Last week we had students, alumni, and faculty from four of our Coalition Schools make the trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to their Congressmen about supporting international conservation efforts. T4T’s objective was to gain an increase in funding for the Multinational Species Conservation Fund (MSCF) and to obtain co-sponsors for bills in the Senate (Wildlife Trafficking Enforcement Act) and the House (Global Anti-Poaching Act).
The MSCF is used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide grants for on the ground conservation projects that benefit not only tigers, but also elephants, rhinos, great apes, and sea turtles. Additionally, the two bills we were looking for supporters for are incredibly important in the United States’ effort to combat illegal wildlife trafficking.
(Pictured L to R) Pete Stone, Taylor Tench, Dr. Baker, Robin Lloyd and Sienna Fisher.
I had the privilege of working toward our goals on the Hill last week with Sean Carnell, our National Coordinator, Robin Lloyd of Auburn University, Sienna Fisher of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Pete Stone of Clemson University, and Dr. David Baker of LSU.
For most this was their first time meeting with their Congressmen to discuss issues important to them. “I was very surprised on how accessible people in Congress really are,” remarked Robin of Auburn University.
In our meetings, we communicated to the Congressmen and their staffers the importance of protecting our mascot in the wild, and exactly how the initiatives we were asking them to support would do so.
Dr. Baker, Director of Laboratory Animal Medicine at LSU and in charge of the care for their live mascot Mike, mentioned, “It was interesting to see how much the legislators have to ‘juggle’ at one time. It’s understandable that their personal knowledge of Acts might be minimal…if it is not in an area in which they have particular interest.” This is exactly why our voice on the Hill is so important, and as constituents to these Congressmen protecting our mascot is of importance to them. They are well aware of the tiger schools that so many of their constituents identify with, and many times are alumni or fans of those very same universities. In fact, when we walked into Representative Duncan’s (R-SC) office, he and Pete were wearing the exact same Clemson lapel pin!
<- Pete Stone & Taylor Tench pose outside Jeff Duncan's Office
These types of experiences are also great bonding experiences among Coalition members and strengthen relationships between schools that can be turned into great collaborative work throughout the academic year. When asked what he enjoyed most about the trip, Dr. Baker said, “Spending time with and getting to know the students and the T4T staff, and visiting with legislators and their aides.”
When asked what he enjoyed most about the trip, Robin said, “Meeting with Senators and Representatives on the Hill was very insightful and it felt good to be doing some real political conservation and using my voice for tigers in the wild.”
As a Coalition, our strength is in our numbers. So many students, faculty, alumni, and fans from across the country working toward a common goal can make a tremendous difference for tigers. Even in the current political climate, where it is difficult to make forward progress on any issue, we can still make great strides for conservation as Sienna from RIT so excellently pointed out:
“I have hope though, for the legislation that we were supporting. It is certainly of bipartisan interest to protect species such as tigers from poaching, as it is certainly a very broad scope as far as the impact it has on the US. Some may see the environmental implications as enough reason to act, but not everybody is willing to throw resources into conservation simply to preserve a species and an ecosystem. National security may be the primary concern of others when tackling the issue of poaching and wildlife trafficking. Still, no matter the true motive, by reauthorizing and continuing to raise the amount of money allocated to the MSCF and supporting bills that increase the enforcement of trafficking laws and further incentivize anti-poaching stances around the world, we are all helping save tigers.”
If you want to build on the work T4T does in DC, write to your Congressmen asking for their support on these pieces of legislation to help ensure the continued survival of our mascot.