Audubon has accomplished years of conservation wins through dedicated grassroots advocacy, and as we wind down for the holidays, we are looking ahead to the 2018 and how we will protect our southwestern rivers. Many Audubon members and supports may find that most exciting and inspired projects are streamside where cottonwoods and willows grow and you can spot a flash of red as Summer Tanagers call from the forest canopy. Indeed, riparian restoration, bird surveys, and hands on engagement are a piece of what we do for our rivers, but this is not the full picture. We dedicate hours to walking back and forth through the halls of the Round House, shaking hands with both sympathetic and skeptical representatives. Staff and volunteers spend their afternoons organizing constituents at community centers and the back rooms of restaurants to demystify the legislative process and review our states complex connection to the Colorado River. Through walls of computer code we reach you--the Western Rivers Action Network--and keep you up to speed, engaged, and energized. Advocacy plays an increasingly critical role in protecting and conserving our western rivers, which is why we are grateful to our Chapter Network and their support of Audubon’s Western Waters initiative. This month, we collaborated with two chapters to ensure that we are ready for 2018.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
Early December, a representative from Central New Mexico Audubon Society and Audubon New Mexico met together with the offices of Senator Tom Udall and Senator Martin Heinrich to request support for S.1966 – the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Improvement Act of 2017. The bill will expand and strengthen the RCPP, an innovative program within the Farm Bill. Audubon cares about the Farm Bill – which is up for renewal in 2018 – because it helps environmental groups work with landowners to conserve water on Working Lands in the west. This is critical for our over allocated western rivers as farm bill conservation programs can be a vital resource for implementing incentive-based programs to help agricultural producers conserve water. These types of meetings may seem difficult unless you are paid lobbyist, but elected officials want and need input from back home. There is power in numbers and members of Audubon can also meet with local representatives to talk about water by following these simple steps:
- Check out https://whoismyrepresentative.com/ to find out who represents you
- Give their office a call, introduce yourself, and request a meeting to talk about water and birds in the southwest
- Prepare 2-3 simple talking points about current legislation– like S.1966 – and practice your talking points with a friend
- Arrive early with some materials to leave-behind and take a deep breath
- Thank them, share a personal story that relates back to the talking points, and ask for their support
- Do not forget to establish next steps and follow-up!
Advocacy Training for the Gila River
Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society is a small chapter that gets big results as demonstrated by their work fighting against a major water diversion project on the Gila River – a bird-rich tributary of the Colorado River. This month, in partnership with Audubon New Mexico, the chapter continued a speaker series in Deming focused on water advocacy that supports our shared Gila River campaign. In case you missed it, previous topics included the Gila River Environmental Flow Assessment, a “citizen’s guide” to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the impact of a water diversion on the Gila River’s native endangered fish. State Representative Candie G. Sweetser and twenty-eight of her constituents attended the last meeting of the year on “How to talk to legislators”. This is timely, as Audubon is preparing a report on how local water conservation and efficiency projects can meet the long-term water needs of Deming without a harmful and economically wasteful water diversion from the Gila River. Armed with this report and lessons learned from Audubon’s speaker series we expect our members and supporters in the community of Deming and statewide to urge their elected officials and the Bureau of Reclamation during 2018 NEPA scoping hearings to withhold support for a diversion and select local water projects that better serve people and the environment.
These end-of-year policy actions demonstrate that Advocacy is for everyone. Audubon wants to help empower members and supporters to fight for smart water projects and innovative conservation solutions especially in our home state. Keep your eye on Audubon New Mexico in 2018. We expect to hit the ground running and we hope you join us.