GENERAL ADVOCACY TIPS
Follow these tips to communicate with your legislators about trail and hiking-related issues important to you:
LETTERS, EMAILS, AND FAXES
Personal letters are considered the most effective and persuasive way of communicating with elected officials, but email and faxes have become much more acceptable given the security concerns associated with traditional mail. Keep in mind that emails and faxes must be personalized to be effective.
E-mail is the most preferable way to contact Congressional Staff. Often, E-mail will get to staffers before a call.
Formatted as FirstName.LastName@mail.house.gov
Formatted as FirstName_LastName@SenatorName.Senate.gov
By Mail or Fax
Note: Because of security concerns, mail sent to Congressional offices is often delayed by several months. It is irradiated in transit, and may arrive blurred, burnt, or smeared. Reserve mail communications for the least time-sensitive issues
Keep it short. Limit your letter to one page and one issue.
Identify yourself and the issue. In the first paragraph of your letter state who you are, what issue you are writing about, and what action you want your legislator to take. Let your legislator know the size and mission of your group, if applicable. Use specific bill number(s) when possible.
Be clear and accurate. Focus on your main points. Choose the three strongest points to support your argument and develop them clearly. Use examples to support your position.
Make it personal. Tell your legislator why the issue matters to you and how it affects you, your organization (or family), and your community. Keep it local. Make a connection to the legislator.
Be courteous, yet firm.
Ask for a reply. Include your name and address on both your letter and envelope or email/fax.
Thank the legislator. Follow-up and thank elected officials when they vote the way you want. Writing to let them know you disapprove of the way s/he voted will gain attention also.
To write your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (last name):
To write your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
US House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative (last name):
Note: When writing to the Chair of a Committee, it is proper to address them as: Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman:
You can reach any Member of Congress by calling the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or the Members office directly. The fact that a legislator receives 20 or so calls on your issue just before a vote can make a difference.
When you reach the office, you will be answered by a receptionist. If you are a constituent of the Member (i.e. you live in their district) you are calling be sure to mention this first. Constituents get priority treatment. Ask to speak to whomever deals with the issue you are calling regarding. If the receptionist isn’t sure who that may be – the Environmental Legislative Assistant is often the staff member who deals with trail issues.
If you can’t reach the aide who handles trails issues, leave your message with the person who answered the phone. Be brief. Your message can be two sentences — one asking for support (or opposition); the other stating why. (You may want to write it out before you call.)