Wolf Pack Activist Toolkit

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If you are interested in starting or joining a local Wolf Pack, or just in being a Pack-tivist yourself, this is the place to be. But before you schedule any meetings, we ask that you reach out to devon@howlingforwolves.org with any questions, concerns, or resource requests, and to ensure you don’t already have a local group active. You can also call 612-424-3613.

Download: WOLF PACK TOOLKIT


THANK YOU FOR YOUR INTEREST IN JOINING OR STARTING A WOLF PACK ADVOCACY GROUP

Howling For Wolves (HFW) is looking across Minnesota and the US for people willing to join together and stand up for the wolf by establishing supporter, advocate, and volunteer groups called ‘Wolf Packs’. As of December 2018, HFW has established these groups in St Cloud, Duluth, Grand Rapids, Brainerd, and Thief River Falls, Minnesota. Wolf Packs are for wolf advocates to get involved at the local, state, and federal levels in communicating with lawmakers and neighbors alike about the importance of protecting the wolf for future generations. The goal is that those involved feel able to walk away from each meeting equipped with new knowledge, skills, and opportunities to help protect the wolf for future generations and serve as a knowledgeable resource.

This document provides interested individuals or groups the framework and necessary background information to establish a Wolf Pack.

 BACKGROUND & MISSION OF HFW

Howling For Wolves is a Minnesota-based wolf advocacy organization that formed in 2012 to educate the public about the wild wolf to foster tolerance and to ensure the wolf’s long-term survival. Howling For Wolves opposes recreational wolf hunting and trapping and all wildlife snaring. We currently support the continuation of federal protections for the wolf by the Endangered Species Act.

Minnesota is home to the largest original and most biologically diverse wolf population remaining in the lower 48 states. According to a public comment survey from the MN DNR and a professionally conducted poll from Lake Research, the vast majority (79%) of Minnesotans view the wolf as an asset and think it should be protected for future generations. Wolves have been historically a persecuted species and vocal special interest groups maintain a position of animosity towards wolves today.

State legislative and wildlife policies have been designed to facilitate recreational wolf killing to cater to special interest groups; not designed to protect wolves as an important state asset and ensure their long-term survival. Wolves are unique and capture the wild spirit of the northwoods and they need strong advocates to stand up against anti-wolf agendas.

The Endangered Species Act ( ESA) was instrumental in bringing back the wolf populations. As soon as these wolves were delisted from the ESA, the states tasked with their management began hunting and trapping seasons, killing wolves in large numbers. Here in Minnesota, the estimated wolf population was dropped by 25% after the first trophy hunt in 2012. Hunts persisted the following two years until a federal judge then put the wolves back on the ESA in 2014. Ever since, some federal lawmakers have been attempting to delist the gray wolf once more, this time with extra provisions which prevent judicial review or reframe the process for relisting with a goal of reinstating these trophy hunts.

ONLINE  TOOLS TO TRACK WOLF NEWS AND LEGISLATION

Below are three online resource tools that we suggest Wolf Pack leaders use to monitor media coverage and news about the wolf, as well as monitor and track key wolf legislation to stay up to date.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts is an online service which notifies you when certain keywords appear in the news. For example, if you sign up to be alerted when the word “wolf” is mentioned, you will receive an email update at a certain pre-selected interval with a batch of, say, 10 alerts. Here’s how to set it up.

Go to https://www.google.com/alerts and sign in to your google account (if applicable).

Add in keywords and select how often to receive updates and how many articles you want included in each email.

Recommended Keywords

  • Minnesota Wolf Hunt
  • Wolves
  • Gray wolf
  • Howling For Wolves
  • Wolf Hunt
  • Endangered Wolves
  • Minnesota DNR Wolf

 GovTrack.US

GovTrack makes it easy to search for and read legislation, proposals, proposed bills, etc. and to understand their status. It updates frequently and clearly lists out recent changes. In addition, it has a functionality which predicts a bills likelihood of passing and has profiles on lawmakers which detail their voting and legislative history.

To sign up:

Go to www.govtrack.us and Click ‘Track’ on the top menu bar

From there you can select to either set-up tracking for members of congress, specific bills and resolutions, voting records, or committees. Let’s say you click on ‘Bills and Resolutions’. There you can click on the ‘Get Alerts’ tab. Here is where you can enter certain keywords to receive email updates on. Say, ‘Wolf”. Once you’ve entered a keyword, you can select how often you’d like to receive updates.

