Every now and again someone will ask: How can a bird conservation org team up with hunters? Why make a coalition with local brewers, or outdoor enthusiasts, or farmers or a garden club? What makes such a coalition successful; what is the glue that binds us together?
Quite simply: Love.
Each of these groups do the work to help create a sustainable water future because they love something, and water is a crucial element to make each of those loves possible. You can’t brew beer without water; can’t grow crops without water; can’t support birds and fish without water; can’t sustain outdoor areas and game animal populations without water. Nobody, in fact, can live without water—which is why we all have a stake in making sure that there is enough of it to go around for everyone.
During this legislative session, a coalition organized by Audubon Southwest brought together members of the Western Rivers Brewers' Council, Trout Unlimited, the Arizona Wildlife Federation, Audubon chapters, and HECHO—a group of hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts of predominantly Latinx heritage focused on public land policy—to the state capitol in Phoenix to urge state legislators to create a secure water future for everyone in Arizona.
“We have done advocacy day for many years,” says Haley Paul, policy director of Audubon Southwest, “and it’s a chance for Audubon and our partners—our locally based Audubon chapters, our hunter and angler friends, local small business breweries—to come together at the state capitol to talk to our lawmakers about why we care about these issues.”
It takes work to find that commonality and to forge relationships across groups, and it takes resolve to make sure that legislators understand the stakes involved. “We suggest to our folks that they don’t have to be a policy expert,” says Paul. “You speak from the heart. You speak your story about why these issues matter to you.”
Jelena Grbic, secretary of Maricopa Audubon Society also spoke to the importance of collaboration and relationship building. “One of the challenges we face is getting the word out around conservation,” she says. “One of the things we’ve worked with other Arizona chapters on is developing bilingual materials to reach Spanish-speaking people in the state.”
Traditionally, anglers and hunters have been quite involved with conservation, especially on public lands, and groups that support hunters and anglers of color are engaging with this work with renewed vigor. HECHO, which formed in 2013, provides a platform for Hispanics/Latinos to contribute knowledge and perspectives about public land conservation for future generations.
Dana Orozco, Arizona field coordinator for HECHO, echoed that need for community engagement when asked about why she was at the advocacy day. “I’m here today advocating for my community in Arizona for protecting and conserving our water,” she says.
Going forward, each of the coalition partners will be doing their own outreach and advocacy work within their respective niches. Audubon Southwest and Arizona Wilderness Brewing, for example, have collaborated to relaunch the Birds and Beer event at the Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix with an owl-themed beer and presentation. The crowd engaged with the wonder of owls and the connection between birds and beer—as it happens, it’s the same message Paul and others shared with legislators at Western Rivers Advocacy Day: “If we don’t have water, we have nothing.”