When I came to the University of Toledo College of Law, I knew that I wanted to blend my passion for the outdoors with my interest in politics, but I wasn’t sure how I would do so. My passion for the outdoors grew from an early age where my father introduced me to all things fishing and waterfowl hunting. I was thrust into a world full of early mornings, frosty cattails, and streams full of lively smallmouth bass. The early kindling of my connection to the natural world led me to feel a sense of obligation to protect the lands that brought numerous sportsmen and women like myself so much joy. This feeling of obligation to public lands and desire to give back placed me on a direct path to discovering Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) during my first year of law school. Eventually, I threw my hat in the ring to become a board member for the Ohio Chapter. I was given an opportunity, and little did I know, this opportunity would change my career aspirations forever.
In May of 2019, I was asked to participate in a DC fly-in to advocate for the full and dedicated funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. During that trip, I quickly discovered how my passion for the outdoors, my obligatory feeling to protect it, and interest in politics would come together. During the fly-in, I met Julia Peebles BHA’s Government Relations Manager and through conversations with her, meetings with congressional staffers, and amercing myself in the culture of Washington, DC, I dedicated myself to fostering a career in conservation policy.
The conversations with Julia during the fly-in led to an internship opportunity that summer and subsequently an externship in the spring semester of 2020 through the University of Toledo College of Law’s Public Service Externship Clinic. This program allowed me to work for BHA’s government relations team while earning credit towards my Juris Doctorate.
During my externship, I was honored to work for the organization that gave life to my desire to give back. I started the externship by working to organize 2020 policy priorities. As my experience grew, so did my responsibilities. I began working on an extremely pressing issue regarding our public lands when I was tasked with analyzing arguments made in the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources’ hearing for the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act (H.R. 5598). This led to more research on material for a potential landing page on BHA’s website regarding the issue. Additionally, I was able to draft a sign-on letter for the Governors of Midwest states in support of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness protection.
The introduction of the Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) in March allowed me to see the dynamic nature of government relations work. Upon introduction, the bill immediately caught the attention of many conservation organizations as a potential landmark piece of legislation. I found myself in a great position to influence this piece of legislation through mobilizing Ohio’s sportsmen and women to contact Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) who was the sponsor of the Restore Our Parks Act. This act was to be included in the S. 3422 package. A major priority for BHA was to include all federal land management agencies to receive backlog funding in the Restore Our Parks Act portion of S. 3422 which was lacking in the current version of the bill. The rallying of Ohio’s sportsmen and women was ultimately successful. The bill was amended to include all federal land management agencies. It was in this moment that I saw the impact I could have with the help of dedicated sportsmen and women across the country. It was here that my desire to make an impact, love for the outdoors, and interest in politics came together. I was fortunate enough to work on many more impactful projects throughout my externship. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity provided to me by Julia Peebles, BHA, and the University of Toledo College of Law. It was an absolute honor representing BHA and its many members across the country.