What legislative advocacy the Highlands Conservancy does is done through the West Virginia Environmental Council. Because the Highlands Conservancy itself doesn’t have the resources or any special expertise to hire a lobbyist ourselves, we join together with other groups to advocate at the Legislature through the West Virginia Environmental Council (WVEC).
While the groups are committed to working together and generally agree, they don’t always see eye to eye on what issues the Environmental Council should emphasize. The Environmental Council has a process to resolve this.
The process begins with the WVEC soliciting the groups, including WVHC, for their ideas. Internally, President Larry Thomas solicits ideas from members of the Board, synthesizes those ideas, and then sends a list of our priorities to WVEC.
This year, we listed our priorities as:
- Opposing use of off-road vehicles on any public lands in West Virginia
- Opposing timbering in West Virginia’s parks
- Protecting water quality, including maintaining or strengthening water quality standards
- Clean elections
- Actions to address climate change and the emissions that cause it
This is only WVHC’s list. The other groups who make up the WVEC will have their own lists as well. The West Virginia Environmental Council’s Board (including a WVHC representative) will take the suggestions from its member groups and come up with a set of legislative priorities for our lobbyist to pursue. They may or may not be the ones that WVHC identified.
Of course, as pugilist and philosopher Mike Tyson put it, “”Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” The West Virginia Legislature is an unpredictable place. Making up a list of legislative priorities gives the WVEC a plan going into the session. Once the session starts there are proposals to respond to, unexpected bills introduced, etc. Perhaps the lobbyist will spend the session responding to some proposal which, if it becomes law, would be contrary to the interests and values of WVEC’s member groups. The carefully laid plan may disappear.