Though its appearance may be frightening, local girl scouts are lobbying for the big brown bat to  become D.C.'s state mammal. Fyn Kynd/Flickr

Though its appearance may be frightening, local girl scouts are lobbying for the big brown bat to become D.C.'s state mammal. Fyn Kynd/Flickr

Although not the official 51st state, D.C. sure has a plethora of state symbols representing its local culture. The District has a state rock, a state tree and even a state fruit. However, a group of D.C. residents thought that something was missing.

Local Girl Scout troops from D.C. appealed to their councilmembers to get the big brown bat as D.C.’s state mammal. After deep qualitative research and a successful Powerpoint presentation, the girls convinced the committee to have the bill voted on.

We meet with the junior legislators as well as the councilmember who endorsed their efforts.

Produced by Richard Cunningham

Guests

  • Charles Allen Member, D.C. Council (D-Ward 6); @charlesallen
  • Holly Braford Parent of girl scout, one of the troop leaders
  • Delia Braford Member of Girl Scout troop #44047
  • Lydia Adcock Member of Girl Scout troop #44051
  • Lydia Tiersky Member of Girl Scout troop #44051

Transcript

  • 12:45:20

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to the Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Today, we're discussing bats.

  • 12:45:31

    KOJO NNAMDIEven though D.C. is still not officially a state, the District still has a host of state symbols. The Wood Thrush is D.C.'s state bird. The scarlet oak is the state tree. And, although they no longer roam the area, D.C.'s state dinosaur is the capitalsaurus. However, that may not be enough for some D.C. residents. Local Girl Scout members have banded together to add a new state symbol. These residents have worked with their councilmember to draft legislation declaring the big brown bat as D.C. state mammal.

  • 12:46:04

    KOJO NNAMDIThese young legislators are prepared to teach about the importance of the big brown bat and why the District should endorse it as its state mammal. And they now join me in studio. Holly Braford is the troop leader of Girl Scout Troop #44047. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:46:23

    HOLLY BRAFORDThank you for having us.

  • 12:46:25

    NNAMDIDelia Braford is a member of Girl Scout Troop 44047. Delia, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:46:32

    DELIA BRAFORDThank you for inviting me.

  • 12:46:33

    NNAMDIAre you related to Holly?

  • 12:46:35

    BRAFORDYes. She's my mother.

  • 12:46:36

    NNAMDIOh, I thought there might be a relationship there. Lydia Adcock is a member of Girl Scout Troop 44051. Lydia Adcock, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:46:47

    LYDIA ADCOCKThank you for inviting us.

  • 12:46:49

    NNAMDIAnd Lydia Tiersky is a member, also, of Girl Scout Troop 44051. Lydia Tiersky, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:46:56

    LYDIA TIERSKYThank you for having me.

  • 12:46:57

    NNAMDIDelia, do you remember the first time you heard about the big brown bat?

  • 12:47:03

    BRAFORDIt was in a book, I think.

  • 12:47:07

    NNAMDIYou heard about it in a book? Where, in school?

  • 12:47:10

    BRAFORDNo, in New York, when I was six or five.

  • 12:47:16

    NNAMDIYou were in kindergarten?

  • 12:47:17

    BRAFORDYeah.

  • 12:47:19

    NNAMDILydia Adcock, tell us about the big brown bat. What are some of the cool facts about the big brown bat?

  • 12:47:29

    ADCOCKWell, there's a lot of cool things about the big brown bat. One thing that I think is especially cool in D.C. is that they eat bugs, including mosquitoes. And everybody hates mosquitoes. And they use echolocation to find their food. So, they send out a sound and they then wait for it to bounce back off something, and then detect what that something is and see if it's something they can eat.

  • 12:48:04

    NNAMDIAre they vampires?

  • 12:48:07

    ADCOCKNo. There's a lot of rumors and myths about bats. And the fact that bats are vampires is one of them. And bats have gotten a bad rap over the ages, but bats are not vampires.

  • 12:48:24

    NNAMDIAre they the only mammal that can fly?

  • 12:48:27

    ADCOCKThey're the only mammals capable of true and sustained flight. And they're not related to birds.

  • 12:48:34

    NNAMDIHolly Braford, when did the girls first show an interest in bats? Did you teach them about it during meetings?

  • 12:48:40

    BRAFORDWe did. My daughter, when we moved to D.C. from New York, has always been interested in bats, so we wanted to go and see a bat. So, reading about that online, we discovered that the bat population here, at least with cave-dwelling bats, has been decimated by white nose syndrome. So, we brought it to troop leaders first and proposed an idea of studying bats as a big project.

  • 12:49:09

    NNAMDIDid you give the girls any help with anything in the legislative process?

