Monday, June 3, 2013

Taking Wisconsin forestry to the Nation's capital

Last month I traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the American Forest Foundation’s Fly-In. Held annually, this is an opportunity for tree farmers across the nation to meet with their elected representatives and talk forestry. I was honored and excited that Joe asked me to go, but as the only participant from the state of Wisconsin, also felt a lot of pressure!

Before coming to the tree farm three years ago, I had worked in DC for a small lobbying office. This prior experience helped me know what to expect at the Fly-In. It also meant that I knew my way around the city pretty well … although, in the few years since I’ve left plenty has changed (what is an express train and can it get me to Pentagon City??!).

The Fly-In convened with an afternoon briefing on the issues we would be taking to the Hill, including tips on how to present your story and make your case for forestry. I sat with Don and Liz from Canajoharie, New York. It was great getting to know them and learn about tree farming in the northeast! I also met John and Carolee from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota who were gracious to share a few of their photos with me!

Our mission!

The next day I met up with Wisconsin State Forester Paul DeLong who was in town for the National Association of State Foresters meeting. We paired up to deliver a one-two punch: forestry issues from a landowner’s perspective as well as the state/policy level. Paul knows his way around the Hill, has good relationships with much of the delegation, and is a pro at delivering his message effectively. I learned a lot from him that day!

Flowers blooming in full force... as was the humidity.
We met with staffers on behalf of Rep. Pocan, Rep. Duffy, Senator Baldwin, Senator Johnson, Rep. Ribbel and Rep. Ryan. My hat goes off to all Capitol Hill staffers; they’ve got to juggle 15-20 meetings a day covering a wide range of issues and topics. Yet all of them seemed engaged, curious and supportive of Wisconsin’s tree farmers – hooray! Unfortunately, the closest I got to meeting any of the members themselves was on the plane ride out when I sat a few rows back from Rep. Ryan.

It was a rewarding, invigorating… and draining day. The margaritas at the Tortilla Coast reception afterwards tasted especially good, as did finally taking a seat and giving my poor feet a break.

Tom Martin, AFF President, and I after a successful day on the Hill.
I spent the next few days exploring the city and meeting up with old friends. It was great to be back and hit up all my old favorite places… but I was more than ready to come back to the woods of Wisconsin. There is no better place to be!

The Fly-In was a great experience and the AFF crew did a fantastic job of putting it all together. Two take-aways still resonating with me a month later:
1.       They’re not joking. Wear comfortable shoes to the Hill!

2.       Everyone has a voice. Use yours to tell your elected officials what you’re passionate about and what you need them to do. Even though it may not feel this way all the time, they’re listening. 

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