Profile: Corey Shott, National Wildlife Federation

  • Corey Shott

    Kris Connor
 

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The most influential conservationist you've never heard of

Montana native Corey Shott grew up in Missoula, came to D.C. to earn a bachelor's in political science at George Washington University and made politics her career: An internship with Montana Sen. Max Baucus, then campaign work for various Democratic candidates, then a couple of years as a "junior lobbyist" for a D.C. firm that helps trade associations (plumbing manufacturers and so on) deal with the government. "I wanted to get back to meaningful work," she says, so in 2007, she hired on with the National Wildlife Federation.

Now 29, she works in the group's National Advocacy Center, a team of lobbyists, grass-roots organizers and communications staffers set up about a mile from the Capitol. She lobbies on climate and energy policy (lots of meetings with congressional staffers) and led the group's effort to create cap-and-trade legislation to limit carbon emissions. (The key bill was passed by the House of Representatives in 2009 but died in the Senate.) Recently, she's been working with NWF field staffers across the country to rally the public against Republican bills that  would force the Environmental Protection Agency to ignore climate change. These days her work is "more frustrating than usual," she says. "You understand how important it is, but other people just don't care, or spread lies and misinformation."

Montana -- "growing up there, waking up every morning and seeing the Rocky Mountains" -- inspires her and keeps her dedicated to her work. "Going back to Missoula every year and seeing the changes in the fire season (caused by global warming), it feels bigger than just the game of politics, which is easy to fall into in D.C."

She lives in a house on a tree-lined street just outside D.C. proper, a few miles from the Capitol, with her dog, an 80-pound "lab and hound mutt with floppy ears." She walks the dog in a neighborhood park, goes hiking in the city's Rock Creek Park and the nearest national forest (Shenandoah) and enjoys wandering the Chesapeake Bay shore. She's enrolled part-time in night school at Johns Hopkins University's D.C. campus, working on a master's in environmental sciences and policy. (NWF has four staffers in the night school in a program especially designed for people with day jobs.)

D.C., she says, is "completely different from anything we have out West. People walk fast, talk fast" and "being in the heart of politics gets a little draining after a while. I try to have friends outside the environmental community," which she manages to do by playing rugby. "It's nice to talk about something that isn't the environment."

She feels a kinship with the other Westerners she meets in D.C., and hopes to move home after 10 years or so. "I miss the mountains like crazy." The topic often comes up in her D.C. conversations: "I'm very proud to be from Montana. I definitely make sure to mention it."