  • 12:49:14

    BRAFORDYes. Our troop coordinator, our troop organizer, Jessica Panat, was key in that. She coordinated with Charles Allen's office and really, really helped. And her daughter, Ava Panat, was very interested in making the bat the D.C. mascot, was the word that she used. (laugh) So, from there, it turned into legislation.

  • 12:49:43

    NNAMDILydia Adcock, what do people think about bats that is simply not true? Are bats, in fact, flying mice?

  • 12:49:54

    ADCOCKNo. That's another rumor that is incorrect. Bats are more closely related to humans than they are to rats and mice. And so, like I said, there's a lot of incorrect rumors that have caused bats to get a really bad rap over the years. And that makes it even harder to help them. So, personally, I think that it's wrong that bats get such a bad rap, because, I mean, they -- I mean, they're really important mammals.

  • 12:50:31

    NNAMDIAnd thank you for helping to clear up some of the incorrect rumors about them. Lydia Tiersky, when did you start working to make the bat D.C.'s state mammal?

  • 12:50:41

    TIERSKYSo, when our Girl Scout troop started, they started, like, educating us about the little brown bat and the big brown bat. And we really enjoyed learning about them. And then we, like -- then I heard that -- my mom told me that we would, like, go in front of the D.C. Council and testify. And I was really excited.

  • 12:51:15

    NNAMDII can understand that. Delia Braford, why did you all choose the big brown bat specifically to make it D.C.'s state mammal?

  • 12:51:24

    BRAFORDSo, first we voted on which bat we should try and make the state mammal. We got the little brown bat. But then, after that, the little brown bat got extricated from D.C., and then we had to go with the big brown bat.

  • 12:51:44

    NNAMDILydia Tiersky, how do you think the community feels about this?

  • 12:51:50

    TIERSKYSo, I believe our Girl Scout community is very excited about this. Outside of that, I am not very sure, but we're hoping to educate more people about bats.

  • 12:52:06

    NNAMDIWell, you certainly seem to have been educating members of the D.C. Council. One of them now joins us by phone. Charles Allen is the councilmember representing D.C.'s Ward 6. Charles Allen, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:52:16

    CHARLES ALLENThanks for having me, and hello to our Scouts.

  • 12:52:20

    NNAMDICharles Allen, what have these girls taught you about bats?

  • 12:52:25

    ALLENWell, they have definitely shown us that they are the experts. (laugh) They have really educated us, and I hope everybody listening have learned something new about bats and all the great things about them. But, really, what I'm so impressed with and why I wanted to move the legislation for it is, when young people want to take such a great interest in something, such a great interest in our city and come to their elected officials with an idea, this is civic engagement. It's a first-class civics class. And they've just done a phenomenal job of helping make the case, and I'm looking forward to the Council being able to move this forward so they can designate the brown bat.

  • 12:53:03

    NNAMDIWhy do we have a state mammal? What's the responsibilities and duties of the state mammal? (laugh)

  • 12:53:09

    ALLEN(laugh) I'm not trying to put too much pressure on the brown bat itself. You know, in the District, and I think that, certainly, we're on the eve of a historic vote tomorrow for D.C. statehood in Congress. States use symbols to help reflect our pride and our values, and D.C. should be no different. We have a state fish. We have a state fruit. We have a state rock. We even have a state dinosaur. So, these are the things that states do, and D.C. should be no different. And so I think it makes a whole lot of sense to be able to move forward with this.

  • 12:53:38

    NNAMDIIs that why you chose to draft this legislation yourself?

  • 12:53:41

    ALLENWell, I think most of the troops that came forward, they're all in Ward 6, and so certainly my constituents. I'm proud that they came to me with an idea, but they really convinced me. You know, I sat through a wonderful presentation. They just did a knockout job of walking us through helping educate me and my staff. And I was really proud for them to be able to help represent them and take their voice up to the Council to try to get this changed.

  • 12:54:08

    NNAMDISo, what's the next step for this bill?

  • 12:54:11

    ALLENWell, we had a hearing. The girls did a phenomenal job. They came in and testified. And the next step is for the Council to essentially move it forward to vote. So, we still have a little bit of work to do, you know, like, to write up the reports and some of the work from the hearing. But I expect that we'll be able to move a version of this forward sometime relatively soon.

  • 12:54:29

    NNAMDIWell, who's opposed to this? How likely is it (laugh) that the bat will become the state mammal? Who has yet to be persuaded?

  • 12:54:37

    ALLEN(laugh) There's not a huge anti-bat lobby. Maybe the mosquitoes will try to get together and try to convince us not to do this. I'm not sure. But I think this is something that a lot of people realize, it's a great idea. The Scouts have just done a wonderful job. And, again, when we think about, what is a state supposed to do? You know, all states designate symbols of themselves, and it's a great thing for us to be able to do. So, I'm looking forward to it.