Recommended Keywords

  • Minnesota Wolf Hunt
  • Wolf
  • Wolves
  • Canis lupus
  • Endangered Species Act

 Countable

Countable is similar to Google Alerts and GovTrack, but also can be integrated into social media.

Go to  https://www.countable.us/ and click on “Sign-Up Here” on the main tab. Choose either option and fill out the sign-up form. It will give you a variety of ways to contact your representatives directly.

Under the “Issues” tab, you can sign up for alerts specific to the issue. Under the “Bills” tab, you can sign up for alerts on specific bills, read their full text (including changes, summaries, and authors), vote Yea or Nay, petition, message your representatives, and engage in conversations and debates with other constituents.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

A letter to the editor is one of the most effective ways to educate others and influence elected officials.

Considering recent news stories and discussions about wolves and state and federal protections, letters to the editor can be powerful in helping to shape public opinion around the issue. As an advocate for the wolf, please submit a letter to your local newspaper. Contributing your voice to the conversation helps ensure a future for wolves everywhere.

As a voter and constituent, your voice is critical in advocating for this cause. Feel free to add your own experiences and edit the letter as you see fit; your personal story adds weight and importance to your message. When writing letters to the editor, it is important to be brief and bold, as well as accurate and informative.

A few notes: Most newspapers also have a word limit – typically ranging from 150 to 250 words. They will also insist on collecting your contact information (phone, email, address) for verification purposes only (and they could call you to verify you submitted the letter, if submitted by email, for example). This personal information will not be published

SAMPLE LTE

Name

Location

Grey wolves are an enduring symbol of America’s natural heritage. Once nearly driven to extinction by indiscriminate hunting and persecution.  Over the decades, they have slowly begun to make their way back from the brink thanks to public pressure and federal protection.

Unfortunately, many of our elected federal officials are determined to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from wolf populations in Minnesota and beyond. When populations are delisted, their management is transferred to the states, often resulting in premature and ill-advised trophy hunting and trapping seasons.

The vast majority of Minnesotans are opposed to this brutality. A 2012 survey conducted by the state’s Department of Natural Resources found that 79 percent of Minnesotans were opposed to the trapping and hunting of wolves.

Please call Minnesota’s U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar (202-224-3244) and Tina Smith (202-224-5641) and ask them to voice the will of their constituents by opposing any legislation that would result in wolf trophy hunting. We shouldn’t insert politics into the Endangered Species List.

Sincerely,

 PERSONAL MEETINGS

You may be wondering, “why me?” You’re a constituent! Lawmakers need to hear from you, and in most cases, they truly want to. For them, it isn’t about who you voted for or what party you belong to, it’s about getting a status update on their performance and hearing where members of their district would like them to improve. If you are a supporter, of course, that helps. If you have a couple of acquaintances who share your views and who you think could provide valuable back-up and support, invite them to the meeting with you. However, packing the office isn’t necessary or always the most powerful.

Advocacy is important to both members of Congress who meet in Washington D.C. and members of the Minnesota State Legislature who meet in St. Paul Meetings could be held either in Washington, D.C., St. Paul, or back in their home districts. Elected officials also usually hold open houses, town halls, or other public meeting events.

It’s important to note that sometimes you may not be able to meet directly with the lawmaker. Sometimes things come up, scheduling errors occur, or they just aren’t available, and you may end up meeting with a member of their staff. This is not unusual and staff have the ear of your lawmaker.

Preparation

This toolkit and the LiveAndLetHowl.org website provide a great deal of information.  Consider your talking points, gathering handouts, and have a plan of what to present.Read up on your Representative or Senator. Know their views, voting history on wolf legislation (or view their scorecard compiled by the League of Conservation Voters by visiting http://scorecard.lcv.org/), and (this is vital) know what committees they serve on. Wolf related measures will tend to be handled by House or Senate Natural Resources committees. For state legislators, a simple internet search ought to direct you to the appropriate website to find your lawmaker and contact information. For federal legislators, visit www.house.gov or www.senate.gov and plug in your zip code in the top right corner. Contact information for scheduling a meeting can be found there.

