RVCC’s annual fly-in to the nation’s capital – was a great success! Ten RVCC partners spent last week meeting with Congressional staff, public lands agency administrators, and national partners. The trip allowed us to share our priorities for the Farm Bill and appropriations process, as well as to listen and get a better understanding of the state of play in Washington. We shared the value of innovative, targeted programs like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and the Joint Fire Science Program, raising awareness and garnering support for both. We also advocated for working lands conservation and rural development programs in the Farm Bill, telling the story of how such programs roll out on the ground for communities.
Our conversations with agency staff were also valuable, providing insights into evolving policies within the Forest Service, BLM, and NRCS. These meetings offered an opportunity for RVCC to share thoughts on how such policies affect rural communities, conservation projects on the ground, and local economies. It was great to hear how receptive agency administrators are to working with partners like RVCC and local collaboratives.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Western Week was an opportunity to listen to and spend time with RVCC partners from around the West and in Washington. Often the conversations between or after official meetings were just as valuable as the formal meetings. It’s encouraging to hear about the good work being done, and to celebrate our recent successes like the fire funding fix. Just as at the local level, building real human connections is the only way that we can work to find durable, inclusive solutions to the complex problems facing rural communities and the land.
In a time when our national political discourse can feel ugly and divisive, I’m reminded all the more of the deep value of our collaborative efforts. Communities and diverse parties coming together to do the hard work of developing mutual respect and finding common ground based on a shared understanding of problems is the essence of the democratic process. Let’s make sure we continue to model that process for our lawmakers in Washington.