So we're all in agreement-we need to make our voices heard to ensure continued access to our public lands and keep them safe for future generations of Jeep, truck, and backcountry recreationalists. But to make your voice heard, you need to do some work. Contacting your Congressional representative, Senator, or state legislators is a simple matter of sending them an email or making a phone call. (And trust us-they do pay attention to phone calls, and the more calls they get, the more attention they generally pay.) When you call, have a clear outline of the message you want to convey and be as brief as you can. Legislators' offices receive hundreds of calls per day, so your brevity will be appreciated (and you'll give more of your friends a better chance of getting through on the phone as well). Be specific, too-if you're calling about a particular piece of legislation, be sure to mention the bill number (as opposed to, say, "the Feinstein bill," which could be a number of different bills in any given session) so that your representative is sure to know which legislation you're referring to. If you're not sure who your elected representatives in Washington are, the SEMA Action Network (www.semasan.com) can give you all the necessary information, as well as providing legislative alerts affecting truck, off-road, performance car, and motorcycle enthusiasts across the nation.
Here are some general tips for working with your elected representatives:
Develop Relationships With Legislators And Their Staffs
1 Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It's the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship, whenever possible, with their staff members who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives; they're often the ones who do a lot of behind-the-scenes "heavy lifting" when it comes to drafting pieces of legislation.
Educate Legislators About What We Do
2 Educate your legislator about what we do and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community; remind legislators of the good works being done by off-road vehicle enthusiasts working in conjunction with organizations such as Tread Lightly! or initiatives such as BFGoodrich's Outstanding Trails program. If your local Jeep club or four-wheel drive organization participates in any Adopt-a-Trail and/or conservation programs, be sure to point those things out, too.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
3 Develop a positive relationship with your legislator(s), even if he or she doesn't always vote the way you'd like on any given issue. The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause. In politics, you don't want to burn any bridges unless you have to.
Develop Relationships With Government Agencies
4 Think of it as your own "Neighborhood Watch" program, only for park rangers instead of police officers. If you wheel on public lands, stop by the ranger station and get to know your forest rangers, BLM field reps, or OHV riding area rangers. Find out if there are any Adopt-a-Trail, clean-up or maintenance programs being planned for their areas and offer to help, either individually or as a club. Keep them informed of what you see on the trails, whether it's good (other wheelers helping stranded motorists, or cleaning up sections of trail) or bad (trash dumped along trails, or people engaging in illegal behavior). Forging these kinds of relationships and keeping lines of communications open at the grass-roots level can be a big help later; many land-use policies that come down from Washington often originate years earlier with reports and assessments filed at individual field offices.