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August 11, 2019

Every year, Congress recesses for the month of August. This time of year allows members of Congress to head back to their home states and meet with constituents. They want to hear from residents (i.e., constituents) about issues that matter to them.

For many of us at the Coalition, these are issues pertaining to our national parks and public lands. We spend a lot of time fighting against troubling policies and proposals that will have a negative impact on our irreplaceable natural and cultural resources. But there are also issues out there that will benefit our parks and our communities – and it’s important to speak to your member of Congress about these important issues. Need an example? How about full funding for the recently (and permanently) reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

LWCF was created by Congress in 1964 as a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreational opportunities to all Americans. It is our nation’s primary source for preserving nationally significant public lands, and for providing recreational opportunities in local communities throughout our nation.

Every single state in America has benefited from LWCF. It not only helps to preserve our irreplaceable natural and cultural resources and support our access to the outdoors, it also serves as an investment in our economy; outdoor recreation, conservation, and historic preservation activities contribute more than a trillion dollars annually to the U.S. economy.

Back in March, President Trump signed into law a public lands package that, permanently reauthorized LWCF. While we celebrated the permanent reauthorization of LWCF and congratulated our Congressional representatives, the celebration didn’t last long. Only a few weeks later, the Trump Administration released their FY 2020 budget proposal, which includes a 14.9% cut to the National Park Service (NPS) budget when compared to the budget passed by Congress for FY 2019. It not only undermines the ability of the NPS to ensure that our precious natural and cultural resources are protected and preserved, it also virtually eliminates LWCF, by slashing the federal portion of LWCF from $156 million down to just $7.6 million.

The permanent reauthorization of LWCF is an empty victory without appropriate levels of funding. If Congress truly values its natural resources, hallowed battlefields, historic homes, community ballparks, hiking trails, and pristine forests, then it must fully fund LWCF. We are fighting to ensure LWCF receives full funding, but we need your help to ensure our voice is heard.

August recess provides a great opportunity to undertake some advocacy, especially on behalf of LWCF. It’s a good time to pop into your representative’s local office or attend a town hall near your hometown. But if you’re not up for an in-person event, there are other ways you can reach out to your members of Congress. Here are three ways you can make a difference:

  1. Call your senator or representative’s office

Calling your senator or representative’s office is an effective way to ensure that your voice is heard. Don’t be surprised when your senator or representative does not personally answer the phone– they rely on their staff to field calls and talk to constituents. They’ll pass along your message.

To find your representative or senator’s phone number, visit their website (House) (Senate). Or, you can call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected to the DC office.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for the call:

  1. Introduce yourself and include where you are from.
  2. Make the phone call personal and mention your experience as a former NPS employee and Coalition member.
  3. Ask your member of Congress to take action. Be clear. E.g. “I want Congressmember/Senator X to support full funding for the land and water conservation fund in the appropriations process”
  4. Be polite and honest.
  5. Thank the person you are speaking to for their time.
  1. Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor are usually written in direct response to an article or editorial. They are printed on the editorial page, a popular page with readers which is helpful for reaching out into the community. Letters to the editor are also more likely to get published than an op-ed and can be published in a quicker turnaround time.

A few tips:

  1. Research submission deadlines and guidelines.
  2. Identify yourself as a Coalition member and clarify your expertise as a former NPS employee.
  3. Be clear, concise, and include a call to action at the end, e.g. “Congressmember/Senator X should support full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the upcoming appropriations process.”
  4. Be persistent and follow-up after submission.
  1. District drop by or meeting

While more difficult than sending them a letter, visiting your members of Congress, or their staff, face-to-face, is the most effective way to influence them.

Individuals and groups can arrange personal meetings with senators and representatives either in their Washington offices or in their local offices at various times during the year. To find out when your senator or representative will be in their local office, you can:

  • Call their local office
  • Check their website (House) (Senate)
  • Get on their mailing list

As with making a phone call or writing a letter, make sure you identify yourself as a former NPS employee and Coalition member. And make sure you are fully prepared with information about your representative or senator and his or her position on LWCF.

We’d love to hear your stories. Did you set-up a meeting? Meet with one of your members of Congress? Please let us know! And if you’d like help preparing for your meeting, please reach out to us at ed****@pr********.org. We’d be happy to provide background information or talking points. And you can find more information and advice on our website, including our advocacy toolkit.