Skip to main content

Our Annual Meeting is underway. Join us from Monday through Friday

Writing lawmakers and public officials

A well-written and well-timed letter can be an effective method to express support or concern as a constituent. It can also be worthwhile to write if you are giving relevant scientific input to a committee member or leader, even if you aren’t a constituent.

Send your communication via email – most congressional offices host a form on their website for constituents to submit emails. Letters sent through the postal service to Capitol Hill must go through extra security, which can take a long time. You can also call the congressional office and ask for the contact information for the staffer assigned to the subject matter area.

For committees, go to the Committee website. You may need to call the committee phone number and ask where to send written correspondence.

Correspondence Guidelines

Keep it concise; a one-pager is best, two pages maximum.

State the purpose of the letter in the first paragraph and focus on only one subject area. Back your position with the remainder of your letter. If the subject is a specific piece of legislation, cite it by name and bill number. If you are interested in only part of the bill, provide the section number as well (e.g., Section 307(b)). Note the likely ramifications of the legislation, including the impact of the legislation on their district (if applicable) and, if possible, suggest a better approach. It is easier for congressional offices to respond to letters that address specific legislation. They may not know what to do with general “information” on a topic not tied to legislation.

Ask for the legislator’s views, if unknown. If you are supportive of the legislation, ask your legislator to become a co-sponsor of the bill.

Before drafting your letter, check the lawmaker’s website and profile on Congress.gov to see if they have sponsored any similar legislation or made any statements on the subject. This might also help you identify what issues are important to the lawmakers and how the legislation might impact those issues and sectors. For example, if you are writing about a piece of invasive species legislation and the lawmaker is interested in supporting the agricultural sector, you can highlight the impacts of invasive species on agriculture.

Sample Letter and Suggested Format:

[DATE]

[Address]

The suggested address style is:

The Honorable [name]

United States Senate

Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable [name]

United States House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Senator/Representative [name],

I am writing to commend your leadership in introducing S. 3210 the Invasive Fish and Wildlife Prevention Act, as well as your recognition of nonnative species invasions as a national priority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If applicable, you can open your letter with this language:  “I am writing to ask for your support for S. 3210…” “I am writing to ask you to oppose S. 3210…”

As a professor of ____________ at the University of ___________, I regularly observe the impacts of invasive species on ecosystems and society. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of help in providing additional scientific information or testimony to your office.

State your credentials and affiliations so that Congressional offices know that you have relevant expertise.

Your proposed legislation represents an important shift from reactive to proactive policy, a shift that would both protect ecosystems and biodiversity throughout the country and relieve the US economy of the financial burdens associated with managing new invasive populations. In addition to damaging property and supplanting native species, invasive species frequently disrupt food webs, spread disease, and leech resources. Cumulatively, these effects can severely disrupt entire ecosystems, often irreversibly impeding their ability to provide humankind with important resources, ranging from food to carbon sequestration to recreational opportunities. The current protocol of acting only after a nonnative species has caused “demonstrable damage” has led to—and will continue to lead to—invasions that quickly escalate beyond our capacity to control them. I therefore applaud the preventative approach laid out in your bill, which reflects the immediacy with which nonnative species should be addressed.

Use the rest of the letter to back your position. Note the likely ramifications of the legislation and, if possible, suggest a better approach. Include examples of how the legislation will positively or negatively impact the lawmaker’s district and constituents, if applicable.

I look forward to supporting your bill in the coming months.

Sincerely, 

[Your Name]

If you are expressing concern: Thank the legislator for considering your views. If you are expressing support: Thank the legislator for work so far; if applicable, offer support (optional).

After you send your letter, follow-up if you do not get a response within a few weeks. Resend your letter and let the office now that you are sending this a second time.

If the legislation will have a committee hearing or will be up for a vote, contact the office and reiterate your position.