During this year's legislative session, the Coalition and its members in Maryland had a number of priorities, including improving the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). Between 1982 and 1997, the Chesapeake Bay watershed lost more than 750,000 acres of forestland. Today, there are about 24 million acres of forest and the watershed is losing about 70 acres each day. Maryland has not altered its FCA since 2013, which made this a priority for our members.
Our state lead, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, brought together more than 15 members of the Coalition around this issue to help coordinate and strategize around how to increase pressure to pass a new version of the bill. MDLCV held weekly calls where Coalition members would volunteer their time and support for writing op-eds, sending emails to state legislators, and even organized a lobby day.
In addition, the Coalition used this as an opportunity to pilot the first joint petition among Coalition members. A joint petition is when a number of groups sign their organization on to the same petition and send it out to their supporters for signing. When people see that a number of organizations are supporting a common goal, it can be much more powerful and increase signatures. This also acts as a list building campaign, where the participating organizations receive a new list of names of supporters from their fellow participants. This is something that has been done in other neighboring watershed, and the Coalition has wanted to try it in the Chesapeake.
The FCA joint petition included 10 Coalition members: National Wildlife Federation, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, League of Conservation Voters, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, Potomac Conservancy, Blue Water Baltimore, Clean Water Action, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, South River Federation, and Severn River Association. These organizations were selected due to their varying sizes, location, capacity, and member lists. After running the joint petition for a little over two weeks, the group received more than 3,700 signatures, and all participating organizations received new names to their lists.
In the end, the FCA did not pass this time, but the Coalition considers our effort a success. The ability for these different groups to come together and strategically work on a common issue and conduct a joint petition is something that would not have been possible without the framework of the Coalition. Our members will be ready to take up the banner once again in 2019!