From the time of its founding, the Garden Club of America has been an active force in the promotion of environmental awareness and the preservation of natural resources. In 1921, one of the four founding GCA members testified before Congress on behalf of the parks of Washington, DC. The Conservation Committee was one of the earliest GCA committees established, and many GCA members were active in the 1930s in the battle to save the redwoods.
In the 1960s, as the environmental movement grew strongly in response to growing alarm about pollution and species loss in our country, the GCA's legislative involvement grew along with it. In June, 1969, the National Affairs and Legislation Committee was established as a separate entity from the Conservation Committee. In the words of Mrs. Thomas M. Waller, a primary founder and former GCA president, the purpose of NAL is to "bring to the attention of the membership important legislative proposals in Washington which fall within the fields of our endeavor."
The NAL and Conservation Committees work in tandem to enhance the GCA mission to "restore, improve, and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement." Although NAL and Conservation committees meet together, their purposes and functions are different. NAL follows in detail legislation that ultimately affects the above purpose, while Conservation provides education on the environmental issues themselves. Conservation Committee members work with youth, member clubs, and the general public to promote local conservation projects and responsible environmental stewardship.
Committee zone members carry the work of both committees to the clubs in their zones. Conservation committee members also publish Conservation Watch, a quarterly online newsletter featuring conservation and environmental news from around the country. NAL shares information with member clubs through regular legislative updates and its Current Legislative Status Chart. The focal issues for the NAL Committee are explicitly detailed in the GCA Position Papers, which are created by both committees and approved by the Executive committee.