Originally published in 2014 and revised in 2022, the CAN Policy Toolkit provides TWS members, and in particular those engaged within the Conservation Affairs Network, with guidance and knowledge regarding policy advocacy. With this understanding, TWS members will be better able to engage in the policy arena and do their part to advance the mission of TWS.
You do not have to be an experienced advocate to be effective. This toolkit will provide you with a basic knowledge of the policy process and advocacy techniques to ensure you are ready to effectively engage and make the voice of wildlife professionals heard.
For questions or comments regarding the policy toolkit, contact:
TWS Conservation Affairs Network Fellow
(301) 897-9770 ext 332
Content summaries for the Toolkit can be found by expanding the tabs below. You can also view and download individual sections of the Toolkit by opening the “Section Overview” tabs.
The mission of The Wildlife Society is to inspire, empower, and enable wildlife professionals to sustain wildlife populations and habitats through science-based management and conservation. The Society works toward that mission, in part, by engaging in the policy arena to ensure wildlife-related policies enacted by governmental agencies and legislatures are scientifically-based and further the wildlife profession’s objective of conservation.
The Wildlife Society has long been engaged in the policy arena. TWS Bylaws were revised in 1957 to permit Council the authority to develop resolutions on wildlife policy concerns. Staff at TWS has been involved in tracking wildlife legislation at the federal level since 1972. The membership approved the hiring of the Society’s first Policy Director in 1991. These actions laid the foundation for what has now become the Government Affairs program.
The Government Affairs program has a primary objective of ensuring that wildlife professionals and the knowledge they provide, play an active role in the formation of wildlife management and conservation policies, laws, and regulations, thereby ensuring that these are scientifically-based and practical. Part of the process for achieving this goal is engaging our membership in policy issues – at the national, regional, and local scales.
Policy activities and initiatives pursued by TWS and our members are grounded in wildlife science. We utilize the vast scientific knowledge and expertise within our membership to write letters, submit comments, and otherwise advocate on behalf of all wildlife professionals and advance the goal of the wildlife profession – the conservation of our wildlife resources.
This policy toolkit is intended to provide our TWS members, and in particular those engaged within the Conservation Affairs Network, with some guidance and knowledge regarding policy advocacy. With this understanding, our members will be better able to engage in the policy arena and do their part to advance the mission of TWS.
It is our hope to periodically add to and revise the information in this document to make it most useful to our membership. If you have suggestions for content, or any questions about engaging in policy activities or the Conservation Affairs Network with your TWS Chapter or Section, please contact TWS Government Affairs staff at email@example.com.
This toolkit will provide you with a basic knowledge of the policy process and advocacy techniques to ensure you are ready to effectively engage and make the voice of wildlife professionals heard.
Several sections of the first edition of this guide were adapted from the CHADD Advocacy Manual, with additional perspectives from TWS Government Affairs staff and multiple other sources.
Section 1: Conservation Affairs Network Framework
The Conservation Affairs Network engages and unifies the efforts of The Wildlife Society, its 200+ units, and over 15,000 members to advance wildlife conservation policy issues at the national, regional, and local levels. Learn more about the CAN and ways you and your TWS unit can get involved.
Download Section 1 of the CAN Policy Toolkit
Increasing the Society’s effectiveness in wildlife conservation policy through communication and collaboration
The Conservation Affairs Network engages and unifies the efforts of The Wildlife Society, its 200+ units, and more than 15,000 professional wildlife biologists, managers, and educators dedicated to excellence in wildlife stewardship.
The Network creates a venue for streamlined communication, collaboration, and cooperation on policy matters important to wildlife professionals. This initiative gives wildlife professionals an effective method for bringing their valuable and crucial perspectives into the policy process, to impact decisions made by legislatures and agencies for the betterment of wildlife conservation, the wildlife profession, and TWS members.
The Network operates through Conservation Affairs Committees (CACs) established within TWS Sections and Chapters. These committees are charged with identifying and addressing policy priorities within their region, and communicating their activities and policy needs to other CACs and TWS Staff. CACs and TWS staff support each other in their policy activities, lending experience and expertise to enhance efforts.
Through the Conservation Affairs Network, you have the strength and support of TWS’ entire network of wildlife professionals behind you in order to promote policies that are soundly based in the scientific understandings and principles of wildlife ecology.
