NWF Members at Work -- Feb-Mar 1997

News on NWF's works and actions for Feb - Mar 1997

02-01-1997 // NWF Staff

NWF Plays Key Role in Program to Move Buildings Out of Flood Plains

In 1993 record rains fell on the American Midwest, triggering a flood of Biblical proportions--one that was to go down as the worst in U.S. history. But out of this disaster came a dramatic shift in the nation's approach to flood control--from rebuilding damaged properties to relocating people away from flood plains.

Of the 80,000 buildings in nine midwestern states flooded in 1993, more than 10,000 have been bought out by local governments and removed. In most cases, homeowners received pre-flood value for their homes and received federal loans to find new housing outside flood-prone areas.

One of the leading activists of this dramatic shift is David Conrad, water resources specialist at NWF. "The Federation has long been concerned about the federal government's emphasis on using dams and levees to contain waterways rather than recognizing the natural value of flood plains for maintaining wetlands, providing wildlife habitat and generally improving the quality of communities,quot; he says.

Conrad has nearly 20 years' experience in water resources, first with American Rivers, then Friends of the Earth, and for the past eight years with NWF. With the Big Flood of 1993, he saw an opportunity to realize his goal in life of helping to translate the findings of the scientific community into public policy.

Already, the midwest relocations have paid off big. In the 1993 flood, more than 40 percent of St. Charles, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, was under water and losses were catastrophic. When it flooded again in 1995, insurance and disaster relief claims were only 1 percent of the 1993 amount, because nearly 900 residences and businesses had been bought out and removed from the flood plain.

St. Charles and other towns are converting their flood plains into parks, greenways and playing fields that enhance the community while allowing nature to take its course during floods. Flood-prone rural and agricultural areas also were purchased for flood plain management and recreational and wildlife uses. For example, along the Iowa River, an area that was heavily flooded in 1993, 50,000 acres have been purchased for the federal Wetland Reserve Program and for state and federal wildlife areas.

As the 1993 flood waters crested, Conrad and Scott Faber, the director of flood plain programs for American Rivers, toured dozens of devastated towns, talking to the victims of the flood in the worst-hit states of Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.

In initial meetings with the federal, state and local officials in St. Louis, Conrad found that many federal authorities were still "clueless" and ready to launch into rebuilding, but state and local officials were ready to try something new.

Back in Washington, D.C., Conrad worked tirelessly to line up Congressional and Administration support for a bill introduced by Rep. Harold Volkmer (D-Missouri) that would increase the amount of disaster relief money the government could spend on buyouts and relocations from $33 million to $125 million. It passed and was signed into law as the Hazard Mitigation and Relocation Assistance Act of 1993.

Conrad also pressured the White House for a change in disaster relief guidelines. "Ultimately, of $6 billion made available for midwest flood recovery, about $750 million was earmarked for voluntary buyout or relocation of homes, businesses and frequently flooded farm land," Conrad reports.

More than 150 communities have taken advantage of the buyout assistance. NWF is preparing a report on new ways to deal with repetitive flood losses, due out this spring, that will identify the 300 most flood-prone towns in the United States--the ones that have sustained the greatest losses in recent years and could gain most from the new buyout policy.

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NWF Supports New User Fee To Aid Wildlife

High on NWF's agenda for the 105th Congress is legislation that would establish a small user fee in the form of an excise tax on outdoor equipment to fund management of nongame wildlife.

NWF and 25 of its state affiliates have joined over 1,400 other national, regional and local organizations in supporting the Teaming with Wildlife Initiative. The measure calls for a modest tax on a range of outdoor recreation products, such as 25 cents on a $10 field guide or $2.50 on a $100 tent.

The tax would be patterned after an existing federal excise tax on hunting and fishing gear that aids recovery of game species. The 60-year-old Pittman-Robertson Act levies an 11% federal excise tax on the sales of guns and ammunition. In 1996 it is estimated that the federal government will distribute about $118 million from this tax to states explicitly for wildlife restoration projects.

The new tax would raise an estimated $350 million a year for state wildlife diversity programs, says NWF senior scientist Doug Inkley.

" Thousands of wildlife species not hunted and fished are virtually ignored until they are threatened or endan-gered, simply because there is almost no funding available for monitoring and managing them before they reach a crisis state, " Inkley testified before the previous Congress.

Game species have benefited immensely from taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, he added.. "We can now replicate those programs to provide similar benefit for the remaining 90 percent of species with virtually no dedicated funding for their conservation."

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Wildlife Week: Nature's Web Theme for 1997

A random drawing for teachers is a new feature of National Wildlife Week 1997, which will be celebrated April 20-26.

Teachers are invited to submit success stories about how they used the classroom activities for this year's Wildlife Week theme, "Nature's Web: Communities and Conservation," which reflects NWF's emphasis on building sustainable communities.

