Ambassadors Represent The Conservation Alliance in Washington, D.C.

It is very powerful to witness firsthand the strength of a united industry. Once again, the Conservation Alliance harnessed the power of its membership base and sought to influence the political arena in Washington D.C. As a Conservation Alliance Ambassador (select individuals from membership companies who take special interest in the Alliance’s work) I was honored to join the Conservation Alliance Staff and Board Members in their efforts to state their case for and educate our representatives on current conservation initiatives and policies.
This was my second visit to D.C. with the Conservation Alliance and I am still astonished at the amount I learned regarding the basics of advocacy, our political system, and how new legislation is implemented or altered. Our first day was wholly dedicated to a crash course in politics specifically related to conservation policy as well as gaining a pulse on the current political atmosphere (which was vastly different from the year prior). This education has been so valuable to me. I admit I am not the most politically savvy individual. I always vote for the big guy and intermittently vote on the local level, but this has always been such a foreign world to me and for the most part I have been rather complacent. Day two, when we had the opportunity to sit down with various representatives, enlightened me to the dynamic world of politics and the many influences that guide (or perhaps misguide) our elected leaders.
After our training and armament of knowledge, we broke up into groups based on region and specific initiatives and set out to make a case for conservation with select representatives. As an avid outdoors person, I was certainly shocked by the unawareness of some individuals and what their perception of conservation entailed and how low on some agendas these initiatives were. Some individuals are not too keen on hearing about a beautiful clean river and the effect it has on our soul, however, we did catch their attention when speaking in the language of our businesses and quantifying our overall impact as an industry. The Outdoor Industry is a powerful industry. The amount of money we pump into the economy and the amount of jobs we create ACTUALLY surpasses that of the oil and gas industry. Every year, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation and the industry creates around 6.1 million jobs. (Thank you OIA for the stats!) Although these facts and fifteen minutes of conversation are hardly enough time to have full catharsis and create a sworn new friend of the environment, it was at least enough time to plant a seed of interest.
We all know that without the right nourishment a seed will not grow. Our elected representatives are not always aware of nor can they possess a deep knowledge in every field, which is why it is so tremendously important that WE educate them. There is much to be accomplished on the grass roots and political levels. Legislation plays such a strong and vital role in the management of our wild places and sacred spaces. From the urban parks in Oakland, CA to the recently appointed National Monuments, all of these places have received special legislation and designation because they at some point were special enough to someone. If I had to identify one take away from this trip, I cannot emphasize enough that every voice can and does matter; you just need to use it… and it is so much louder when we all come together.
Mary Maliff
Director, The Forest Group
& Conservation Alliance Ambassador