You can become involved in the Conservation Affairs Network by contacting your TWS Chapter or Section Conservation Affairs Committee (CAC) or Executive Board. If your unit does not yet have a Conservation Affairs Committee, you can learn more about establishing a new CAC in Section 1.2.
Conservation Affairs Committees within TWS Sections and Chapters help maximize unit members’ expertise and efforts when advocating for wildlife policy. The success and effectiveness of the Conservation Affairs Network rely on the integration and activities of Conservation Affairs Committees within TWS Sections and Chapters.
In Chapter 1.2, you'll find more information on:
- The roles and responsibilities of CACs within TWS Sections and Chapters
- Guidance on establishing a new CAC
- Suggested roles for CAC Chairs, Co-Chairs, and members depending on the interests and priorities of your CAC
Engagement is key to the strength of the Conservation Affairs Network and is what makes this initiative effective. Through regular communication, we are able to leverage the strength, expert knowledge, and policy experiences of other CACs and wildlife professionals across the entire TWS membership.
In Chapter 1.3, you'll find information on:
- Guidance on how to maintain regular communications between your CAC members, TWS unit members, and TWS Government Affairs staff
- Document sharing and editing techniques for producing effective position statements, letters, comments, etc.
- File sharing and digital workspace program recommendations to facilitate CAC operations
- Suggestions for engaging broader unit membership in CAC activities
- Suggestions for promoting student member and Student Chapter engagement with CACs
Section 2: Policy Engagement for the Wildlife Professional
Policy-makers need to hear from the experts – and when it comes to managing wildlife, that is you. This section outlines the basic information you need to know about engaging in policy and how to be successful.
Download Section 2 of the CAN Policy Toolkit
Engaging in policy advocacy can often be an intimidating concept. It is not unusual to feel a bit anxious or nervous about the idea of asserting your opinion to those individuals who make big decisions that impact our country every day. You might think, “Why should they listen to me?”
Chapter 2.1 addresses some of the common concerns voiced by wildlife professionals engaging with policy for the first time, with suggestions on how to combat these concerns and effectively advocate for science-based decision making.
There are some basic rules for how you as a wildlife professional can enhance your advocacy efforts. Chapter 2.2 outlines 6 rules for success in policy engagement.
The involvement of Conservation Affairs Committees and TWS members in policy engagement will depend on the specific charge and goals established by a Chapter or Section's Executive Board, and/or the CAC's Terms of Reference. Generally speaking, issues that 1) involve the ability of wildlife professionals to conduct their work, 2) impact wildlife populations, 3) impact wildlife habitats, or 4) impact how wildlife or their habitats are managed by an agency may warrant your committee’s involvement.
Chapter 2.3 provides in-depth information on:
- Defining, establishing, and prioritizing your CAC's policy priorities
- Adapting TWS' policy priorities to regional needs
- Creating policy priorities that are effective and actionable
There will almost certainly be policy issues that come to the attention of your CAC that fall outside defined policy priorities. Chapter 2.4 provides suggestions on when it may be appropriate to engage (or not engage) with these issues, and recommendations for how to make that engagement effective.
Lobbying is an attempt to influence legislation, including bills, referenda, and Constitutional amendments. In the United States, nonprofit organizations like TWS and our organization units are legally allowed to lobby. However, we must remain within certain restrictions in order to maintain our tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status designated by the IRS.
Chapter 2.5 provides information on lobbying for nonprofits, including:
- Definitions of direct and indirect lobbying
- IRS reporting requirements for nonprofit lobbying activities
- Activities that do not qualify as lobbying
- Where to find restrictions around lobbying for charitable organizations in Canada
Section 3: Take Action on Policy
There are many ways to take action on policy or legislation development, but it all starts with a clear, consistent, and concise message crafted for the right audience. Section 3 gives you guidelines on how to use your knowledge and experiences to have maximum influence.
Download Section 3 of the CAN Policy Toolkit
Effective policy engagement starts with a clear, consistent, and concise message crafted for the right audience. The guidelines in Chapter 3.1 will help you craft your message for maximum impact.
Meeting your legislators or agency administrators can be an extremely effective method of advocacy, but requires careful planning to maximize your time with decision makers. Chapter 3.2 provides detailed information concerning:
- Benefits of meetings with decision makers
- How to arrange and prepare for in-person and virtual meetings
- What to expect from your meeting, and how to successfully deliver your "ask"
Writing a letter is an efficient and effective way of delivering your message to influence legislators, agency administrators, or other decision makers. Chapter 3.3 provides information to help you create effective letters on policy issues. Guidance on engaging with sign-on letters and Letters to the Editor is also covered in Chapter 3.3.
