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Activist Backpack

When the hiking community speaks with a unified voice to elected officials and the local media, decision makers will listen. Here is what you can do to influence the decision makers and ensure trail protection is a top priority.

Write a Letter to the Editor
Write your Elected Officials
Phone your Elected Officials
Meet your Elected Officials
Gather Trail Data

Write a Letter to the Editor Print

The editorial page is one of the most important sections of any newspaper and provides an excellent forum for publicizing hiking and trail issues that are important to you. Here are some tips for writing a great Letter to the Editor that should help improve your chances of being published:

  • Write your letter to connect with something timely: a recent article, editorial or current event. Respond to a specific newspaper article within 2 days of its publication.
  • Keep your letter short and concise. Focus on only one issue and limit the number of points you make in support of it. A letter with less than 250 words and three to four paragraphs has a better chance of being printed.
  • Show your personality. Be sure to use your own words (including “I” and “we”) and personal stories and experiences.
  • Keep it local. Explain how the issue will affect the local area and the newspaper’s readership.
  • Research the issue thoroughly and use statistics and facts to support your position.
  • Give the readers a way to learn more or take action, if possible.
  • If you want the public to contact specific elected officials, include their phone numbers or email addresses in the letter.
  • Be aware that your letter may be edited for length and content. Check with your local newspaper for submission guidelines.
  • Type your letter and send it via email or fax for quick delivery. Include your name, address and phone number so the newspaper can verify the letter’s author.
  • Watch the editorial section of the newspaper for your letter. If it is not printed within a few days or in the next issue, call the editor’s office to politely inquire about your letter. They may be able to offer an explanation or other tips to help you the next time you submit a letter.

Please let the Keystone Trails Association know if your Letter to the Editor in support of the trail community is published! Email Sara Haxby, Program Administrator at ktaadmin@verizon.net with details.

Write your Elected Officials Print

Personal correspondence is considered to be the most effective and persuasive way to communicate with your elected officials. When elected officials receive numerous letters and emails on a specific issue, it does influence their vote. Email is now the preferred way to contact most elected officials.

The following suggestions will help you to write a great email or letter to your elected official:

  • Clearly state the purpose of your email in the subject line. The subject line is an important part of your message, so be sure to use it to your best advantage. Keep it short and concise. If your subject looks like SPAM, revise it.
  • Be sure to address the letter appropriately. Members of Congress and elected officials are referred to as “The Honorable” in the address line. The salutation should be “Dear Senator” or “Dear Representative.”
  • Keep your letter short and concise. Limit your letter to one issue and one page.
  • Include your full name and address to show that you are a constituent. If you have previously met the elected official, personalize your letter by briefly describing when and where that occurred.
  • Be specific. Clearly describe the issue you are writing about and request a specific action you want your elected official to take. Focus on your main issue with three strong points to support your argument. It’s helpful to use statistics and facts to support your position.
  • Cite a specific bill number and its principal sponsors if applicable. You can ask your elected official to vote for a particular bill or amendment, request a hearing or co-sponsor a bill.
  • Use your own thoughts and words to write a personal letter. Form letters are less effective. Tell your elected official why the issue matters to you and how it affects you and your community.
  • Ask for a reply from the elected official, and include your name and address on your letter for this purpose. Request that the elected official explains his or her position and what they plan to do about the legislation you are writing about.
  • Follow up. Thank an elected official for his or her response to your original letter, or thank elected officials when they vote the way you want. You can also respond to let them know you disapprove of the way they voted on a particular bill.
  • If you mail your letter - particularly for local elected officials – be sure to mail the letter directly to wherever the legislative session is held. If the legislature is not in session, send the letter to the elected official’s home office address.

Contact Your Elected Officials


Find and write to your Governor
Find and write to your State Senator and State Representative

US Senators and House of Representatives
Find and write to your Senator
Find and write to your House Representative

Phone your Elected Officials Print

A well-timed phone call can truly make a difference when legislative decisions are being made. It is important for elected officials to hear the opinions and interests of their constituents. Many phone calls about the same issue will hopefully compel an elected official to listen and take action.

  • It’s most likely that you’ll speak to a staff member rather than your elected official, so ask to speak with the staffer who deals with trail issues, which is often the Environmental Legislative Assistant. The following are some suggestions for calling your elected official’s office:
  • Prepare for your phone call with an outline or script of your main points. Research the subject if necessary so that you can present a compelling case in support of the issue.
  • Take a deep breath and relax. Speak slowly and clearly. Treat the phone call like a normal telephone conversation, and try not to read exactly from your notes.
  • State your full name and address to show that you are a constituent.
  • Be brief. Clearly and concisely state your position and make your point. Limit your call to one issue. You can make separate phone calls for other issues.
  • Identify a specific bill number and its principal sponsors if applicable. If the elected official or staff person is not familiar with the legislation, provide them with a brief summary.
  • Ask the elected official for his or her viewpoint on the legislation and to make a commitment to vote for or against the legislation.
  • Be courteous, direct and fair. You will be more likely to get your message across by keeping your conversation clear and succinct.
  • Remember to thank your elected official or their staff member for taking the time to speak with you.
  • If you are unable to speak to your elected official or a staff person, leave a short message. Ask for support (or opposition) for a specific bill and have a brief statement ready to support this position.
  • Follow up by sending a note to the elected official thanking him or her or their staff for their time. Briefly summarize your phone conversation in writing.

