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Life as a Knauss Fellow: Helping Congress Find its Inner Lorax

July 16, 2012

U.S. Capitol Building

By Charlotte Weaver

As a Knauss Fellow with the Committee on Natural Resources, my primary activities include researching legislation and hearing topics and drafting memoranda, opening statements for the Ranking Member, and questions for witnesses.  I also attend meetings and briefings to understand policy issues and help the Committee take action where appropriate.

Charlotte Weaver

Charlotte Weaver

My fellowship duties may sound very serious, but sometimes the best way to make a point in congress is to break through that seriousness. For a hearing on the Council on Environmental Quality’s (CEQ) budget, I was inspired by the Dr. Seuss poem, The Lorax. I drafted an adaptation of some of the poem’s iconic lines to underscore the importance of CEQ (see text below). After input and edits from other staff, the final version of the adaptation was read by Ranking Member Ed Markey in his opening statement. His use of the poem was picked up by many environmental newspapers and was also featured in The Boston Globe, and prominent DC blog, The Buzz.

The fellowship allows me to combine my undergraduate degree in Wildlife Science with my graduate degree in Public Administration—working on wildlife issues ranging from large policies such as the Endangered Species Act to policies affecting specific species, such as the Southern sea otter. What I find most interesting about this work is the chance to consider the impacts of policies on citizens. Natural resource issues can be polarizing. During the fellowship I hope to find new ways to help reconcile stakeholder concerns with sound science and help government be responsive to local needs without sacrificing conservation goals.

One of the most valuable experiences has been learning what counts as a success on the Hill. I have learned that fighting for the minority position in congress is important despite the predictable and inevitable vote. If we can change the mind of just one person across the aisle, we’ve been successful. We can hope to change the minds of others and create a pathway to a more bipartisan Congress and more balanced legislation to address our Nation’s natural resource concerns.

The Fellowship has also presented me with many special opportunities including invitations to receptions on the Hill for organizations and events such as an Association of Zoos and Aquariums reception and Guam Liberation Day.  One very unique “briefing” involved having pictures taken with two baby tiger cubs and a baby chimpanzee and visiting with their keepers to understand their perspective on a particular piece of legislation.

 

Representative Ed Markey references Dr. Seuss in debate on the House floor. ©Committe on Natural Resources Democrats

Representative Ed Markey references Dr. Seuss in debate on the House floor. ©Committe on Natural Resources Democrats

Lorax-based Poem about CEQ

What will we do if we lose CEQ?
Just listen a moment, I will tell you.
We’d find a lonely place, that’s in a disgrace.
Where rivers burn and fish can’t swim,
Where the air is thick and the sunlight dim,
It would be a sad place that time forgot!
Unless someone like YOU funds CEQ,
Nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.

 

 

 

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