Brent Miller’s Blog from Washington D.C.

October 29, 2010

Hey Folks,

Greetings from the District! I’ve been down here at my internship now for the past two months and I am approximately half way done. The organization I’m working at is the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (http://www.sportsmenslink.org/). CSF is the leading hunting and fishing policy organization in our nation. We work at both the federal (Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus) and the state (National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses and the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus) levels. We are the largest caucus in Congress at this point with nearly 300 members. Likewise, at the state level we have overarching support with 38 states having caucuses that encompass more than 2,000 state legislators. The Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus is the most recently formed level of our organization; however, we just reached majority in that area as well with 29 of the 50 governor’s now involved.

As a sportsman I was interested in crossing the policy background that I received from BARD CEP with my personal interest, and the resulting experience has been incredible. A lot of the projects I’ve been working on have been strictly conservation based, while other projects have focused on other areas of concern to sportsmen. The combination has provided me with broader insight into both the political and the policy arenas than I would have received focusing solely on one issue, and has likewise served to focus my desired career path.

On a day to day basis I conduct a variety of tasks. I am often reviewing current proposed legislation at both the state and federal levels; then, depending on what the piece of legislation is, I might write an issue brief or a position paper on the topic which will most often serve as an internal document to brief staff. Likewise, when a piece of legislation comes to our attention I research the background of it and analyze it from a conservation/sportsmen’s standpoint to provide the staff with information that we need to decide whether or not to support it. Most of the issues that I have been involved with are still in the works, so I don’t feel comfortable blogging about them here; perhaps some of them will be wrapped up when I get back to NY and I will be able to fill you in then. Right now the legislative side is a little slow because Congress is not in session; however, we’re looking at a few items that have been introduced previously that may resurface in the “lame duck” session after midterms. Beyond the research that I do, but connected to it, I write a newsletter that is distributed to the state caucus chairs each month that summarizes relevant legislative sportsmen’s issues.

One of the really interesting aspects of the overall experience has been the process that is involved with consensus building. On certain topics our group partners with 45+ other conservation groups within the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (http://www.wildlifepartners.org/files/about.cfm).   When legislation or regulations are proposed we will often work with these other groups to submit comments as a whole. This begins a complicated process of negotiations and drafting and re-drafting comments to the relevant agency and /or legislative body. Often we will have a working group that will be charged with drafting the comments, discussing the finer points of what our collective position should be, and examining what regulatory or legislative fixes may exist. The end result is that we often submit comments that have the backing of many different conservation groups (representing millions of individual members). These comments carry much more political weight than the comments of an individual, or of any one particular organization.

Although not every task I’ve been charged with has been policy based, the overarching experience has provided me insight into what it takes to have an organization like ours function. As a “501-c-(3)” non-profit we must do extensive fundraising each year to make budget. I was only here two weeks when we had our largest event of the year which was a banquet and auction at the downtown Marriot. This event was attended by over 50 members of Congress and 600 people overall. Included in the attendees were members of the hunting industry, Congressional staff, and leaders from other conservation/sportsmen’s groups. This provided an opportunity for all involved to meet with one another in an informal setting and discuss topics of concern with Senators and Representatives. Additionally, it provided us with revenue that will allow us to continue our work in the field. In order to get this event to function properly there was an enormous amount of clerical and other work that had to be done such as lining up auction items from sponsors, writing item descriptions, reviewing programs and seating charts etc. Although all of this was outside of “policy” in a strict sense, it was all integral work to ensure that we could continue to be a relevant force in conservation and hunting/fishing policy for the future.

A similar event is coming up in December, but it will be at the state level, rather than the federal. The NASC annual meeting will be held in Alabama in December and I will attend alongside the rest of the staff for the 4 day conference. This is an honor for me because they typically do not invite interns to travel with them. At this event I will be presenting on the history of Sunday hunting regulations in a breakout session that will be predominantly composed of state legislators from the Northeast.

Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of meetings and presentations on conservation topics including a roundtable discussion yesterday on national ocean policy focusing on the National Ocean Council (NOC) and Coastal Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP). Although I haven’t been charged with any one particular topic the experience I’ve gained through interning at CSF has provided me with a background that I feel will be more relevant to my career in conservation/hunting/fishing policy than focusing on one topic for the entirety of my post would have afforded. For anyone that has similar interests I would strongly recommend applying for the Brad Rowse Fellowship that CSF offers.

Hope all is well in NY, I’ll see you all in a few months.

Brent

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