  • 12:55:02

    ALLENAnd it fits, really, with the effort that we're making here in D.C. around a better river, about Kingman and Heritage islands, and really reclaiming a lot of our environment and natural space and having people be educated, and almost demystify bats. A great way to do that.

  • 12:55:19

    NNAMDIWell, it's going to go smoothly until you hear from the mosquito lobby, I bet. (laugh)

  • 12:55:24

    NNAMDI(laugh) Good luck, mosquitoes.

  • 12:55:25

    NNAMDICharles Allen is a councilmember representing D.C.'s Ward 6. Thank you so much for joining us.

  • 12:55:29

    ALLENThank you so much.

  • 12:55:31

    NNAMDII've got to ask you, Holly Braford, what got you into the Girl Scout troop leader business?

  • 12:55:37

    BRAFORDWell, like I said, we moved from New York City to D.C. And I was interested in getting my daughter involved in more activities. And I think Girl Scouts, there's a lot of interest in the girls. There's not as much interest in the volunteering to help the girls. So, that troop was full, but they said if we could get another volunteer, we could open it up. So, I was there, and I thought, oh, how much work could it be?

  • 12:56:06

    BRAFORD(laugh) And it's not a terrible amount of work. It's the most rewarding work that I do, and it's so wonderful to be with the girls and be with my daughter. And, my goodness, I learn new things all the time, like things about the big brown bat.

  • 12:56:22

    NNAMDIDelia, do you enjoy being a Girl Scout?

  • 12:56:24

    BRAFORDYes.

  • 12:56:24

    NNAMDIWhy?

  • 12:56:25

    BRAFORDBecause it's fun. I make new friends, and I learn new stuff.

  • 12:56:32

    NNAMDIOh, you've just made one new friend in this studio today. Lydia Adcock, what makes you excited to be a Girl Scout?

  • 12:56:40

    ADCOCKWell, Girl Scouts is really fun for me, and it presents me with a lot of opportunities to do fun things that I probably wouldn't get to do if I weren't a Girl Scout. And I also really like it because it kind of lets me develop a sisterhood with some of the other Girl Scouts.

  • 12:57:02

    NNAMDILydia Tiersky, what do you like about being a Girl Scout?

  • 12:57:06

    TIERSKYWell, mostly, what I like about being a Girl Scout is that we get to do a bunch of things for our community and our environment. And while we're doing important stuff, we can make friends and have fun all at the same time.

  • 12:57:22

    NNAMDIDid you expect when you became a Girl Scout that you would end up testifying before the D.C. Council, that you'd be getting involved in politics?

  • 12:57:30

    TIERSKYNo, not at all. I really thought that it would be just, like, camping and stuff, but...

  • 12:57:37

    NNAMDIHow much do you enjoy that?

  • 12:57:39

    TIERSKY(laugh) It's really fun.

  • 12:57:41

    NNAMDI(laugh) How about you, Delia Braford? Did you enjoy testifying before the Council?

  • 12:57:45

    BRAFORDYeah.

  • 12:57:46

    NNAMDISame for you Lydia Adcock?

  • 12:57:49

    ADCOCKMm-hmm.

  • 12:57:50

    NNAMDIYou enjoyed testifying before the Council? It's something that you would do again?

  • 12:57:54

    ADCOCKYeah, I mean...

  • 12:57:55

    NNAMDII mean, if they're having trouble passing the bill, they have to call you again to come and testify.

  • 12:57:59

    ADCOCKYeah, I mean, it made me a bit nervous, but then as soon as I was actually doing it, I stopped feeling so nervous, and it was really fun.

  • 12:58:08

    NNAMDIWell, I'm glad that you all had fun. And I'm glad you all joined us today. Holly Braford, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:14

    BRAFORDThank you so much for having us.

  • 12:58:16

    NNAMDIDelia Braford, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:19

    BRAFORDThank you for letting me come.

  • 12:58:20

    NNAMDILydia Adcock, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:23

    ADCOCKThank you for having me.

  • 12:58:24

    NNAMDIAnd, Lydia Tiersky, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:27

    TIERSKYThank you.

  • 12:58:28

    NNAMDIThis segment about honoring the big brown bat was produced by Richard Cunningham. Our remembrance of NFL great Willie Wood was produced by Monna Kashfi. And our segment on hazing at Damascus High was produced by Ashley Lisenby.

  • 12:58:40

    NNAMDIGet ready for the next Kojo In Your Community conversation. We'll talk about changing immigration rules and their impact on local students and families. It's on February 25th at the Columbia Heights educational campus. Learn how to get tickets and more at kojoshow.org. And join us tomorrow for the fourth part of our Kojo climate change series, when we explore how Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" launched the environmental movement. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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