As the director of our online communications program and a 25 year veteran of The Wilderness Society, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many mama grizzlies in my time.
These are women that work each day to defend our precious wild places, either in their personal lives or their professional work. As we honor those women during National Women’s History Month, there’s one type of mama grizzly I’d like to pay homage to. Those are the mamas who nurture younger generations of conservationists and ensure that future generations continue to appreciate and know the importance of conservation work. We have one mama grizzly here who exemplifies that quality — Louise Tucker our Administrative and Internship Coordinator.
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As a small child in the sixties, Louise and her many cousins spent hours in the piney woods outside Lugoff, South Carolina, playing games, cutting paths through the woods, racing to the “branch,” (local parlance for a stream), and splashing through it.
“We thought nothing of walking for miles, and playing outside,” Louise remembers. “We picked blackberries and scuppernong, and climbed apple trees and picked the apples. Kids today — even those that live in the country — don’t have those kinds of experiences anymore. So many of them are playing computer games, and they never get outside. They’re losing their connection to nature.”
The woods where Louise played with her cousins is now a nature preserve, and Louise has channeled that early love of nature to a career nurturing young people, as Internship Coordinator for The Wilderness Society.
Each term, 7-12 college students are selected to work as interns at The Wilderness Society. Louise looks for a special spark when helping to select new interns. “Whenever I’m interviewing, even if it’s over the phone, I listen for that passion for place, that love of nature that is so important,” Louise says. “Most refer back to what they did in nature as children, powerful memories that are still influencing them today.”
Interns are assigned an issue, and given a good deal of independence. They help write policy materials, factsheets, blogs and news releases. They help with social media. They take background materials to Capitol Hill, stopping to include every one of the more than 500 offices, and they participate in planning and strategy meetings.
Sometimes, when a Hill drop is particularly massive, interns from different organizations will gather together on the Hill and work together to deliver materials one floor at a time.
“That way, interns from different organizations meet up and they’ll get together after work or on weekends,” Louise explains. “We try to get interns out to Hill receptions or events at the White House or Press Club.”
Rapid response is a constant possibility. “We can plan all we want but frequently all the plans go out the window when we get a call from the Hill saying we need a factsheet right now — the bill is about to hit the floor. Then everyone stops what they’re doing and pitches in no matter the issue.”
Former interns now work at the Department of Interior, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, NPC-A and, of course, The Wilderness Society.
“So many environmentalists are retiring that it’s important to nurture and train the next generation of professional conservationists,” Louise points out. “But this work goes beyond honing their political or communications skills. The next wave of conservationists need good mentors to work with them.”