Why Democracy Matters to All of Us

People marching and holding signs reading Wildlife Can't Wait and Climate Action Now

Our work for wildlife depends on a healthy democracy.

We must have functioning and secure democratic institutions and work harder to address social and racial injustices in order to advance our mission for people and wildlife.

Your Participation Makes a Difference

The National Wildlife Federation understands that our ability to bring people together to advocate for wildlife depends on a healthy and functioning representative democracy.

In a strong democracy, everyone should be able to vote and make sure their voice is heard on issues they care about, whether it is wildlife conservation, the environment, the economy, or other issues affecting our communities.

People holding signs stating Protect the Clean Air Act

Democracy in Action

Democracy is about more than just elections and voting – it’s all the ways we engage with our government all year long. National Wildlife Federation relies on the voices of communities everywhere calling, emailing, writing letters and speaking out with us to protect wildlife. As a result of years of this advocacy together, we’ve won some major victories!

2022

2020

What’s at Stake/Threats

Polls consistently show that most Americans want clean air, clean water, climate action and wildlife protection. So why isn’t the job of the National Wildlife Federation easy? New threats to our democratic institutions over the last several years have clawed back decades of progress to build a more representative democracy and threatened the very foundation of our government. To achieve strong conservation and environmental policies, we must intensify our efforts to ensure that everyone has the ability to weigh in on these important issues.   

The dream of American democracy has always been hard-won, with voting rights secured through years of protests and sacrifices, leading to the passage of the 14th Amendment, 19th Amendment, and ultimately 1965 Voting Rights Act.

While the effort to be a true representative democracy spans our country’s entire history, the last few years have presented some unique challenges to voting access that have disproportionately impacted marginalized communities. The same communities that experience the most environmental harm are also being targeted for voting disenfranchisement. Fair and equal access to the ballot is an environmental justice issue.

Rolling Back Voting Rights

In 2012, the Supreme Court weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, allowing states to pass legislation to restrict access to the ballot, often along racial lines.

In 2022, 19 states passed over 30 laws that made voting more difficult by restricting early voting, mail-in voting, ballot boxes, voting locations, and imposing stricter ID requirements, as well as purging the voter rolls so that individuals have to re-register in order to vote (often without same-day voter registration as an option).

In 2021, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to restore lost voting rights protections failed to pass the US Senate, despite bipartisan support. Luckily, Rep. Terri Sewell reintroduced this bill in September 2023 with wide support. We will continue to advocate with our allies for this legislation to become law to safeguard and strengthen democratic participation.

In July 2023, Sen. Klobuchar and Rep. Sarbanes introduced the Freedom to Vote Act to national standard for fair and equal access to the ballot. Your right to vote should not depend on your ZIP code! That’s why NWF joined with our allies in the environmental movement to call for the swift passage of this vital legislation.

Silencing Our Voices/Peaceful Protests

People holding signs at rally

Civic participation involves much more than just voting. Writing letters, attending hearings, calling your elected officials, and engaging in peaceful protests are vital for ensuring our voices are heard. The National Wildlife Federation has relied on these tools throughout our history to win conservation and environmental victories. However, in addition to seeing attacks on our voting rights, we have seen a dramatic increase in both state and corporate activity aimed at silencing our voices and attacking our right to peaceful protest.

According to the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, since 2017, 45 states in the US have considered 268 anti-protest bills and enacted 40 of them in 21 states. These bills are aimed at increasing penalties for participation in peaceful protests and many are a direct reaction to Indigenous-led environmental protests of oil pipelines. Corporations also use Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) to intimidate activists and hinder them from speaking out against corporate abuses. To learn more and fight back, visit: https://www.rightsanddissent.org/campaigns/defend-the-right-to-protest.

Disinformation, Voter Intimidation, and Violence

Crowds gathered at Voters Decide Protect Democracy rally


Perhaps the most extreme and in many ways unprecedented aspect of recent attacks to our democracy has come in the form of disinformation, voter intimidation, and violence.

None of us will ever forget the violent attack on the US Capitol that took place on January 6, 2021.

Since the 2020 election cycle, the spread of disinformation and misinformation is on the rise, as well as erosion in trust in democracy and obstruction of voter access. This has a serious effect on our polling places and challenges or intimidates voters, poll workers, and ballot counters. It has also injected uncertainty and delays in election outcomes. In 2022, 60% of voters had at least one person on their ballot who questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election despite there being absolutely no evidence to support that view.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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Regional Centers and Affiliates