There has never been a better time to develop a relationship with your local elected official. You can start by setting up an in-district meeting with your Congressman or State Senator or Assemblymember. These visits are an effective way to influence your representative and voice your concerns about birds. According to a 2017 survey by the Congressional Management Foundation, 94% of congressional staff say in-person visits had a lot or some influence on a lawmaker who was undecided on an issue. Elected officials want to hear how their decisions affect their constituents.
Federal and congressional efforts to weaken environmental laws motivated Mt. Diablo Audubon Society’s Legislative Action Committee to set up a meeting with Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D – District 11). On Tuesday, seven of us met with the Congressman and Jessica Angulo, a District Representative, in his Walnut Creek office.
Prior to our meeting, we went over a checklist from Audubon on how to prepare and conduct a meeting with elected officials. We divided responsibilities and decided who would speak on each environmental issue. We also prepared a “leave behind” handout detailing our federal policy priorities. A template can be found here.
Mt. Diablo Audubon’s greatest concern is that the Administration and Republican-controlled Congress will chip away at the Endangered Species Act to remove all protections of vulnerable species and allow development of critical habitat. There are currently five bills pending in Congress to reduce the Act’s effectiveness.
We asked for advice on how to oppose plans like the expansion of offshore oil drilling in California and how to protect our National Monuments and Marine Sanctuaries. Rep. DeSaulnier told us to persist, “Pushing back works,” he said.
We also discussed the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, mentioning that of the more than 650 species of North American breeding birds, more than half are migratory. Rep. DeSaulnier noted that these birds are undocumented, a comparison we appreciated in light of current immigration proposals.
We ended the meeting by thanking Rep. DeSaulnier and Ms. Angulo for their time and invited them to join us for a bird walk in the district. Congressman DeSaulnier said “We’ll do that!” and seemed genuinely excited about accompanying our chapter on a local field trip. We also made sure to take a picture with the Congressman to share via social media and our newsletter.
After our meeting, we huddled briefly to discuss next steps and ways to improve for the next meeting. Borrowing a template created by Marjorie Powell from Golden Gate Audubon, we created a personalized thank you card to send to Rep. DeSaulnier. Feel free to customize this for your needs.
If you would like to learn more about how to set up and conduct a meeting with your elected officials, please join us for a webinar on Tuesday, August 22nd at noon. Let us know you are joining by RSVP’ing here.
Advocating for birds is fun, rewarding and a great way to get to know your elected officials and become more involved in your community. We look forward to hearing about your experiences and hope to see many of our Congressman and elected officials out on a bird walk soon!