Find your natural resource conservation voice!

Take the next step in conservation by engaging decision makers in natural resource issues.

Speaking to a decision maker, in public or one-on-one, is much easier with the right skills and strategy.

Natural resource issues can be complex. Whether it’s losing ash trees to emerald ash borer, finding PFAS contaminants in local drinking water, or even combating neighborhood deer eating a resident’s prize hostas, the causes, effects, and stakeholders in these issues are multifaceted. Community residents may increase their awareness of these ‘thorny’ natural resource issues through direct personal experience, local news headlines, or friends and family. Many may learn even more about natural resource issues by participating in local educational programming like Michigan State University Extension’s (MSUE) Master Gardener or Conservation Stewards Program, among many others.

Increased understanding of a natural resource-based issue is a great thing, but what can you do next? How do you translate that knowledge to affect change? Doing hands-on volunteer work is a great start. Volunteering your voice by contacting relevant decision makers can also have long-term impacts. For many, however, approaching leadership—elected or not—can feel mysterious or intimidating. How do you find the person who can most effectively address your natural resource concern? Once found, what are the most effective ways to contact them?

Although letters and phone calls can help, one of the most effective ways to share concerns with decision makers—especially elected officials—is to speak to them in person. According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), nearly all members of congress are fully aware that staying in touch with constituents is central to their positions. CMF’s report finds that a strong majority of congress members prefer to meet with constituents rather than, for example, Washington representatives or lobbyists. Even if the appropriate contact is a more local community decision maker, knowing how and when to schedule a meeting, what to communicate in a persuasive manner, and how to have a positive impact takes a little time to prepare.

Want to learn how to work with decision makers, influence management decisions and aid in conservation efforts? Enroll in MSUE’s EmpowerU: Engaging Decision Makers in Natural Resource Issues. This 7 week blended online and in-person course will give you the fundamentals on how to get started by:

  • Gaining understanding of the roles and levels of government and who to contact regarding natural resources management.
  • Learning to use skills such as influence, power, persuasion, framing, questioning and listening in interactions with decision makers.
  • Knowing where to find reputable information on the status of natural resources in your area.
  • Creating an engagement plan and experience practicing it in a safe, peer-learning environment.
  • Seeing yourself as a resource to decision makers on your chosen natural resource issue.
  • Viewing engagement with decision makers as a norm and encourage others to do it.
  • Networking with other people passionate about making a difference in natural resource conservation.

For more information and program registration, go to the MSUE events system. Registration is $40, which includes access to all online sessions, handouts and an in-person ‘capstone’ workshop in your choice of Okemos on March 27 or Grayling on March 28 (with lunch provided). The deadline is February 17, so enroll today!

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