The top winner in a random drawing will receive an expenses-paid trip to NWF's Conservation Summit in the Adirondacks in July. Twenty-five second-place winners will receive free one-year subscriptions to Ranger Rick magazine, and up to 180 teachers' success stories and accompanying pictures will be posted on NWF's home page.

Instructions for submitting success stories are contained in the 649,000 Wildlife Week kits that NWF will distribute free to teachers, grades K-8 via its affiliates.

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States Log Wins For Conservation In Election `96

In last fall's election, voters showed strong support for conservation measures endorsed by NWF and its state affiliates. For example:

Missouri: The Conservation Federation of Missouri, an NWF affiliate, helped persuade voters to renew a 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax to benefit state parks and soil erosion control programs. The Federation heavily supported passage of the tax in 1984, and when the state legislature refused to put it up to voters for renewal in 1996, its volunteers spearheaded a petition drive to get it on the ballot.

New York: Voters passed a massive $1.75 billion Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, which an NWF affiliate, Environmental Advocates, helped negotiate and strongly supported. The measure will enable the state to safeguard its drinking water, invest in clean-air industries, clean up inner-city toxic-waste sites and improve solid-waste disposal.

Arkansas: Citizens approved a 1/8th of 1 percent tax, strongly supported by the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, that will benefit the state Game and Fish Commission and other conservation programs.

West Virginia: The West Virginia Wildlife Federation helped push through a Constitutional amendment to protect the Division of Natural Resources from funding raids by other interests. Voters also approved the sale of a special state license plate to benefit nongame wildlife and natural heritage sites.

Colorado: Voters passed a Constitutional amendment, strongly supported by NWF and one of its affiliates, the Colorado Wildlife Federation. The measure calls for 3 million acres of state lands to be managed for uses such as wildlife habitat and conservation of open spaces, rather than for maximum revenue

Florida: "Save Our Everglades" was the rallying cry when NWF and the Florida Wildlife Federation helped convince citizens to pass two of three Everglades initiatives. Voters approved measures both endorsing the notion that polluters should pay to clean up the Everglades and creating a trust fund to accept money for restoration. But they rejected another initiative that would have imposed a penny-a-pound fee on sugar produced in the Everglades region to pay for the cleanup.

Maine: Nearly 80 percent of Maine voters supported restricting clear-cutting of forests. But because there were two competing ballot initiatives on the issue, neither won the outright majority needed to pass.

Montana: A notable setback occurred when a massive $3 million campaign by the mining industry helped defeat a measure that would have reversed the legislature's action increasing the amount of pollutants that can be discharged into state waters by huge cyanide-leach gold mines. NWF's Northern Rockies Natural Resource Center and the Montana Wildlife Federation were leaders in the drive to get the issue on the ballot.

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NWF, Discovery To Work on Show For Ranger Rick

NWF and Discovery's new Animal Planet network have joined forces to create a Ranger Rick Raccoon television show.

Now in its 30th year of publication, Ranger Rick magazine has reached tens of millions of kids aged 7-12. Like Animal Planet, it offers families a safe harbor by providing age-appropriate, informative entertainment. As the magazine's host and mascot, Ranger Rick Raccoon is the friendly, intelligent, inspirational and upbeat leader of the animal characters living in the magazine's mythical Deep Green Wood.

Clark Bunting, senior vice president and general manager of Animal Planet, says the goal of the joint effort is to determine how to transfer Ranger Rick Raccoon's appeal to a television character while maximizing TV's flexibility for creative storytelling.

Animal Planet, the third advertiser-supported service of Discovery Networks, U.S., offers people of all ages a broad range of animal programming, including children's programming, game shows, drama, comedy, documentaries, classic TV and event reportage.

Launched June 1, 1996, Animal Planet promises all animals, all the time. Discovery Networks, U.S., a unit of Discovery Communications, Inc., operates and manages Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and Animal Planet.

Animal Planet has a website at www.animal.discovery.com.

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Annual Meeting Set for April 3-6 In Tucson, Arizona

" Nature's Web-Communities and Conservation " is the theme for this year's NWF annual meeting, to be held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tucson. The meeting program will emphasize the conservation goals that unite us.

Speakers will include: Nina Leopold Bradley, daughter of renowned wildlife author and naturalist Aldo Leopold; and The Honorable Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior and former Governor of Arizona (invited).

At this year's meeting we'll have Conservation Issue Forums: Grazing/Mining Reform, NAFTA/Border Issues, and Teaming With Wildlife, a program to raise money for nongame wildlife management.

There will be a post-meeting Gardening for Community and Wildlife Event composed of an informative workshop followed by visits to Tucson area NWF-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitats.

For more information, write: NWF, Meetings and Conferences Division, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, Virginia 20190-5362, or call 1-703-438-6087.

