state, and federal legislators
- Volunteering to sit on committees and councils
- Educating others through letters to the editor or other informative posts
Putting Our Words Into Action
In a few weeks, we have an opportunity in Washington state to engage in a public open house to voice our concerns about the state of Washington wildlife. The Washington Department Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently hired a new director, Kelly Susewind. To allow the new director an opportunity to discuss the agency’s long-term plans with the public, and to encourage more public engagement, the WDFW has been holding public open houses around Washington. To date, the agency has held 5 listening session from Spokane to Southwest Washington. The last meeting is scheduled for December 12 at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery Watershed Science Center.
WDFW has said they plan to address several specific topics at the open house events, including a brief overview of the agency’s work in the state, a summary of the agency’s budget and policy proposals, and how to better address the long-term issues facing Washington’s fish and wildlife.
We are encouraging the public to attend this event to voice concerns about the issues facing Washington’s fish and wildlife. To help the public prepare and to learn about issues facing Washington wildlife, Wildlands Network is co-hosting “Wildlife for All” prior to the meeting on December 12. We encourage you all to come to the event to learn more about Washington’s wildlife and then stay for WDFW’s open house to voice your concerns, questions, or comments to Director Susewind.
We will be writing a short piece about this event in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more information on the Wildlife for All event, as well as how to effectively engage with our state agencies in the open house. If you cannot make the meeting in person, we encourage you to write the Department a comment with your concerns. You can also send us your comments, and we will submit those comments on your behalf to the Director at the meeting on December 12.
Join Us In Our Work for the Wild
We encourage you all to join us in raising your voice for our environment and wildlife. We also encourage you to engage with us and ask us how we can help you make your voice heard. If you have questions or want to know about a specific topic as we move through our short blog post series, we encourage you to reach out to us to ask your questions. We want to amplify our messages and bring our voices together to make a stronger impact in 2019. We hope you will join us in our work for the wild!
More posts from Advocating for Our Environment by Engaging with Our Government
- Shaping Our Environment by Engaging with Our Government, November 30, 2018
- Advocacy in the Digital Age: Using Technology to Defend the Wild, December 10, 2018