NWF Members at Work -- Jun-Jul 1997

News on NWF works and actions for Jun - Jul 1997

06-01-1997 // NWF Staff

Great Lakes States Lag on Standards; NWF Asks EPA

With seven of the eight Great Lakes states failing to meet the deadline for adopting new water-quality standards required by the Clean Water Act, NWF is urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to impose federal standards under a program called the Great Lakes Initiative (GLI).

The GLI, mandated by Congress in a 1990 amendment to the Clean Water Act, is a set of federal standards implemented to protect the people, fish and wildlife of the Great Lakes Basin. Designed to replace a hodgepodge of inconsistent state rules, it targets toxic chemicals such as mercury, dioxin and PCBs that do not easily break down in the environment.

As a result of a lawsuit brought by the Federation several years ago, the eight states in the region--Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--were required to adopt GLI-based water-quality standards for all lakes and streams by March 23, 1997. Only Indiana, with assistance from the Indiana Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, met that deadline.

The federal Clean Water Act requires EPA to step in and enforce the federal GLI in all states that have not adopted their own standards. "The U.S. EPA must act to impose the GLI to protect the Great Lakes from toxic pollution and to ensure prompt state action to complete their rules revisions," NWF notes in a recent report on the states´ progress.

Teacher´s Summit Experience Pays Off for Ohio Students

Thanks to a school librarian´s visit to NWF´s Conservation Summit® in Alaska last summer, a group of Ohio fifth graders has forged a bond with a native Alaskan eager to share information about his land and culture.

When two students at Royal Manor Elementary School near Columbus, Ohio, came to the school library last January looking for facts about Alaska, media specialist Susan Hoechstetter told them about her Summit experience. She then helped them e-mail Glenn Hart, a National Park Service ranger who had taught a class at the Summit. Hart, an Inupiat raised by an Aleut family, wrote back that he would love to correspond with the students. "We have been e-mailing back and forth every day since," Hoechstetter says.

At Hart´s suggestion, she adds, she put up a poster titled "Ask An Alaskan," and within a day it was filled with questions such as "Do you live in an igloo?" and "Do you ever see polar bears?"

If all goes according to plan, the students will soon see Hart in full native dress and hear him answer those questions in a live meeting via the Internet.

"Because of NWF´s Summit, a learning link has been made across a continent," Hoechstetter says. "These kids have expanded their world to include a very different place, and, most of all, they´ve made a friend."

Signs Identify NWF-Certified Backyard Habitats

Proud owners of NWF-certified backyard wildlife habitats can now publicize their accomplishments with signs available from NWF.

The 7 x 10-inch signs, printed in three colors on weather-proof recycled aluminum, read: "This property provides the four basic habitat elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover, and places to raise young. It has been certified by the National Wildlife Federation as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat." A larger size is available for schoolyard habitats.

For more information, check out www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat.

Lawsuit Persuades Feds To Grant Free Document Access

An NWF lawsuit has persuaded the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop skirting the Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees public interest organizations free access to unpublished government documents.

"Interior was refusing to send us documents free, saying they were available in their public reading room,´ usually in the middle of nowhere, and we could come and get them ourselves," says Jay Tutchton, counsel in NWF´s Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center. When NWF filed suit in federal court in Washington, D.C., arguing that Interior was frustrating citizen participation in its decision-making process, the agency backed down.

"The bottom line is that for refusing to give us approximately $400 worth of copied documents for free, the government now has to pay us $28,000 in attorney fees, plus give us the documents," Tutchton says. "We have vindicated the public´s right to know what the government is up to by refusing to let the government put a price on our knowledge."

Court Upholds Right of County to Curb Feedlot Runoff

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has upheld a state circuit court ruling that a county has the authority to regulate huge livestock feedlots that contaminate rivers and groundwater with millions of gallons of animal wastes. In agreement with Blue Earth County, staff at NWF´s Prairie Wetlands Natural Resource Center have documented widespread pollution of the Minnesota River by feedlots, many of which discharge manure directly into drainage ditches or tributaries of the river.

Animal waste is regulated by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. But, says NWF, the agency has reviewed and issued permits for only a third of the 45,000 feedlots in the state that should have permits and has actively inspected fewer than 10 percent of them.

When Blue Earth County--which has 775 feedlots, less than half operating with permits--passed its own manure management ordinance, a local pork producers´ association challenged it in court. NWF filed a "friend of the court" brief on the side of the county in both the circuit court and the court of appeals.

