The week of June 24-29 a delegation from Tennessee headed to Washington, DC to press for passage of the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011. We were joined by hundreds of activisits from around the nation at Great Outdoors America Week. Representaives from Colorado, Californa, New Mexico, South Carolina, and dozens of other states were in our nation's capitol for a variety of reasons. Some, like us, were there to support Wilderness legislation that was working it's way through the 112th Congress. Others were there to press for national conservation funding such as the Land & Water Conservaton Fund (LWCF), while others were there working to get lands designated as National Monuments.
After arriving late Monday evening, Team Tennessee Wild gathered on Tuesday morning June 26 at the Beacon Hotel in Washington, DC. The team was comprised of Tennessee Wild Director Jeff Hunter, Summer intern Mike Frazzitta (a/k/a Intern Mike), volunteer Caara Stoney and her son Oliver, and Laura Rigell & Alex Durand from the Tennessee Youth Environmental Network (TennYEN). All six of us attended several briefings that morning and learned about the status of various pieces of conservation legislation. We also learned about several serious threats to the America's Wilderness Preservation System.
Armed with some timely information, we hit the Halls of Congress. Our first meeting of the day was planned with a staffer for Congressman Phil Roe, M.D. Dr. Roe represents the 1st Congressional District in Tennessee, and was formerly the Mayor of Johnson City. Joining us at this meeting was Bill Hodge from Southern Apalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS). Much to our surprise, Dr. Roe was in the office and met with us for about 15 minutes. During that time we delivered 150+ hand-written postcards from constituents in support of the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011. These cards were gathered at the recent Blue Plum festival held in Johnson City June 1-3. It was a very positive meeting and we left Dr. Roe's office feeling energized.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in meetings with staffers for Congressman Duncan, Congressman Fleischmann, Senator Bob Corker & Senator Lamar Alexander. Having four young people aged 21 and younger was an exciting turn of events for Tennessee Wild. These young folks represented themselves and Tennessee Wild most capably! They spoke with passion about the places that the Tennessee Wilderness Act will protect.
We wrapped up the evening by attending a reception for Bill Meadows, outgoing President of The WIlderness Society. Bill grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and spent many years working and living in Nashville. His wife Sally is from Johnson City. Bill has been an enormous help to the Tennessee Wild campaign, so it was bittersweet so see him retire. We wished him well and had a fun evening doing so.
The highlight of our trip to DC occurred on Wednesday. That evening, we honored Senator Lamar Alexander as a Champion for the Great Outdoors at a reception in the Hart Senate Office Building. Tennessee WIld's Jeff Hunter presented Senator ALexander with an award, and the Senator was quite gracious and kind in accepting the award. Here is a video of that presentation and acceptance speech.
On Friday it was time to head back to Tennessee, and not a moment too soon. That night, heavy storms hit the Washington, D.C. Metro Area and power was knocked out to over one million homes and businesses.
We want to take a moment and thank all who wrote postcards, sent emails, or made calls in support of the Tennessee Wilderness Act of 2011. Please keep them coming! With your help, we will have the first new Wilderness areas designated in Tennessee in over 26 years.