Should DXers form a lobbying organization?

Posted: August 20, 2014 in Uncategorized
Lobbying
Its no secret that getting permission to activate rare and remote entities is getting more and more difficult. As someone who has obtained permission in the Middle East and Africa, I can tell you that getting permission to activate remote US Islands are some of the most difficult permissions to obtain.
 
The problem is that as hams, we are not unified and our voice is very small. We have no clout or influence. Take for example the influence of the Oil and Gas industry who can pump for oil in the pristine Alaska wilderness and transport the oil via pipeline and the new techniques of “fracking” for natural gas.
 
There is a major lobbying effort underway to permit the Keystone pipeline system to be built to transport oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Nebraska, Illinois and the Gulf Coast of Texas. The Keystone XL proposal faces harsh criticism from environmentalists and some members of the US Congress, however through intensive lobbying interests, progress is being made.
 
In contrast, several small ham radio groups are trying to get permits to camp and operate radios from barren Caribbean and South Pacific Islands. These islands have been activated in decades past and they have once again become rare and much desired contacts. The problem is, the pleas of a few small ham radio groups just fall on deaf ears of the US Government. We have no strong connection or advocate for us or within our government. We miss the days of Senator Barry Goldwater.
 
I think part of the solution would be for the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) and the International DX Association (INDEXA) to take it upon themselves to form a formal lobbying arm of these fine organizations. They could then approach and lobby our government on our behalf to open up these rare islands to amateur radio activity. Some will suggest that the ARRL is a lobbying organization. I recognize that they have weighed in on issues such as spectrum grabs and BPL, but who is representing the DXer? Is the ARRL interceding on our behalf in this area or are we under represented?
 
it is only through a strong, focused presence that we can make our voice heard. The time for action is now.
 
What do you think?
 
Update:
Since I started this particular post, I’ve heard from representatives from the KP 1-5 Project and INDEXA. Given the very recent success of the KP 1-5 Project and their new approval to begin to plan for a DXpedition to KP1, it may be premature for hams to begin to formulate a lobby approach with our Government. I hope that the relationship and the success with the US F&W Offices in Puerto Rico and Atlanta carries over into the Pacific. Let’s all stay tuned and follow these fantastic developments
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Comments
  1. Mike KJ4Z says:

    Not a bad idea, but who do you envision us lobbying? Where would we be able to gain a foothold? I wonder if we have the numbers or money to interest a politician, and I suspect the appointed people at FWS regard us as gadflies.

  2. ky6r says:

    I agree. I have heard of a local ham who wanted to activate The Farallones for IOTA, and he did get the ear of a Central Valley senator or congressman. In fact, there was also a bill in Congress that would have given amateurs access to places that are currently off limits.

    However, I would wait to see what the KP1-5 organization does – I heard that there could be an announcement this Fall regarding KP1, and on their site they specifically asked that no one “stir the pot” regarding the “powers that be”.

    Of course – this would take a long term, coordinated effort anyway. The best way to start would be to talk to those who have activated places that have now become “off limits”. When you start digging in – its amazing how many contradictory bits of information you receive. For example, after two or three people told me that KH5/K doesn’t require US Navy permission to get an access permit – NN1N – Dave Patton recently told me that you still do need US F&W AND US Navy permission. I have no idea what the truth is any more – the story keeps going in circles and no one person seems to know the absolute truth. The measure and marker for “above water at high tide” has also been very frustrating to say the least.

    So – nailing down the facts and the truth is one thing that needs to be done. Getting a better idea from the ARRL would be helpful – regarding some entities in their DXCC program.

    K9W happened and that was an “impossible” place. Same for KP5, and hopefully, KP1.

    I am sure that any entity that rises up into the Top 10 Most Wanted will soon be on everyone’s radar – and that attention will be given to those entities (like KP1, KH1, KH5/K), etc.

  3. N7SMI says:

    Not a bad idea. Of course there ARE people going to these places – just not hams. Research, surveying, environmental, military, etc. groups visit them all regularly. Many of these groups have have access, but not money. We have money (well, at least a little bit), but not access.

    Partnerships (not unlike VK9MT, but with hams buying a ticket to ride with the researchers rather than the opposite) could be a better utilization of time and money than throwing it at expensive DC lawyers.

    Of course this could possibly result in at best small-scale operations – not large DXpeditions (each of these entities need at least several large DXpeditions to make even a small dent in the demand), but it may open the door to bigger things.

