Our USFWS Macaw Team before the meetings
I discovered my inner sixth-grader this past week when Gail Koelln and I were the guests of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Washington, DC. They invited us to join them on Capitol Hill as they highlighted our project in La Moskitia, Honduras, and the film they produced about that project, “Poachers and Protectors”. Their goal was to bring awareness to those in the government who have the ability to help the people and parrots of the Americas through community conservation. USFWS awarded our partner, INCEBIO, a grant that has made such a difference to our work, and they would like to continue supporting efforts of those on the front-line of conservation.
Flying high at the Capitol by showing our "Fly Free Parrot" wristbands (LoraKim and Gail)
An overview of the collaboration between the USFWS, One Earth Conservation, our in-country partner organization, INCEBIO, and the village-centered conservation project were presented to a handful of both House and Senate staff from the Environment and Public Works, Foreign Relations, and Natural Resources Committees. This was pretty amazing to be talking about parrot conservation to national and international political operatives. One can’t be but a little hopeful to have key people listen to you and your esteemed colleagues.
I went beyond hope, to almost giddiness. The multitude of acronyms aside, I was able to follow enough of the side chatter and questions to ascertain that there is a mutually understood process for how to govern, and what each stakeholder’s role was in each of the dark-paneled rooms we passed through. Staff members knew what they were doing and were there to learn all they could to serve the public. Could our government actually be able to work, and could what I do and say actually matter, even a little, at the national level? I hadn’t touched such thoughts in decades.
Map made by the USFWS showing the expanding nature every year of the territory protected by community patrols in Moskitia, Honduras 2014-2019.
When asked if we wanted to walk outside by the USFWS congressional liaison, or alternatively ride the train through the underground tunnel, of course we said the train! When asked if we wanted to tour the Capitol Dome Rotunda room, of course it was yes. When asked if we wanted to see the historical old Supreme Court Chamber, I replied, “Look, my answer to everything is yes!”
Posing in the Brumidi Corridor of the panel where we found our cherished scarlet macaw (Levi Novey, Gail Koelln, LoraKim Joyner, Ani Cuevas)
The hallways were embellished with historical paintings, objects, statues, and plaques, rich in USA history, and, oh yes, deep in colonialist, patriarchy, and environmental devastation symbolism. But even with that, my eyes were wide and mouth near agape to imagine, just imagine, that the voices of the underserved and oppressed, might one day be able to echo ever more so through these walls.
A sign of that possibility appeared as we spied on one of the walls an old, beautiful painting of a scarlet macaw. Our scarlet macaw team, who came together during this visit in solidarity with the Moskitia, Honduras project, gathered near the painting in reverence and gratitude. We saw the bird and, hopefully because of our day in DC, others will now as well.
And maybe, just maybe, we can have a government of the people, and parrots, and for the people, and the parrots.