Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, planned to hike with me for five days.
But in the middle of our plans, Land for Tomorrow scheduled a Lobbying Day. What could I do but go back to Raleigh with Kate? I was eager to see how this is done.
Land for Tomorrow is a coalition of environmental and conservation groups in North Carolina that lobby for fully funding all the conservation trust funds. These include the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Natural Heritage Trust
Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Agricultural Development and
Farmland Preservation Trust. The people who showed up were experienced lobbyists from The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, various conservation groups from all over the state like Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
We got briefed by Debbie Crane, who works for The Nature Conservancy. The whole purpose of the day was to meet with various legislators besides our own. We were supposed to explain why conservation funding was important and helped the economy. For example,
Every dollar spent on conservation returns four dollars in the economy. Pretty good investment.
The “ask” was $50 million dollars for Clean Water and $2 million for Farmland Preservation. Two millions? That’s nothing.
Still when we went to the legislators on our list, most of them moaned and groaned about the economy. “We’re trying to balance the budget”. But the whole conservation budget is 0.25 % of the economy. I think I have the decimal point in the right place. So they should not balance the budget by cutting out conservation funding.
Kate did most of the talking. She introduced me as a “hiker”, who was hiking the trail. But most legislators were not available, even some with appointments with us. So we wrote hand-written notes saying we had stopped by. We also did a lot of waiting and talking to their assistants. We even had to wait for their assistants.
One exception was Susan Fisher, my state representative. She knew she had an appointment with us; she was on time, cheerful and very knowledgeable. She seemed interested in my MST hike. I was impressed.
A fun diversion from a busy day was an ice cream social. They had invited Maple View Farm to serve ice cream at lunch time.
Even though my feet got a rest, it was an exhausting day. We drove back to Wilson, eager for another day on the MST.