Writing Your Member of Congress or Provincial Representative
Contacting your members of Congress (MOC) or provincial representative (PR) is an important way for your chapter, section, or working group to make sure the views of wildlife professionals in your state, province, territory region, or area of expertise are taken into consideration.
It is best to email or fax your letter in addition to sending a hard copy. Phone calls are also very effective and a good way to follow up on a written communication. Simply ask to speak to the staff member who deals with environmental or wildlife issues.
Below are guidelines to communicating effectively with your MOC or PR:
- Address the MOC/PR in the correct manner. Typically this involves using the term “Honorable” in the address section, but be sure to look up their official title for the salutation as well (i.e. the salutation to the chair of a committee should read “Dear Chairman/woman X”).
- Write on your chapter/section/working group letterhead.
- Be sure your exact return address is on the letter, not just the envelope. Envelopes sometimes get thrown away before the letter is answered.
- Identify your subject clearly. State the name of the legislation you're writing about. Give the House (U.S.: H.R.#; CAN: C-#) or Senate (U.S.: S.#; CAN: S-#) bill number, if you know it. This information can be found on the Library of Congress website for the U.S. and the LEGISinfo website for CAN.
- Include TWS’ mission statement and description of membership (see letter template for an example). Be sure to include information about your chapter, section, or working group.
- State your reason for writing. Explain why the issue is important to wildlife professionals and how it would involve and affect the profession. Use specific examples from your expertise to support the position you are presenting.
- Avoid stereotyped phrases and sentences that give the appearance of "form" letters. They tend to identify your message as part of an organized pressure campaign and produce little or no impact.
- The timing of your letter is important. Begin to encourage approval or disapproval of a bill, or to recommend that it be amended favorably, while it is in committee. Your MOC or PR usually can be more responsive to your appeal at that time, rather than after a bill has already been approved by a committee. Of course, this isn't always the case. Sometimes your legislator may reserve his/her judgment, and vote, until the sentiment of his/her constituency has crystallized.
- Send a follow-up letter. Thank him/her, if he/she votes the way you recommended on an issue. Everybody appreciates a complimentary letter, and remembers it; MOCs and PRs are no exception. If he/she votes contrary to your position, don't hesitate to let him/her know that will be remembered, as well.