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Vicki Monks Winner Of NWF Magazine Writing Award

A tenacious pursuit of the facts: That is the quality that has most struck the editors of National Wildlife about the work of freelance writer Vicki Monks since she first wrote for this magazine in 1994, about dioxin. Monks is the 1996 winner of the Trudy Farrand and John Strohm Magazine Writing Award, a $1,000 prize that honors the best writing in National Wildlife and International Wildlife.

An experienced investigative reporter with a long list of credits and awards for environmental, science and health stories in print, radio and television, Monks has helped bring hard-hitting reporting and analysis to our pages. She is now director of the non-profit Investigative Reporting Project in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Monks won the award for two back-to-back, related articles in National Wildlife. The first was "Environmental Regulations: Who Needs Them?," which profiled people whose health and livelihoods have been protected by the nation's rules and laws in the February/March issue. The second was "Capitol Games," which explored sneaky tactics in Congress to weaken environmental protections in the April/May issue.

Virginia Ball of Muncie, Indiana, established the annual award to honor Farrand as the founding editor of Ranger Rick and Strohm as founding editor of National Wildlife and International Wildlife.

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NWF Helps Save Alaskan Rain Forest From Development

Vocal opposition from NWF's Alaska Natural Resource Center and a coalition of local environmental groups has persuaded the City of Anchorage to shelve plans for a golf resort in the northernmost remnant of the Pacific coastal rain forest.

The city solicited proposals to build the resort on land it owns in the Girdwood Valley, where frequent rains nourish enormous old-growth spruce and hemlock and feed wetlands that provide habitat for moose, bears, lynx, beavers, snowshoe hare, mink and weasels, as well as numerous species of birds and fish.

When city officials met to consider a proposal from one developer, they excluded the public. NWF staffers and other members of the Girdwood Wetlands Coalition "crashed" the meeting and voiced their concerns, then moved on to the mayor's office to protest. The next day, the city rejected the developer's proposal.

"The proposal to build a golf course in such a pristine temperate rain forest was a bad idea from the start," says Kristin Siemann, director of the Wetlands Watch program in NWF's Anchorage office. "Then the city went even further, turning a bad idea into bad public policy by slamming the door on what should have been an open, public debate."

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Camps, Summits Sport New Themes At Various Sites

For the first time, all four sessions for 9 to 13 year-olds at the North Carolina Wildlife Camp will be organized around different themes. Session I, June 21-30, will focus on Big Predators; Session II, July 2-16, Adventure and Outdoor Living; Session III, July 26-August 6, Native American and Appalachian Folklore; and Session IV, August 8-19, Live Animals. A Colorado Wildlife Camp will continue to offer traditional camp sessions.

NWF also will sponsor a special Teen Adventure session July 14-24 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park specifically for 13 and 14 year-olds who are newly interested in the outdoors. Regular Teen Adventure sessions for 14 to 17 year-olds will be offered at the North Carolina and Colorado camps.

NWF is offering a Family Camp Weekend in North Carolina July 18-20.

Families with limited time can sample NWF's Conservation Summits through new mini-Summits, two- or three-day weekend programs designed around a single environmental theme. These programs are planned for Delaware, New Hampshire and northern Virginia in 1997.

Traditional Summits will be held both in Alaska, June 21-27, and the Adirondack Mountains, July 5-11. The Adirondacks Summit will feature a Teacher's Symposium where teachers and environmental educators can earn continuing education credits and participate in workshops by Project WILD and Project Learning Tree.

For more information on camps or Summits, call 1-800-822-9919 or e-mail outdoors@nwf.org.

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NWF Around the Nation

A hundred women from all corners of Alaska attended the recent Women of the North Conference, sponsored by NWF's Alaska Natural Resource Center to teach women how to be more effective environmental leaders in their own communities. Keynote speaker was NWF board member Paula J. Del Giudice.

Attendees included high school girls, women from government agencies and environmental organizations, and native Alaskan women--one from a tiny village on the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Said one participant:"I realized that though I'm not in a traditional leadership position, I am a leader!"

The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF), one of NWF's affiliates, is leading a drive to create a unified Fish and Wildlife Commission under the state constitution to oversee both freshwater and marine programs. The agency is needed to reduce political involvement and "yo-yo management"of Florida's fisheries, says FWF president Manley Fuller. FWF volunteers stationed at polling places during last November's election began collecting the 500,000 signatures needed to get the measure on the 1998 ballot. Florida citizens who want to know how they can help should call 1-800-647-9912.

NWF's Population Program will hold a conference on Population and Sustainable Development on March 22 at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. The session is open to anyone who wants to learn more about the links among world population, resource consumption and the environment, and what they can do to help influence population policy. For details, contact Andreas Kristinus at NWF, 1400 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036. Or call 1-202-939-3302 or e-mail belden@nwf.org.

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