Last week, members of our Puget Sound team took off for Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress to talk about our favorite estuary’s importance to our national economy and our region’s identity. Among them was Kat Morgan, our associate director of Puget Sound conservation. We caught up with her when she returned home to hear about her trip. Read our Q&A interview with Kat below and check out our Twitter account to see some posts from the journey.
The Nature Conservancy: Welcome back, Kat! What were your impressions of Congress as a first-time citizen lobbyist?
Kat: Despite the headlines, rancor and partisan divisions that we hear about in D.C., there is hope to be drawn from being in our nation’s capital. I felt inspired by watching Congress in action and meeting with members of our Washington state congressional delegation. And while our representatives shared how much they miss the “better Washington,” I was struck by the power of our nation’s capital and the opportunities for citizens to affect our nation’s governance by engaging lawmakers.
TNC: In the meetings you had with members of Congress, did anyone have memorable feedback when you shared stories about our cooperative projects to restore Puget Sound?
Kat: I had the pleasure of meeting with my congresswoman Suzan DelBene. Our little group talked about the importance of Puget Sound and salmon recovery funding and the importance of her district (WA’s 1st Congressional District, including Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish and King counties, mostly east of I-5) in both issues.
I mentioned how important the Farm Bill conservation programs, particularly the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), have been in helping our farmer-partners implement conservation projects that also work for their businesses. With a third of the floodplains in Puget Sound managed for farming, this is an important interest group to collaborate with in recovering Puget Sound.
Rep. DelBene noted that in groups like ours, the Farm Bill conservation programs are often overlooked, and she appreciated our efforts to work with those interest groups and leverage the value of the Farm Bill programs in Puget Sound recovery.
TNC: There was a new event this year as part of Puget Sound Day on the Hill: a larger-group lunch meeting on Thursday where we invited members from states other than Washington to hear about Puget Sound projects. How did it go?
Kat: The Washington delegation, the Senate Oceans caucus, House Estuaries caucus and, importantly, all their staff were invited for lunch and to hear a series of talks on public-private partnerships in Puget Sound. The Nature Conservancy's Urban Partnership Director Chris Hilton spoke about the City Habitats coalition and the Green Bridges project. Ryan Mello from the Pierce Conservation District discussed a series of projects in the Puyallup watershed, including the Farming in the Floodplain project, a Floodplains by Design project.
This event was so popular, the room was overflowing. There were some great questions, and all presenters managed to bring out a special example of strategies that estuary recovery efforts elsewhere might be able to use. I thought this new opportunity for engagement was very successful and is a great way to broaden the audience for Puget Sound messaging.
TNC: Anything else you’d like to share about your trip?
Kat: Some gratitude. Our partners in the Puget Sound Partnership put tremendous effort into making this an easy and successful trip for all involved. I truly appreciate the hard work of their policy staff and others in taking care of logistics, engaging our delegation and inspiring a wide range of partners to make the trek across the country.