Voices for Nature

Maryland/DC staff and trustees joined colleagues from across the country on Capitol Hill to advocate for nature.

By Mollie Byron on July 05, 2017

Six months into my pregnancy, you might not think that a day crisscrossing Capitol Hill in the famous D.C., summer heat would be my idea of a good time. Yet, once again, Advocacy Day proved to be one of my favorite days of the year.

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Maryland/DC staff and trustees, Advocacy Day 2017.  Photo © The Nature Conservancy

Every June, the Nature Conservancy’s volunteer leaders from all 50 states converge on Washington, D.C., to fill the halls of Congress and raise awareness about the critical policies that fuel our conservation outcomes.

This Advocacy Day, representatives from the Conservancy held meetings with over 250 members of the House and Senate. Amidst the flurry of legislative activity over health care, immigration, and other issues in Congress, our job was to give a voice to nature – to remind our elected officials of the importance of a future where both people and nature thrive.

Our Maryland/DC Chapter Trustees did not disappoint. The commitment of these volunteer leaders is so inspiring and one of the many reasons I love my job.

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Congressman Anthony Brown with staff and trustees from Maryland/DC.  Photo © The Nature Conservancy

This year, eight Maryland/DC trustees participated in Advocacy Day – our largest group yet and a true testament to the critical role that policy plays in our conservation success.

We met with Congressman Anthony Brown and staff from the offices of Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator Ben Cardin, and Congressman Jamie Raskin.  We talked about the Conservancy’s work in Maryland and asked for their support as champions for important programs such as the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Our trustees shared their personal stories about why they choose to be volunteer leaders with the Conservancy and how federal policies that support our work are so critical. In each meeting, we heard from Members and staff that they are fighting hard to protect the funding and policies needed for a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay watershed.

But don’t take it from me. We asked our Trustees to describe their Advocacy Day experience during Facebook Live interviews conducted from the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill:  

"We’re seeing democracy truly at work. It’s great to work with our Senators and Representatives who are remarkably well informed and have a lot of respect for what the Conservancy does. The meetings go very smoothly because we're viewed as a positive player and people who help them do their job."

– Dr. Chris Earl

"I love being able to talk directly to our Representatives and Senators and their staff. Their staff is highly trained and you can tell they are interested in and on our side. We actually ran into a Senator from Delaware, who I’m sure is an advocate for the Conservancy, and he wanted to get a picture with us."

- Amy Boebel

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Maryland/DC staff and trustees with Senator Tom Carper of Delaware.  Photo © The Nature Conservancy

"The interesting thing is they understand that the Conservancy is a science-based organization that has both a grassroots network as well as a global reach. They’re actually soliciting information as well as data that helps support some of the initiatives that we believe in and that they support on the Hill."

– Esko Korhonen

"One of things that’s great about the Conservancy is that while we work here in Maryland and DC, we also work in Delaware and around the world."

- Mark Collins

I am already looking forward to next year when our meetings will no doubt be just as successful but the Capitol steps will be a bit easier to climb without my baby bump.

See more highlights from Advocacy Day in Storify: Voices for Nature.

Categories: Policy, Government Relations, Volunteerism

Mollie Byron is the Director of State and Federal Government Relations for the Maryland/DC chapter.  She is based in Bethesda, MD.

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