By Mona Blaber, 
Chapter communications coordinator

The election of President Donald Trump, his anti-environment Cabinet appointees and a Congress insistent on unraveling climate, water, wildlife and lands protections have been frightening, but they have unleashed a powerful citizen determination.

Membership in the Rio Grande Chapter (New Mexico and El Paso) has increased from 8,000 people to more than 9,000 just since the elections.

More importantly, member engagement has surged, as have inquiries from those who want to know how to get active to protect the environment.

Chapter Director Camilla Feibelman led post-election workshops on how to make a difference under a Trump presidency, and the chapter continues to provide a wide array of opportunities to participate.

Before the recent New Mexico legislative session, the chapter held workshops around the state to educate citizens on how to lobby at the Roundhouse. More than 300 people attended.

A core group of more than 700 signed up to take daily actions, calling or emailing key legislators and attending committee hearings during the legislative session, which ran from Jan. 17 to March 18.

Lynne Fischer, one of the most active Sierra Club volunteers during the session, said she wanted to get involved two years ago but didn’t know how:

“I didn’t know my way around the Roundhouse (I didn’t even know where to park!), I didn’t believe that I had enough ‘expertise’ to address a legislator, and I didn’t know the legislative process, so didn’t know where to begin,” Fischer said.

“This year I was looking for some information on bills that Sierra Club would be supporting (for another organization) and reached out to (Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter lobbyist) Dan Lorimier. Dan shared with me a copy of his bill summary and mentioned the Monday-night Legislative Team meetings. I went to my first one and was hooked. The team was so helpful and filled in details to all the questions I had, including where to park!  Also, the email action alerts were super-informative, timely, concise — and made making phone calls easy. That information and knowing that there was support from the team gave me the confidence to attend the legislative session this time around.”

Lorimier and volunteer Legislative Team co-chairs Patricia Cardona and Melinda Smith made themselves available at the Roundhouse to walk around with volunteers and provide tips on the best time to catch your legislator, proper protocol when giving a public comment at a committee hearing and any other questions.

Whether it’s doing office work on Office Wednesdays or meeting with your legislators or offering a special skill, you can join the hundreds of others who have volunteered. Contact camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org to join the fun!

Roundhouse rally photo courtesy of David McGahey.

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