Speak Out to Protect Florida Bay

Passionate citizens make the difference when it comes to saving Florida’s natural wonders. Floridians who let our elected leaders know how important these places are often are the difference between a good outcome and a damaging environmental decision.

Florida’s environmental history is full of examples of citizens coming together to influence public policy and achieve important conservation results. You can make your voice heard through letters, email, phone calls, face-to-face meetings, Facebook and other social media.  But most importantly, take action today.

Here is how you can get started:

Stay Informed

The most effective citizen advocate is an informed one.  By subscribing to Audubon’s Restore conservation e-network, you will have the most up-to-date information on restoring the Everglades.  You will also be presented with opportunities to get your voice heard.

You can also receive Audubon’s Advocate e-newsletter and follow state-wide conservation issues and what is happening in the Florida Legislature.  You’ll also get specific information on how you can take action on important legislation.

From protecting Florida’s waters from oil drilling to frequent reports on the Everglades and issues that impact Florida Bay, Audubon of Florida’s News Blog covers a wide range of environmental issues.  Bookmark this page, visit it daily for updates, and to post your thoughts and comments.

Stay Active

Everglades restoration projects encompassed within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) are designed and constructed cooperatively by a state and federal sponsor.  Communicating your support of Everglades restoration to these government agencies makes a difference.

The South Florida Water Management District is the state agency charged with the mission of restoring our Everglades.  The District’s Governing Board meets monthly and makes frequent decisions on a multitude of issues affecting the River of Grass.  Check agendas online to see when Everglades restoration issues are scheduled for discussion. Agendas are posted one week prior to the meetings, which are always the second Wednesday and Thursday of each month.

Visit Everglades.org to learn of opportunities to influence restoration plans by attending public meetings or commenting on documents available for review.  All meetings and documents prepared by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the federal sponsor of Everglades restoration, are posted here. Additionally, by signing up to receive e-mail updates, you will be directly notified of public meetings and documents open for review.

Also, follow the plans of your city and county governments.  Even local actions that appear small in scale can affect the Everglades and Florida Bay.  For example, decisions made on a county level that facilitate unplanned urban sprawl toward the Everglades diminish the freshwater available for the ecosystem and its wildlife.

Join Us

We are more effective when we work together.  By becoming a member of Audubon of Florida, you will join the oldest conservation organization in the state, in preserving the places that make Florida special.

A network of 44 Audubon chapters throughout Florida connect people with nature by leading field trips, offering public programs, and completing conservation projects.  There are two chapters located near Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Join the members of Tropical Audubon Society and Florida Keys Audubon Society for a meeting, field trip, and to learn about local opportunities to make a difference.

Become an Effective Advocate

Successfully restoring Florida Bay depends on citizens like you becoming engaged in the political and public policy arena. Elected officials generally keep track of phone calls, emails and letters received in order to determine what issues are important to their constituents and where the public stands.  Follow these tips and become a successful citizen advocate:

Research and prepare…

  • Learn as much as you can about issues from a broad variety of sources. Reviewing differing views helps identify differences of opinion, as well as a variety of proposed solutions.
  • Visit our Restore archives to learn of Everglades restoration issues and progress over time.
  • Learn what the opposition’s main arguments will be for their position.  For example, will restoring freshwater flows to the Everglades flood agricultural land in a specific area?
  • Share your concerns and suggested solutions with informed citizens to test your messaging before taking it to the next level.

Develop your message…

  • Use simple and direct messages. They are the most effective.
  • Create a memorable slogan or one-liner that best describes your view.
  • Be specific with elected and appointed officials on the action you are requesting. (Example: Provide funding for the extension of the Tamiami Trail bridge project to restore the historic sheetflow of water in the Everglades.)
  • Keep your points simple and summarize them in the end. Most meetings have a time limit requirement for public comments. Know that in advance, draft your comments accordingly, and stick to your designated time allotment.

Make one-on-one visits…

  • Take time to visit your elected officials, such as city and county commissioners, as well as your state and federal representatives.
  • Schedule a meeting in advance and let the official know the subject of your meeting so they are adequately prepared.
  • Make a good first impression by dressing and acting professionally.
  • Carefully prepare a brief, factual presentation including both sides of the issue. Do not overstate the facts or become too emotional or angry.
  • Act as a resource or problem solver for the official. Offer information and solutions. Offer to do a site tour to see a specific resource issue, such as an algal bloom or mangroves near your neighborhood that were illegally destroyed.
  • Offer specific alternatives, amendments and compromise solutions.
  • Follow-up in writing or in person with specific answers to their questions and any further information requested. Have others write that support your position.

Pick up the Phone…

  • Contact an appropriate agency or elected official before the bill, rule, resolution, or other action item is finalized or voted on.
  • Leave a short message with your name and how you are urging a decision-maker to vote on a particular issue if he or she is not available.
  • Set up a network of people to make similar calls or send emails.  Numbers do count.

Write Letters…

  • Write personal letters whenever possible. They are more powerful than petitions or form letters.
  • Keep letters brief and to the point.
  • Address one issue or bill per letter. Identify the bill number or action item at the beginning of the letter, and follow with your specific request or recommendation.
  • Explain why you are concerned about the issue. For example, if it will negatively affect a lot of people or wildlife, explain why or how.
  • Ask for a response on where he or she stands. Include a self-addressed envelope.
  • Remember to thank officials that help both personally and publicly.  Expressing thanks for a vote you appreciate is often as important as expressing disappointment in a vote you disagreed with.

Use social media…

  • Sign up for Audubon of Florida’s online newsletters that provide easy and direct email links to important decision-makers at key times.
  • “Like” Audubon of Florida on Facebook™.
  • Use Facebook™, Twitter™, blogs and other social media tools to connect others with information and opportunities to restore Florida Bay.

Tips were adapted from Protecting Paradise: 300 Ways to Protect Florida’s Environment, with permission from authors Margaret Spontak and Peggy Cavanaugh.

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