"This victory proves that the law is on the side of local citizens who are trying to deal with a serious pollution problem that is growing throughout the Midwest," says Steve Blomeke, director of the center.

Endangered Species Get Shortchanged in Clinton Budget

President Clinton´s proposed budget for 1998 continues a serious downward spiral in funding for the nation´s endangered species program, NWF warns. The $93 million the Administration has requested for 1998 is about $6 million less than it asked for last year and less than one-third of what the Federation estimates is needed to adequately protect imperiled species.

"Last year Congress funded the program at a level 20 percent lower than the President´s request," notes Sara Barth, NWF legislative representative specializing in endangered species. "It´s likely to do the same again this year; only President Clinton has set a much lower starting point."

The biggest funding casualty is the listing process, which means that few new species will be added to the federal endangered or threatened list.

"It´s unfortunate that at a time when we should be investing in making the Endangered Species Act work more efficiently for both wildlife and people, the Administration is choosing to avoid controversy by lowering its budget request," Barth says.

Michigan Fish Alerts Too Weak, EPA Warns Citizens

The EPA has announced that it will distribute its own warnings about eating Great Lakes fish to the people of Michigan because the state´s advisories are not strong enough to protect public health.

NWF urged EPA to step in because Michigan is the only Great Lakes state that has refused to issue region-wide warnings advising children and women of child-bearing age to limit consumption of some fish species, such as salmon and walleye, that are contaminated with PCBs.

Michigan officials contend that the evidence of health risks is not conclusive enough to justify stricter warnings. "However, Michigan´s current advisory is not based on the most recent science necessary to protect the health of women and their children," says Tim Eder of NWF´s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center.

In recent testimony before the Michigan legislature, Wayne Schmidt, director of NWF´s Great Lakes center, urged the lawmakers to step in and provide direction on the state´s fish advisories. The Michigan House subsequently passed by a wide margin legislation that would require the state to use more restrictive standards in its advisories. The Senate also has taken up the bill.

In the meantime, EPA says it will send its own advisories to everyone who bought a fishing license in Michigan last year, as well as to health clinics and doctors´ offices.

NWF Helps Advise Vermont on Outdoor Resource Plan

NWF´s Northeast Natural Resource Center has helped draft what is believed to be the first strategic plan outlining how a state can promote outdoor tourism and recreation while managing its natural resources in a sustainable way. Prepared for the state of Vermont by a specially appointed Outdoor Task Force, the plan emphasizes conservation of natural resources, use of outdoor tourism to support local economies and guidelines for businesses to follow to ensure that visitors enjoy a quality outdoor experience.

The plan urges the state to promote voluntary standards and land-use ethics for outdoor adventure businesses and individual recreationists. It stresses that education of visitors, businesspeople and residents alike is the most economical and effective means of managing the impact of ecotourism on the state´s environment.

"We envision Vermont as becoming the model for educating people on this issue," says Kari Dolan, water resources specialist in NWF´s northeast center, who served on the task force that prepared the report.

NWF Whales Film Breaks Box Office Records Worldwide

NWF´s giant-screen film, Whales, is proving to be one of the most popular and best attended giant screen® films ever. Rave reviews are pouring in from the 20 or so theaters worldwide where the film is now showing. From Louisville: "the best opening weekend we´ve ever had." From Norwalk, Connecticut: "the best IMAX attendance we´ve ever had in winter." From Australia: "Audiences are saying this is one of the best giant screen films ever made." To find out where Whales is showing near you, call 1-801-392-2001 or fax 1-801-392-6703.

And now you can also enjoy Whales at home. The video version, including a 15-minute program on the making of the film, is available in museum and retail stores and will be offered through NWF´s catalog later this year.

Around the Nation

NWF´s Western Natural Resource Center, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Oregon State University Extension 4-H Program, has trained 17 volunteers as Wildlife Stewards to help teachers and students in seven Oregon schools develop schoolyard wildlife habitats.

In a case brought by Rivers Unlimited and the League of Ohio Sportsmen, one of NWF´s affiliates, an Ohio common pleas court has struck down the state´s new water pollution control law because it does not allow enough public participation. Environmentalists contend that the law would have increased pollution in 96 percent of the state´s waterways.

NWF´s Northeast Natural Resource Center worked with the Northern Forest Alliance to identify 10 places in the region that deserve special "wildlands" protection. Among them: the Northern Green Mountains, the Connecticut River Headwaters and Down East Lakes, which includes the largest peatland in Maine.

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