ASLA: Advocating for Landscape Architecture
by Jean Senechal Biggs, President-Elect
As the professional organization for landscape architects, ASLA is focused on providing chapters with resources for advocating on important issues at the national, state and local level. ASLA’s Government Affairs team leads this effort with a focus on two key events: the annual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and the annual Advocacy Summit. The Oregon Chapter participated in both of these events this year, building our connections with our elected officials in Washington D.C., as well as with our colleagues from ASLA chapters across the country.
Indiana Chapter Trustee David Gorden begins a tour of downtown Indianapolis on the steps of the Indiana State Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.
Landscape architects from chapters around the country convened in Washington D.C. on Thursday, May 19 for ASLA’s annual Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. Over 180 ASLA members participated in 214 legislative meetings, including 67 with elected officials, to urge Congress to pass the Centennial Challenge to fund projects in our National Parks and to support federal transportation funding for green infrastructure and resilient streets. Our role as advocates was to educate policymakers and share our own stories on the impact of landscape architecture on these issues. We tweeted from Capitol Hill using the hashtag #iAdvocate to demonstrate our collective voice.
Representing the Oregon Chapter, President Laurie Matthews, President-Elect Jean Senechal Biggs, and Trustee Brian Bainnson met with Senator Jeff Merkley and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, as well as staff from Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici and Senator Ron Wyden. ASLA Vice President for Government Affairs and Oregon Chapter member, Robin Lee Gyorgyfalvy, joined us on our visits and also met with Congressman Greg Walden.
Laurie Matthews, Robin Lee Gyorgyfalvy, Brian Bainnson and Jean Senechal Biggs gather outside Senator Merkley’s office in the Hart Senate Office Building on Advocacy Day.
The Indiana Chapter hosted this year’s Advocacy Summit, a two-day workshop focused on providing chapters with the tools and expertise to advocate at the state and local level. President-Elect Jean Senechal Biggs attended this year’s summit along with representatives from 30 other chapters in Indianapolis in mid-August.
Licensure advocacy has been a primary focus of ASLA’s State Government Affairs work. In 2015 and 2016, deregulation and sunset reviews became legislative threats to landscape architecture licensure in several states. In response, staff developed the new Licensure Advocacy Toolkit that includes landscape architecture fact sheets, FAQs, guidelines for using ASLA’s iAdvocate network to send messages to legislators, and tips for planning a state advocacy day. ASLA unveiled these new tools at the summit and all of these resources are now available on the ASLA website at www.asla.org under the “Advocate” tab.
Leaders from the Arizona, North Carolina, and Ohio chapters attended the summit and shared their stories “from the trenches” where they successfully worked through the legislative process to retain the practice acts in their states. ASLA chapters became the organizing agent for advocacy efforts in each state, activating and uniting the landscape architecture community and pulling in the expertise of ASLA to support their efforts.
The summit wrapped up with a tour of downtown Indianapolis led by local landscape architects and highlighting recent work. Despite the heavy rain, we experienced the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, Georgia Street, and the Downtown Indy Canal Walk and learned about recent transformation of the downtown.
What’s Next for Advocacy in Oregon?
To follow up on our Advocacy Day meeting, we are currently working with staff from Rep. Bonamici’s office to schedule a tour later this fall to showcase landscape architecture projects in her district. A site visit is a great way to connect with elected officials while demonstrating the impact of landscape architecture in the community.
We’re interested in hearing from our members on projects to include on our tour. Please let us know if you have a project to highlight and are able to join us for a tour. Contact President-Elect Jean Senechal Biggs at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and interest.