I was there during some of the key early days of this campaign as a student activist at Oberlin College. I was drawn to this effort because I not only wanted to save the trees but also yearned for an opportunity to be part of something much bigger than myself. As a volunteer with Ohio PIRG, a state-based student group that was connected to a national coalition of environmental groups, I worked with so many others to convince the Clinton administration to protect 58.5 million acres of national forests from road-building and commercial logging.
I collected petitions in front of the student union, inside the mailroom, in front of the grocery stores. I also trained other volunteers to collect petitions, which were on postcard-sized pieces of cardstock. Every 100 you collected could be piled into a satisfyingly thick pile and wrapped with a rubber band. We shipped them to the D.C. office by the thousands.
In the end, environmental organizers and activists collected and delivered 1.6 million public comments. We gathered around a radio listening to NPR in early January 2001, listening to the announcement that the Roadless Rule had been enacted. And notably, we did it old school. With online petitions barely in use at the time, we made our impact without a digital program.
Motivated by early success, I have spent the last 20 years organizing. I’ve worked to register voters, pass 100% renewable energy resolutions, lobby for clean cars standards and built support for bans on single-use plastics. I have worked on very local campaigns, state-level initiatives and on national efforts. It’s a great feeling to look back on those 20 years and know that one of my first victories was lasting and significant.