By: Clayton Marlow, SRM Vice President
Over the past two years the SRM Headquarters office, Executive Vice President and Board of Directors have received an increasing number of requests for signatory support for several things (federal nominees, federal legislation- e.g. the Farm Bill), to join rallies sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and even to take action on topics ranging from the objective use of utilization measures to concerns about unqualified individuals and companies conducting rangeland inventories for federal agencies. These requests present a dilemma for our officers, the Board, staff and SRM standing committees. Foremost is the real concern that SRM involvement may take on a tone of advocacy when providing support for political nominees, federal funding requests or changes in land management policy. At a slightly lower level is the necessity of a joint response to develop or strengthen linkages with other professional organizations like the Farm Bureau, Society of American Foresters, Wildlife Society and the Public Lands Council. A third challenge is meeting the Section and Parent Society’s responsibility to members. While the Parent Society has a thoroughly crafted set of guidelines that Section and Parent Society officers can follow when responding to requests for professional input, I would like to engage the membership in discussion about the role each of us has in SRM advocacy arena.
My discussion point focuses on our right to request SRM action on a topic we view as important to the wise stewardship of rangelands and our reciprocal responsibility in terms of supporting the Section or Parent Society in determining the level or degree of response. It’s a reasonable expectation that anyone of us could approach our Section or Parent Society leadership for action on a management or policy issue that we believe warrants professional input. Such would be the expectation for membership in most professional organizations. However, this expectation or right is balanced by our own willingness and that of fellow members to undertake the requisite review/comment action described in the Society’s Advocacy Guidelines. While I’ll make a brief summarization of the current guidelines for position and policy statements, you should read Director Alford’s companion article below for details.
Basically, the SRM Advocacy Guidelines call for executive or committee review/approval of the proposed action or advocacy statement before it is distributed to target audiences. This means that fellow members must step forward in the review process either as officers or committee members to review the request, interact with the individual or committee proposing the action and, in a timely manner, develop the Section or Parent Society response. This is unlikely to be a comfortable task because the committee or officer team may decline action because the requested letter, resolution or policy doesn’t meet guideline criteria. Equally likely would be the scenario that Section or Parent Society reviewers believe SRM input would be appropriate and undertakes the requested action. These critical actions cannot be undertaken without active participation by individual members, committees and the respective officer corp. To be a functional professional society that provides its members with worthwhile services each of us must be willing to fulfill both roles, requestor and reviewer. In short, SRM’s reputation as a professional society rests squarely on each of us contributing to requests from leadership or other committees to weigh the pros and cons of SRM undertaking an advocacy role.
I invite your input about advocacy. During my tenure on the Board and now as Vice President I have heard strong, strong arguments against the SRM undertaking any action other than the production of policy and position statements – rigorously reviewed scientific documents that focus on a specific topic germane to rangeland conservation. But I also hear the lament that the SRM doesn’t really do anything; it doesn’t provide any leadership nor do we provide direction on important ecological and environmental issues. These arguments cancel each other out leaving the Society adrift in the back eddies of inaction. What do you think we should do? Please think about this topic and drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.