Audubon hosts rivers advocacy workshop

Volunteers learn how to help protect Arizona rivers

On Saturday June 8th, Audubon Arizona Executive Director Sarah Porter and Audubon WRAN Communications Consultant Sarah Luna brought together a team of over 60 volunteers and community leaders from across Arizona for the second “Protect Our Rivers” workshop.  (The first workshop was held in Tucson on May 25.)  These workshops have been co-hosted by Audubon’s Western Rivers Action Network, a multistate grassroots coalition advocating for rivers in the arid west, local Audubon Chapters and partner organizations including U of A’s Water Research Resource Center.

The focus of these workshops is to raise awareness about threats to western rivers and build a team of activist leaders to promote conservation actions to increase flows, improve habitats and advocate for sensible water management policies.  Phoenix workshop attendees heard from a wide range of speakers during the morning session including Brittany Choate Xiu from WRRC, IBA Program Manager Tice Supplee, Verde River Institute Executive Director, Clarkdale Mayor and long-time Verde River advocate Doug Von Gausig, Bard Water District BOD member Richard Johnson and others.

Workshop attendees learned about current issues impacting Arizona Rivers, specific opportunities to advocate and how to effectively advocate for western rivers.  They were treated to an entertaining and informative lunchtime advocacy presentation by consultant Larry Landry followed by legislative overviews from Arizona State Senator Katie Hobbs (D) and Arizona State Representative Kate Brophy-McGee (R)  and Michelle Davidson, Staff Director for U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema . Legislators discussed current legislative challenges and answered several questions about effective communications strategies. They stressed building personal relationships as key to effectively advocating on behalf of rivers through office visits, meetings, phone calls and/or e mails. The legislators also emphasized the importance of hearing from their own constituents and that hearing from a number of constituents on an issue was important to underscoring its importance.

Workshop attendees identified key Arizona river advocacy priorities, signed postcards to legislators about the importance of protecting Arizona rivers generally,  committed to spreading the word about river protection efforts in several ways including meeting with legislators, writing letters-to-editors, participating in events to educate the public about river issues and in other ways.  Anyone can signup for the network here.

Protecting the San Pedro River was identified by workshop participants as one of the major advocacy priorities.  The Bureau of Land Management is working on a Resource Management Plan (RMP)/ Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the San Pedro Riparian Natural Resource Conservation Area. A Notice of Intent was published in the Federal Register on April 30, 2013, announcing the beginning of the scoping process that will solicit public comments and identify issues. The public is invited to participate throughout the planning process to share their ideas and concerns. Formal scoping meeting dates and locations are posted under Meeting Information on this page.

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