Contact Your Elected Officials


Find and call your Governor
Find and call your State Senator and State Representative

US Senators and House of Representatives
Find and call your Senator
Find and call your House Representative

Meet your Elected Officials Print

A personal meeting with your elected officials is one of the best ways to advocate for hiking issues that are important to you. You don’t need to be an expert lobbyist to schedule a meeting. Most elected officials are eager to meet their constituents to hear their concerns and recommendations.

You will most commonly meet with your elected officials to persuade them to vote your way on a specific piece of legislation. You may also want to meet with your elected officials to educate them about a trail issue before it gets to the point of becoming a specific bill.

Schedule a meeting

  • Call your elected official’s office to schedule an appointment.
  • Identify yourself as a constituent and state where you live. 

  • Briefly explain what issue you would like to discuss.
  • If the official is unavailable, request to meet with a legislative aide or another staff person who is responsible for or knowledgeable about your issue.
  • Send an email to confirm the appointment. Include the time, date and location of the meeting, as well as your name, address and phone number.
  • Prepare for the Meeting

  • Practice your message before you meet with your elected official. Keep your message succinct and include brief personal stories or experiences that demonstrate why this issue is important to you.
  • Develop an outline of your main points. Try to customize your presentation to the elected official’s views, interests and constituency. Research their voting record to determine what line of reasoning might be most effective.
  • Develop a list of arguments in support of and against your position. Avoid being unprepared in case your elected official disagrees with you.
  • Prepare your presentation in a letter or fact sheet to leave with your elected official.
  • Role-play your meeting with others who can provide feedback, and practice until you are confident in presenting your message.

During the Meeting

  • Be on time and dress professionally for the meeting. First impressions count.
  • Relax. Don’t worry if you’re not an expert. You just need to demonstrate genuine concern for the issue.
  • Introduce yourself and thank your elected official for taking the time to meet with you. If possible start your meeting off on a positive note by thanking your elected official for a recent vote. Attempt to make a personal connection by indicating if you have any shared business, family or social connections.
  • Keep your opening remarks short and to the point. Explain your position and what you want your elected official to do. If particular legislation is involved, state the bill number, name and sponsors.
  • Be courteous and direct but also firm about your position. Stay focused on one issue and always ask for a specific action on the part of the official. 
For instance, ask them to vote for or cosponsor a bill you support. Try to get a commitment from them.
  • Use your prepared letter or fact sheet to keep you on track in case you lose your train of thought. Make sure that the information you are presenting is limited enough to allow time for questions and discussion.
  • When you have finished your presentation, listen carefully to your elected official’s response and take notes if necessary. Ask your elected official what you can do to help them support your position.
  • Answer any questions to the best of your availability. If you do not know an answer, tell your elected official you will follow up after the meeting to provide that information.
  • Remember to leave the elected official or staff person a copy of your letter, fact sheet and any other information.
  • Thank the elected official and staff members for their time even if they did not agree with your position.

After the Meeting

  • Take notes immediately after the meeting including main discussion points, your elected official’s remarks and any follow up questions.
  • Promptly send a thank you letter or email to all the people involved in the meeting. Use the letter to restate your position, remind the official what you asked for, provide additional information and answer any remaining questions. Restate any commitment to your position your elected official made during the meeting, and thank him/her for taking the time to meet with you.

Contact Your Elected Officials


Find and schedule a meeting with your Governor
Find and schedule a meeting with your State Senator and State Representative

US Senators and House of Representatives
Find and schedule a meeting with your Senator
Find and schedule a meeting with your House Representative


Gather Trail Data Print

Since the Keystone Trails Association and land managers can’t be everywhere in the backcountry, we rely on hikers to tell us what you see on the trail. Gather trail data while you are hiking and help us build a strong case to support trail protection.

Report Gas Drilling Impacts on Pennsylvania Trail Experiences

The Keystone Trails Association has partnered with FracTracker to track the impact of natural gas drilling on Pennsylvania's hiking trails.

Please visit the Trail Logbook to share your stories and experiences of Marcellus Shale gas drilling during your hikes.

To submit photos, please email them as attachments along with descriptions to ktaadmin@verizon.net. Please include as much information about your photo as possible, including whether you would like to be credited as the photographer or not. All photos will be loaded by the Logbook team into a publicly-available online photo album. By submitting your photos, you grant FracTracker and KTA the rights to reuse them with credit to the photographer.

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