TWS lobbies for increased funding for wildlife professionals

By Dani Dagan

©FEMA/Bill Koplitz

The Wildlife Society’s mission – to inspire, empower and enable wildlife professionals – hinges upon securing resources that wildlife professionals need to carry out their work of science-based management and conservation of wildlife populations and habitats. Sometimes carrying out that mission requires rallying together on Capitol Hill to make the needs of wildlife professionals known. That is just what TWS staff and representatives from the Western Section and Minnesota Chapter did last week on behalf of all TWS members.

On March 1-2, the Teaming With Wildlife coalition hosted its annual fly-in event to advocate for continuing funding of State and Tribal Wildlife Grants. The president’s budget request for fiscal year 2017 included an increase in funding for the program, which supports state and tribal wildlife agencies and the implementation of Wildlife Action Plans, but Congress must agree with the request in order to see it enacted. That is where the Teaming With Wildlife Fly-In comes in. Nearly 100 wildlifers from across the country assembled in Washington last week to meet with members of Congress and promote increased funding for this essential program.

As a Teaming With Wildlife steering committee member, TWS worked closely with the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies to put together a valuable event and an effective campaign. The first day of the fly-in was packed with tips and discussion on successful lobbying and messaging. In an introductory session, Joshua Saks from the National Wildlife Federation reminded the soon-to-be-lobbyists to be sincere, lose the jargon, and tell their personal stories of wildlife work.

TWS Government Affairs Associate Caroline Murphy helped facilitate break-out groups where participants discussed key talking points and practiced their pitches in preparation for meetings with Congressional representatives. The following day they would be on Capitol Hill, speaking with decision makers, and taking an important step toward securing funding for wildlife professionals.

Keith Norris, TWS’ Director of Government Affairs & Partnerships and Associate Wildlife Biologist®, reminded the group that following up after a meeting is a critical element for success. “The meetings we have during the fly-in are just the start of the conversation. To really be effective in generating long-term support for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program and dedicated wildlife conservation funding in the future, we must build strong relationships with our congressional offices.”

Along with the entire Government Affairs & Partnerships team from the TWS office in Bethesda, Maryland, representatives from TWS sections and chapters traveled to Washington to participate. Drawing upon the Conservation Affairs Network, TWS was made stronger by joint involvement of the Western Section, Minnesota Chapter and headquarters staff.

“It’s critical for wildlife professionals to participate in legislative activities, otherwise the message that policy makers receive is filtered,” said Cynthia Perrine, TWS Western Section Representative. “The Western Section Executive Board recognizes the value to our members of having an active voice in policy decisions, and encourages direct participation.”

Overall, members of Congress responded positively to both State and Tribal Wildlife Grants and the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish & Wildlife Resources’ recommendation, the release of which was set to coincide with the fly-in.

“Keeping common species common, which is the theme of our coalition’s campaign, is a message that appeals to diverse audiences — sportsmen, business, outdoor recreationists and wildlife biologists alike,” Norris said. “We are feeling really good about the progress that was made last week on behalf of wildlife professionals and the resources they strive to manage and conserve.”

Dani Dagan is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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