Activism in action: Anna Siegel ’23 travels to Washington, DC
Anna Siegel ’23 recently traveled to Washington, DC, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and advocate for further conservation legislation. Read more about Anna’s trip (in her own words!) below:
“Last week, I had my first day of senior year at Waynflete. Right after classes that Monday, I went to the Portland Jetport and left for Washington, DC with a blazer, business shoes, talking points on conservation policy, and a school bag full of homework. Once I landed in the nation’s capital, I explored the incredible network of buses and subways that makes up the DC Metro system before crashing at my hotel in the NoMa neighborhood.
I was in DC to represent Sierra Club Maine at an event hosted by the Endangered Species Coalition. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a powerful piece of legislation that has been instrumental to the restoration of the Peregrine Falcon, Humpback Whale, Bald Eagle, American Bison, and dozens more plants, animals, birds, and insects. The ESA was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law under the Reagan Administration, and it remains popular today. Polling has shown that 80% of Americans approve of the ESA. Yet, while there is much to celebrate about the ESA’s success in the past 50 years, we must fight to protect it so it can remain strong and continue preserving biodiversity.
38 pieces of anti-ESA legislation have been introduced in the congressional session thus far, and the ESA is starved for funding. With the proper resources, the ESA could do so much more to stave the current biodiversity crisis and combat the sixth mass extinction that is ongoing due to human-induced climate change and ecological shifts. The demands from the Endangered Species Coalition at this event were simple: Congress members need to oppose attacks and funding cuts on the ESA, approve increased funding measures for endangered species programs, and support House Resolution 195—policy introduced by Representative Neguse of Colorado.
The first day of the event was mostly filled with a training hosted by Defenders of Wildlife, followed by a symposium with some fascinating panels on the success and challenges of the ESA over the past fifty years. At the training, the group of Maine activists got together—myself from Sierra Club Maine, Doug Hitchcox and Ches Gundrum from Maine Audubon, Tara Thornton from the Endangered Species Coalition, and Halliday Moncure from Defenders of Wildlife—to strategize our messaging for our meetings with the Maine congressional delegation. A congressional delegation is the collection of Senators and Representatives that represent a state. For us Mainers, this delegation is Representative Pingree (Democrat, District 1), Representative Golden (Democrat, District 2), Senator Collins (Republican), and Senator King (Independent).
My second day in DC started at 6:00 a.m. to grab breakfast and coffee before speed-walking the forty minutes from the hotel to Capitol Hill. Our first congressional meeting was with Rep. Golden at 8:00 a.m., where we spoke with the Representative (and Archie, a golden doodle who is the pet of one of his staffers and hangs out at the office). Then we moved quickly to the Senate side of Capitol Hill for a chat with Senator King at his 9:00 a.m. “Capitol Coffee” hours, then a 10:00 a.m. chat with Senator Collins, then back to the House side for an 11:00 a.m. meeting at Representative Pingree’s office.
How these meetings tended to go:
- We waited in a lobby area, making small talk with staffers and exchanging business cards.
- Had a short meeting or photo opportunity with the politician themselves, where we quickly made our asks and told our personal stories or “narratives.”
- Had a longer, sit-down meeting with the environmental or conservation staffer of the politician, where we answered questions, concerns, dug into details, and left them resources to peruse.
Luckily, we got to meet face-to-face with every member of the Maine congressional delegation except for Representative Pingree, who had planned to meet with us until she unfortunately had to cancel due to illness. We did meet with her staffer, though. Each meeting was mostly positive, though we had to combat some misinformation around the efficacy and relevance of the ESA. Some other highlights were running into Senator Elizabeth Warren in the street as she was heading to a CNN interview, hearing Senator Cory Booker and activist Terry Teresa Williams speak at the ESA Awards Ceremony, and making some incredible connections with folks at the American Bird Conservancy and other organizations in the Endangered Species Coalition.”