Report by Scottie Neill

In February, Kimberly Gregg, Margaret Norfleet-Neff and I had a wonderful four days in Washington DC attending the Garden Club of America’s NAL (National Affairs Legislation). We learned from our very own GCA colleagues as well as a wide variety of speakers on critical issues regarding conservation, and how to best share the GCA’s position on these issues with our elected officials. The NAL is the arm of the GCA that follows all conservation and environmental legislation year round, prepares the GCA position papers on climate, clean water and air, transportation, native plants and more.

Climate Change was the GCA theme for this conference. Our speakers and elected officials spoke on topics related to climate change, as well as clean air, the National Parks Service,  Renewable Energy, Land and Water Conservation Funds , the Chesapeake Bay in regards to clean water, Scenic Highways,  and much more. All of the presentations may be accessed from GCA’s website by clicking here.

One of the big highlights this year (which was announced last year) is the HR Bill 1054, GCA’s very first bill. Here is the blog post from the conference which speaks to the essence of the NAL and why GCA is so instrumental in making long term change for our planet.

Dede Petri gives us background to the HR 1054, the “Botany Bill” which grew out of the 2016 NAL when the Chicago Botanic Garden speaker lamented the lack of trained botanists. This is the first time GCA has worked on a bill from the ground up. We will urge our legislators to join in sponsoring this bill to support research and the education of botanists. Mike Quigley and Ileana Ross-Lehtinen are cosponsors of this bill which has been endorsed by 60 eminent horticultural and conservation organizations. Representative Quigley encourages us to find out the agenda of our representatives, present multiple reasons for lawmakers to support environmental measures, and somehow make that support appear to be his/her idea.  For now, focus on action at the local level may be the most effective.

There are two critical pieces of work that we are asked to do as delegates – meet with our elected officials to share the GCA position papers and GCA positions on current bills or legislation,  and bring back to our club and communities what we have learned in order to put it to work locally.

We had excellent meetings with staffers in both Senator Richard Burr and Senator Tom Tillis’s offices – in each case delegates from TCGC had met with them before so we were able to jump into conversations around the issues and discuss them more deeply.  We advocated for HR 460 which calls for an increase in allocation and an extension of the National Park Service Centennial Act. Due to it being so successful last year (2016), we proposed doubling this amount to be matched, increasing public private partnership while adding to the coffers of NPS.

We had discussions about the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and, asked that the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) be permanently authorized via H.R. 502 in the House and forthcoming senate legislation.

We met with Congresswoman Virginia Foxx and her staff, specifically sharing the HR 1054 bill which is focused on education, GCA’s call for more botanists and the protection of native plants on public lands and increased opportunity for botany study.

Along with the Kentucky contingent (part of Zone 7), we visited Senator Rand Paul’s office and Senator Rob Portman  – as both are coal states, it was instrumental in understanding the different perspectives regarding the GCA’s positions on clean air and water.

We feel encouraged to know that our representatives are paying attention to environmental concerns of our state and our country. Please help share the non-partisan positions of the GCA, it is easier than you think!!

Thank you for the opportunity to attend such an enlightening conference and to work on your behalf,