  4. krish says:

    I like the thought Paul.

    United we stand, divided we fall – It is as simple as that.

    When 3 people get together, there is politics involved. Ego’s kick in. If we can get past all that as a
    group, then we as a Dx community win.

    73s
    krish
    w4vku

    • n6pse says:

      Krish, thank you for your interest in my Blog.

      The current position of the US Fish & Wildlife Service is that these Island ecosystems are pristine or are recovering and that they need to be protected from the likes of us. They don’t foresee any circumstances where they will compromise or enable human activity.

      It’s as if unless Congress forces them to find an allowable solution, they see their job as keeping us away.

      If DXers ever want to work these rare islands something else needs to be done as the current program (or lack of) is just not working.

  5. Rick says:

    You said it yourself Paul, ” We miss the days of Senator Barry Goldwater.”
    Maybe we need to survey congress and see who we can get to work the stumbling blocks, F&W, etc.

    73, Rick – N8XI

    • n6pse says:

      This comment was posted on our Club Reflector by member Peter Gambee. I thought it was excellent so I wanted to share it here:

      I think there are really two questions here. (1) Should HAMs / DXers join lobbying organizations?; and (2) Are we up to the effort and frustration involved in effectively lobbying members of state and federal legislatures?

      As a recently retired professional lobbyist, I would say the answer to the question is ABSOLUTELY yes. Our hobby exists with the permission of, and is regulated by the federal government. To a certain degree, we are impacted by regulations imposed by state governments as well (mobile cell phone restrictions and zoning laws being just two areas where states have have stuck their noses into our hobby.)

      Decisions they make could restrict or terminate our hobby altogether without effective legislative advocacy on behalf of our interests. I say this as someone who was once up to his eyeballs in legislative politics and grew disgusted with it; no matter how loathsome the legislative process has become, we still need to be active politically.

      As for question two, I would say that (like most people) we aren’t presently up to the task. Effective lobbying takes a lot of effort on multiple fronts. It is more than just signing a petition and sending it off to our legislator. Frankly, 99% of the time that has little impact at all. They are routinely buried in form letters and petitions.

      Sending personally written and signed letters in support of or opposition to legislation of concern to us helps – but it has far more impact if the person sending the letter has established an on-going relationship with the legislator they are communicating with. These relationships require at least some “face time” with the legislator (at Town Halls and fundraisers), and sometimes require cutting a check or two to support a legislator’s reelection.

      Then there is the whole process of coalition building – forming alliances with other interested organizations that already have political clout, ham equipment manufacturers and local sheriffs for example. These groups can be brought in as part of a political alliance to help support some of our priority legislative concerns, but making that happen takes networking and on-going contact.

      All of this is hard, sometimes distasteful work, but it is also essential. It takes some kind of state and national infrastructure to make this happen, and that requires some kind of permanent lobbying organization. So, I believe that HAMs / DXers need join and support these groups; but we also need to be ready to do the ugly stuff that makes these groups successful.

      To the extent that the ARRL has focused its efforts on areas outside of our issues, maybe we need to focus on increasing our numbers within the rank-and-file membership of the ARRL in order to shift their focus a bit. As a group, hard core DXers and contesters tend to have access to more resources for contributions – both to the ARRL and to individual members of congress. Numbers and dollars really do talk.

  6. Robert WD8NVN says:

    The United States needs a president, who is an active ham, that will get dxpeditions on those islands….

  7. Paul..a great topic.

    Hams DO need an advocate in Washington. While politicians are often quick to praise Ham activities in disaster situations it’s clear that Hams do not have a collective voice when it comes to such things as activation of NP-1.

    I think a professional lobbyist would be great.
    My question is, how can the US Ham Radio community come together to achieve the critical mass necessary to make our voice have an impact. You get strength in numbers. AARP we ain’t (!)

    73 de harry, W6DXO

    • n6pse says:

      Since I started this particular post, I’ve heard from representatives from the KP 1-5 Project and INDEXA. Given the very recent success of the KP 1-5 Project and their new approval to being to plan for a DXpedition to KP1, it may be premature for hams to begin to formulate a lobby approach with our Government. I hope that the relationship and the success with the US F&W Offices in Puerto Rico and Atlanta carries over into the Pacific. Let’s all stay tuned and follow these fantastic developments.

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