Before we start seeing any posts about the current Executive Orders and proposed environmental legislation by this administration, I think it is important to continue with placing in our minds where the garden club structure has been putting emphasis. So, we will look at FGCofMD and District V information–lacking much historical data through Minutes or online accounts, we are a bit limited.
As we know, the hierarchy of conservation projects percolating down comes from National Garden Club and goes to State Federated Clubs and finally to Individual Local Clubs. In between are liaisons between State and National—for us that would be “C.A.R.” or “Central Atlantic Region”.
At FGCofMD, here is what we know from their statements/ByLaws:
1. FGCofMD shall promote the “protection of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and birds, conservation practices in home, community and state”.
2. All Federated Clubs in Maryland must have committees in conservation and environmental awareness.
3. The duties of the Conservation and Environmental Awareness Committee are to communicate and coordinate the interests of the membership in good practices and education in conservation and protection of birds, butterflies, other wildlife and natural resources.
4. Projects promoted were Bee Gap, promoting the use of Mason Bees/ Crown Bees-either raising them yourself or as a community project, Backyard Wildlife Habitats and Butterfly Gardening in particular raising awareness of the plight of the Monarch Butterfly. Linking with the Legislation Chair activity, the state pushed to inform about the dangers of neonicotinoids as having a role in pollinator deaths and labeling of plants thus treated.
FGCofMD has an Environmental Council which is associated with the effort to promote the Environmental Studies School courses that began at Garrett College/Deep Creek Lake and are currently being offered in Montgomery County. The council members have taken the courses and have received an Environmental Consultants certificate. The schools are open to the public as well as garden club members and are meant to build knowledge about environmental issues through studies, speakers and field trips.
As part of public outreach, the state often plans a day wherein the various councils (or certain committees) arrange for topical speakers and exhibits as well as plant, book and merchandise sales.For example, this year “It’s A Garden Party” promo, to be held June 6th at the Vollmer Center has the Environmental Consultants Council presenting “From Mountains to Sea: Maryland’s Natural Areas”. Kerri Wixted will discuss several of the unique natural habitats and their rare species. Natural Heritage Program has identified 31 unique natural areas in the state of Maryland.
Our outgoing President, Nicki Schwab chose for her motto: Coming Back Into Contact With Nature and Saving What We Have Left”. She has promoted the University of Maryland Centers for Science and a Scholarship for “Environmental Leaders of Tomorrow”. The public could see displays covering this environmental aspect of the garden club at our booth at the Home and Garden Show.
At this year’s FGCofMD Annual Meeting at the end of March, the speaker will be Collin O’Mara who is the head of National Wildlife Foundation.
We only know what our own district is doing unless the other districts report their conservation activities in GardenNews.
District V has a standing committee: Conservation and Environmental Awareness. At one time Birds and Butterflies was a stand alone committee but has since been rolled up within Environmental.
The Bylaws state: that the objectives of District V will be those of FGCofMD: protections of trees, shrubs, wildflowers and all wildlife, conservation practices, protection of roadsides and parks, observation of environmental concerns in design (landscape and floral).
The Conservation Committee shall communicate and coordinate the interests of the clubs in good practices and education in conservation and environmental issues and protection of birds, butterflies, other wildlife and natural resources.
The Environmental Studies representative shall inform clubs of Environmental Studies School, attend and be available to help with same.
At District V Level for the past several years, Minutes show support for the following initiatives, some of which were discussed by State Committee Chairs or the State President to emphasize the importance:
- Exhorting individual clubs to schedule programs featuring environmental topics and speakers
- Citizen Science: The Great Backyard Bird Count
- Baywise Certification for member’s yards or projects
- Backyard Bird Habitat Certification
- National Wildlife Foundation support and commitment to wildlife-Gardens for Wildlife
- Monarch Plantings
- Million Pollinators Challenge
- Pollinator Protection Act
- Promotion of Awards to be given for water filtration planting projects like rain gardens, waterside planting
- Request for clubs to send monetary support to CES at University of Maryland due to budget cuts
- District V Environmental Chair reports at Semi-Annual and Annual Meetings, info in Presidents folders
- Pointing clubs on where to get additional outside information as resource material (USDA, NRCS)
Now, environmental concerns have gone hand in hand with the outcome of political actions since *forever*. Therefore, the Legislation Committee takes an important part in our education. In the Bylaws, Legislation Committee for State and District both say: it shall promote advocacy and will communicate to membership regarding pending or existing legislation affecting the horticulture,conservation and preservation interests of the membership…
Sounds good. Here is where it gets sticky for some due to this proviso:
PROVIDED no substantial proportion of the activities (of the Corporation) shall be the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.. and cannot participate or intervene in political campaigns for office.
The latter portion seems obvious; we are most definitely not a political entity that exists to support election efforts. And we need to have balance with all the other areas of garden club concerns. However, some have interpreted this proviso to mean that we shouldn’t bring up anything that could possibly be divisive (due to environmental concerns being subsumed into support for or against political positions) – which is almost impossible to do since to advocate means “to plead for, support, recommend or actively espouse”.
This means we research and offer informed opinions to our club members and are able to serve by informing people in leadership positions about our environmental concerns. As individuals we are free to take that knowledge and be a political activist should we be so inclined, but the “garden club umbrella” doesn’t stand over us then.
In our next post, we will examine our own garden club.