 

 Tips for a Successful Meeting

  • Arrive 15 minutes early. Introduce yourself, shake their hand, and thank them for taking the time to meet with you.
  • Find common ground. Make a connection. Look at the décor in their office or think to something you may have read about them. For example, if they are an outdoorsy individual, ask them when the last went hiking and where.
  • Introduce who you are as a constituent. Are you a parent? A teacher? A rancher? Let them know.
  • Meetings tend to be cut short or be interrupted. Lawmakers are busy individuals. Get your “ask” out or your 2-3 main points summarized at the very beginning. Provide them with any handouts you may have.
  • Share why the issue matters to you and the broader implications of protecting (or not protecting) the wolf.
  • Ask key questions. A conversation should go two ways. It should be your goal to do just half of the speaking. If you go in and talk the entire time, you’ll never know what they think or where their head is at.
  • Listen, listen, listen. And most importantly, take notes.
  • Conclude with your beginning. Re-share the summary of your most important points and your “ask”.
  • Ask if you may take a photo. Share it on social media afterwards!
  • Give one final thank you and a handshake. Follow-up ASAP with any materials they may have requested or answers to any questions you may not have been able to answer during the meeting.

 Key Questions to Ask Your Lawmaker

  • What do you know about the role of wolves in the ecosystem?
  • How do you feel about this issue?
  • Are there issues relating to wolves and wildlife that interest you?
  • What are your positions on increasing funding for nonlethal methods to aid livestock operators?
  • What are your positions on requiring permission to trap on private land?
  • What are your positions on a wolf hunt? What have you been told about the impact of wolf hunts?
  • What would your position be on banning the use of snares—metal wire nooses that frequently kill nontarget animals?
  • Do you spend time in any of our state’s natural areas or with our state’s wildlife?
  • What have you been told about wolf-livestock conflicts?
  • Are you hearing from anyone else on this issue—other constituents, etc.? If yes, from whom? Who would you LIKE to hear from, but are not hearing from?
  • Is there anything we can do to help you? Is there any information we can help get for you?

 Frequently Asked Questions

What if they ask a question that I don’t have the answer to?

In all likelihood, it isn’t like they will be drilling you to test your expertise and disregard you if they find you can’t answer at a PhD level. Be honest. If you don’t have the answer, tell them that you aren’t sure but will find out and follow up as soon as possible. Lawmakers generally understand you are there to share your story. They are not experts either and do not expect every constituent to be.

What if they disagree?

Usually, lawmakers are careful to not be confrontational with their constituents in their office. If they disagree, it’s likely they will do so silently by doing a lot of nodding and responding with things like “I’ll have to look into that” or “that’s not what I’ve been told before”. That’s part of why it is so important to get them talking, to really flush out their thoughts, opinions, and concerns. If they do disagree, especially vehemently, it is important to remain calm and polite. Sometimes the best response is “Well, then that is a point we can disagree on for now, but I’m sure there is something we can agree on, and perhaps I can provide you with some sources or literature that may sway you otherwise.”

What if they don’t give a clear answer on their position?

Often, lawmakers won’t give a clear answer, particularly if they disagree with you. What matters is that you showed, you spoke for wildlife, provided them with resources, and that you continue to do so and encourage others to do so. Continuous interactions and pressure are the key to success.

 After the Meeting

Write a thank you note via email or regular mail as soon as possible. Summarize your conversation, your main points, your “ask”, and thank

 PICK UP THE PHONE

Use the same online resources detailed in the previous section to find your lawmakers correct and most applicable phone number. When making a call, your communication is limited in that your use of words and tone of voice are the only tools at your disposal. With that in mind, here are some tips:

  • You don’t have to be an expert. The fact that you care is enough.
  • If answered by a staffer and you have to leave a message, keep it brief and concise.
  • If you are connected to your lawmaker, introduce yourself and clearly state the intent of your call with a quick summary of the points you’d like to discuss. Be sure to ask if it is a good time or I they’d rather schedule for a more in-depth conversation or in person meeting.
  • For the rest of the conversation, the points detailed in the previous section will still be applicable and beneficial.

