Our government relations associate describes the outdoor experiences and family traditions that drive her to work for better conservation policy in our nation’s capital
When it comes to skill in the outdoors, I didn’t have the most auspicious beginnings. In fact, on my first family fishing trip at the age of five, I ended up hooking my mom—not dinner. Fortunately, I’ve learned to watch my backcast, and I’ve grown from a girl with a Goofy rod and reel into a person who feels passionately about advocating for legislation that improves sportsmen’s access and benefits the fish and wildlife habitat we rely on. That’s why I’m here in Washington, D.C., working with my colleagues at the TRCP to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
In this town, I think it’s easy to get caught up in what we have on our to-do lists, and lose sight of why we’re doing it. To remind myself, I recently gave my dad a call. Since 2006, he has been involved with the Red-tail Land Conservancy, a not-for-profit land trust in Muncie, Indiana, that has conserved over 2,600 acres of private land. He’s also the person who taught me everything I know about the outdoors.
At 15 years old, I recall being aware of his participation in restoration projects and other volunteer work to further conservation, but until now I’d never asked him why he felt so compelled to give back. Like so many sportsmen and women, Dad credits our country’s fish and wildlife habitat for the best experiences of his childhood. His father—my Gramps—and grandfather took him fishing on the West Coast of Florida and many of the rivers and lakes in Indiana. Gramps taught him firearm safety and set him up with a BB gun and targets made from hanging acorns and fat flower blossoms. Dad grew up training his English setter, competing in field trials, hunting upland birds, and fishing whenever and wherever he could.
He jokes that he started taking us kids out so he’d have an excuse to take time off work or get out of household chores, but of course he wanted us to have these memories of family time in the outdoors, too. And I have many. Before hanging up, we chatted about our deep-sea and back-bay fishing trips in Florida, the walleyes and northern pike we caught in Manitoba, and our hunting expeditions for wild quail in Illinois.
All that time, Dad was showing me how to be a good sportswoman and steward of these resources, too. Our most unforgettable stories aren’t about the biggest fish or the trophy-size bucks—they’re about connection and tradition. So, while there are times that I feel helpless and frustrated with Congress, whether for lawmakers’ actions or inactions on conservation priorities, I’m armed with the understanding that quality places to hunt and fish are worth fighting for.
What was important to Gramps and my dad is now what drives me to do this important work of advocating for habitat and access. So, the next time I’m headed into a meeting with a Congressional staffer, or rushing across town to attend an event hosted by one of our conservation partners, I’ll be thinking about my family, our cabin, Muncie’s White River and, yes, even Mom’s shriek as I tried to reel her in on that first cast.
If you’re hooked on the thrill of the outdoors, we want to hear from you. Who first taught you that being a hunter or angler means taking responsibility for our fish and wildlife? What do you want our lawmakers to know about the value of the outdoors