UMaine’s Student Chapter contributed to historic progress for RAWA during the last Congress

A UMaine event supporting Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is an example of how students can take action

It is a new year for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, but the goal remains the same.

This landmark bill, which is awaiting reintroduction as a new session of Congress gets underway, would provide $1.4 billion to state and Tribal conservation efforts annually for the at-risk species that need it most. In order to accomplish getting this landmark legislation through Congress, it will take a community wide effort from wildlife professionals, students, and other supporters outside of the natural resources realm.

With this sentiment in mind, when RAWA was still up for consideration in late 2022 UMaine students took action in support of the bill. As part of a collaborative effort between the University of Maine’s Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and members of the Maine Chapter of The Wildlife Society, the students organized a table with information on RAWA in the school’s student union.

Organization for the event began in November 2022. Interested students met virtually with a goal of producing an informative event for other UMaine students and staff to learn about the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. The hope was to inform and inspire others to help get the landmark conservation legislation passed.

Volunteers talk to interested students and faculty Credit: Kyle Smelter

In preparation for the tabling event, the students utilized TWS’ Recovering America’s Wildlife Act social media toolkit to generate informational graphics. Additional support for the event was coordinated through TWS’ Conservation Affairs Network, which the Maine Chapter participates in via its Conservation Affairs Committee. Kiley Chen, a second-year wildlife ecology major and president-elect of UMaine’s student chapter, took a leading role in helping to create the graphics for the event.

“I thought it was really cool to see how many people were actively passionate about the environment, but had no idea what the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act was.” Chen said.

The group agreed this event could help fill this knowledge gap. The students utilized a three-pronged approach in setting up the graphics. First, they created three prints highlighting Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) in the state of Maine to draw attention to passing visitors. They also printed a large informative poster consisting of background on the legislation and implications of the bill’s passage. Lastly, to complement the poster and the prints, the students created 50 flyers to hand to visitors.

Tabling setup with TWS Recovering America’s Wildlife Act fact sheet and other information posters. All printed materials were downloaded from TWS’ RAWA social media toolkit and edited using the Canva web application Credit: Kyle Smelter

The students quickly realized that it was going to be a busy day as visitors gathered around the table, even before the completion of setting up. Jack Brady, a botany student and incoming TWS student chapter public relations officer, was encouraged by the turnout throughout the day.

“Even though our goal was to spread awareness and educate people on the act,” Brady said, “it was incredible to see the amount of people who wanted to actively help.”

What shocked event organizers most was the keen interest from students and UMaine staff from outside the realm of the natural sciences. From mechanical engineering majors, to those studying philosophy or art, the opportunity to produce meaningful change for conservation clearly sparked an interest in students. There was never a dull moment during the five-hour window, and by the end, all 50 printed flyers were gone. Organizers and volunteers were thrilled with the turnout and implementation of the event.

A new year will produce a new suite of challenges for the bill. It will take an “all hands on deck” approach to create a critical funding source for the species that need it most. Student wildlifers have a crucial role to play in spreading awareness on the need for dedicated conservation funding.

Header Image: UMaine student chapter volunteer team gathered around the RAWA table (Left to Right Back Row: Gino Caccese, Jack McCann and Kyle Smelter; Left to Right Front Row: Hayden Page, Wesley Hutchins, Drew Hull, Jack Brady and Kiley Chen; Not Pictured: Amanda Mcfarland, Braden Collard, Cassie Ferri and Joe Roy) Credit: Kyle Smelter