 SPEAKING AT PUBLIC MEETINGS

Speaking at a public meeting is an extraordinary opportunity—though uncommon. They provide wolf advocates a platform on which you can use facts and knowledge to be an effective spokesperson for wildlife. These types of opportunities usually involve speaking with legislators, commissioners, wildlife officials, and other state or federal officials. We know that public speaking can be an anxiety inducing, nerve-wracking experience. However, these opportunities do not arise often, and it is important to have as many wolf advocates possible present. Here’s why:

  • You are speaking for the voiceless.
  • Hearing testimony directly from an individual has a way of emotional and logical sway that is difficult to achieve in any other format.
  • Taking the time out of your busy schedule shows dedication to the cause.
  • Wildlife agencies are under constant pressure from special interest groups which represent a minority opinion on wolves. Showing your support and standing your ground lets these agencies know, and point to, where the weight of support truly lies.

It is vital to remember that you are representing more than yourself! Be courteous, calm, and centered. Do not engage in arguments with opposition, and always thank those you are speaking to. Here are some tips for effective testimony:

  • Prepare your statement ahead of time and understand it may need to go through multiple drafts. These slots of time allowed rarely exceed three minutes, so keep that in mind. Practice at home and time yourself!
  • Prepare a written version of your testimony that may be submitted to the official record, given to the panel or commission, or shared with the press.
  • If you have a lot more to say than what can fit in three minutes, include it in your written testimony.
  • Be sure to get your biggest 2-3 points across in the first couple of sentences or in the first minute. Have it written out in summary again to end your slot, thereby reasserting the most important takeaways.
  • Be clear and concise.
  • Speak from your own experience, heart, and mind. Remember, you do not need to be an expert or a PhD.
  • Speak to how the proposal will impact you or your family personally if possible but avoid hyperbole and melodrama.
  • Making eye contact and speaking directly to the board or panel will show them that a real person is speaking and deserves to be heard. They are more likely to listen when they can see you and hear you clearly.
  • Arrive at least half an hour early to sign up to ensure you get a chance to speak early in the proceedings.
  • Dress for the occasion.
  • Listen to other testimonies and try not to repeat what a previous speaker has presented. Some points may be necessary to echo, but generally, allowing others to speak instead of repeating the same points is perceived better by all involved. If you had other points to make, focus on those.
  • Make notes on what the opposition chooses to focus on. It might help in your testimony or at a future point.
  • Be factual and know the background information for both sides of the issue.
  • If you have the time, try to mention specific sources and citations. Try to make the time whenever possible! This helps to dispel the myth perpetuated by the opposition that activist are emotional actors without scientific backing. Include sources in your written testimony.
  • State exactly what you would like to see happen. Offer alternative and solutions rather than declaring a simple “no”.
  • Thank the committee and offer to answer any questions. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and let them know that you intend to get back to them with a definitive answer.

 ESTABLISHING MEETINGS: THE BASICS

Getting Started

Before getting started, there are a few things to remember when setting up a Wolf Pack:

  • Think you’re the only wolf advocate in your area? Wrong. We’ve spoken with many wolf supporters in areas stereotyped as being anti-wolf who decided to speak up and found that many of their neighbors agreed. You’ll never know if you don’t speak up to find out.
  • You don’t have to meet weekly, or even monthly. Meet as often as is effective. Much of the work of Wolf Packs can be done virtually through electronic means of communication.
  • Create a community and find things to do together. Speaking engagements, volunteer events, meetings with lawmakers. You’re a pack, remember?

Find a location

You can’t have a meeting without a place to meet, of course. You know your area and probably have some idea of locations. However, we have found that libraries and college campuses are the best places for cost (typically free), accessibility, and set-up. Many public libraries allow fee free reservation if you are associated with a nonprofit organization, as do many college campuses, and have several meeting room options to choose from. Many of them are complete with a TV, hookups, and other digital amenities.

Pick a time and date

Historically, we have experimented with a few meeting times and have found consistently that midday Saturday tends to be what works best on two fronts: 1) People are available and 2) spaces are available. However, it is ultimately up to you and whatever allows you to be the most effective.

Outreach

Now that you have a location, time, and date, it’s time to get people there. Friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances are a good place to start, but you’ll need to expand your reach if your going to truly get a pack established. Live near a local college? Consider tabling at the student commons, reaching out to relevant student organizations, or emailing the biology, environmental science, or other relevant departments and request their office manager share details with students. Additionally, you might reach out to local human societies, animal shelters, food coops, or other businesses and groups who you think may have a similar environmental or conservation based mindset.

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