Tips for Writing a Letter to Your elected Representatives-

Many people are reluctant to write their elected representatives concerning issues that are important to them. Some may feel their letter writing skills are not up to speed, while others feel no one will read or react to their letter so why bother. There are a multitude of other reasons people don’t move to action and write. In fact most of them are dead wrong. The letter to an elected official is still one of the most powerful tools we have in the democracy. While we may choose to fax or email our words due to postal security delays, a simple, focused hand written letter is an important effort.

Here are some quick tips for writing your elected representative on this or any other issue. Once we have names and addresses in hand we have to start somewhere. There are lots of suggestions on form and protocol but “Dear Congressman” isn’t a bad way to begin!

What do you want to write first? Let’s start with developing a one sentence description of the issue. For example: “I am writing to express my concern for the inadequate watershed funding proposed in the Administration’s 2009 budget.”

The next point you want to make concerns the local connection to the issue you are writing about. Include a few brief sentences about your project and a few of the benefits it provides. For example: you might name the communities protected by the project, the number of structures, include the acres/population protected, recreation opportunities afforded, water supply, etc. Don’t go overboard with numbers here, many people are unaware of the protection provided each day by these projects and with just a figure or two you can make your point.

Perhaps the next paragraph is the most important on in your letter. In two or three sentences sum up the action you desire your representative to take. For example: “I am asking you to support the following figures as the minimum adequate funding level for the USDA Small Watershed Program: Watershed planning $35 million , Watershed Operations $190 million and Watershed rehabilitation $65 million. In addition I would urge you to encourage USDA officials to expedite the administration of the program in a fashion which will provide immediate beneficial results to local project partners and the citizens protected by this important program. I would appreciate your support for the program as you visit with your colleagues in Congress as well.”

Last but not least close your letter with thanks and an offer of additional assistance.
“If you need additional information on the importance of this program in the congressional district please feel free to contact me at______.” You don’t have to know all of the answers but you do probably know who to ask or who to refer any questions to. The local or state Office NRCS official or perhaps another well informed project sponsor could be an additional source of information if requested.

Close your letter with a statement similar to: “Thank you for your time and for your consideration. I appreciate your efforts to support those issues important to us here in ______”

After your signature you may wish to show the recipients of copies of your letter. That can be a powerful tool as well. For example:

Sincerely,

Cc: National Watershed Coalition
Governor________
Mayor_____________
NRCS State Conservationist___________
All Members of the State Congressional Delegation

With just a few minutes of work on your part you can make a difference by contacting your congressional delegation. Give it a try, watershed sponsors and partners everywhere will be grateful!

And don’t forget, if you’re writing to Washington, D.C., a fax is the fastest and most efficient method.