Direct Line to the Ballot Box:
Club members can influence Congress by voting to elect pro-environment candidates. The Club can also organize members to write letters, send e-mails and faxes and make phone calls on behalf of - or in opposition to - individual bills. Enough letters to a legislator (or enough letters to the editor in the local paper) and he or she will realize that the public is watching . . . with an eye cast to the ballot box in the next election. If, in spite of public pressure, a bad bill makes it through Congress, we can also lean on the president to veto it.
Don't Fear the Phone:
Have you stopped short of calling your legislator for fear that you'll be put through directly to your senator? Or that you'll be quizzed on your issue? Don't worry. You'll most likely speak with an aide who will simply make note of your comments, and there will be no need to demonstrate your expertise on the subject. So don't be shy. Calling is an immediate, direct and effective way to make your voice heard. (See How to Meet With Your Legislator.)
No Hard Feelings:
Sometimes agencies are pleased when the Sierra Club points out that they aren't doing their job. When the EPA didn't enforce air-pollution standards at the Hayden power plant in Colorado, the Sierra Club took the plant owners to court - highlighting the EPA's negligence in enforcing standards that it actually set. Then, the EPA gave the Sierra Club a national award under the Clean Air Act for its work on the case.
Are You Listening?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is. Said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, of the torrent of comments he received on the USDA's proposed organic standards: "Thousands of commenters requested that USDA issue revised proposed standards, and we intend to do so." When an agency gets a ton of mail on a proposed rule, it knows that people are watching; if it then ignores the public input, it risks negative attention . . . which could cause Congress to pass legislation to curtail that agency's activities. (See Public Outcry Forces Recall of Proposed Organic Rules)
Lands under the jurisdiction of the Forest Service, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management can be designated by Congress as wilderness areas. These lands are protected from roadbuilding, motorized vehicles and timber harvesting, although hiking, hunting and fishing are allowed. Citizens can propose an area for wilderness designation, but they have to move fast: Once an area has been developed and lost its wild character, it no longer qualifies. (See 8.5 Million Mapped)
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