Press releases provide an avenue for your unit and your partners to share information with the broader public by sending a concise readout on an issue to members of the media for reporting purposes. Chapter 3.4 provides considerations for when it's appropriate for a unit to issue a press release, as well as tips for constructing effective press releases.
Phone calls provide individual members the ability to affect change without the added time or expense of setting up and attending a meeting. They're an excellent way to engage your unit's members in policy activities. Chapter 3.5 provides tips for successful phone calls, as well as a template call script that can be adapted to any policy issue you're currently engaging with.
Wildlife professionals have the opportunity to ensure that the best possible science and their firsthand experiences are accounted for in rules affecting wildlife by participating in the commenting process associated with rulemaking at the state and federal levels. Chapter 3.6 includes background information on the phases of rulemaking and how to tailor comments to those phases. This chapter also includes suggestions on how to maximize the effectiveness of your comments and engage other members in your CAC and/or TWS organization unit in the commenting process.
Section 4: Developing Policy Resources
TWS and TWS organization units have a responsibility as scientific societies for professional wildlife managers and conservationists to address issues that affect the current and future status of wildlife. Section 4 provides guidance on how to develop authoritative resources to support your policy actions.
Download Section 4 of the CAN Policy Toolkit
TWS and TWS organization units have a responsibility as scientific societies for professional wildlife managers and conservationists to address issues that affect the current and future of wildlife. The diligent development of authoritative, science-based statements on wildlife issues is essential for interjecting wildlife concerns into decision-making processes. Position statements issued by TWS and TWS organization units fill part of this role.
Chapter 4.1 provides more information on when TWS Sections and Chapters are authorized to develop their own position statements, as well as a basic overview of the information that should be contained in a position statement.
Fact sheets are communication tools used by TWS staff, organization units, and members to educate decision-makers and other stakeholders on wildlife conservation issues - particularly those tied to current policy and/or management debates.
Sections and Chapters can develop their own fact sheets to elaborate on key issues relevant to their specific region or on issues that are not being covered by current TWS fact sheets.
In Chapter 4.2 you'll find information including:
- Guidelines for fact sheet development
- Content areas to include in fact sheets
- Suggested tools and software for creating visually-appealing fact sheets
- Guidance on how and when to distribute fact sheets in support of your policy actions
The TWS Policy Library is available to all TWS members through their membership portal or via the policy resources tab on TWS’ website. It serves as a tool for members to access correspondence on an array of wildlife policy issues. This includes sign-on letters, comments, and testimony issued by TWS, as well as advocacy and engagement documents created by TWS organization units.
Chapter 4.3 provides additional information on how to access and utilize the policy library to effectively support your CAC/unit's policy actions,
The TWS Action Center is a tool occasionally funded and utilized by TWS staff to provide TWS members and wildlife professionals an opportunity to engage with active wildlife policy campaigns. Chapter 4.4 provides a basic overview of how members can engage via the TWS Action Center.
Section 5: Policy Processes & Where to Engage
You do not need an in-depth understanding of legal concepts and jargon, but understanding basic processes is needed to become an effective advocate. Section 5 will provide you with a basic overview of the policy processes and legal frameworks and highlight steps where you can get involved, enabling you to be an effective advocate for wildlife conservation and the wildlife profession.
Download Section 5 of the CAN Policy Toolkit
Chapter 5.1 provides a summary of the typical legislative process in the U.S. (both state and federal) from bill drafting to the signing of bills into law, and makes recommendations for how to best engage during each step of this process.
Chapter 5.2 outlines the process of developing the Federal Budget in the U.S. and provides guidance on how to most effectively engage with the different steps in this process.
Chapter 5.3 provides a comprehensive overview of all relevant federal land management agencies in the U.S. and Canada, including a description of the programs of interest to TWS members and, in the U.S., the Appropriations Committees that oversee funding for each agency.
Chapter 5.4 breaks down the Canadian federal legislative process following the structure of Chapter 5.1 and offers suggestions on how members can effectively engage with the various steps of this process.
Chapter 5.5 provides readers with a step-by-step overview of the process by which Canada's federal budget is developed and approved, as well as guidance on how to tailor engagement for each step in this process.