NWF Members at Work -- Oct-Nov 1997

News on NWF works and actions for Oct - Nov 1997

10-01-1997 // NWF Staff

USFWS Okays Citizen Management Plan for Grizzlies

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has accepted the National Wildlife Federation´s citizen management plan as the preferred plan for reintroducing grizzly bears to parts of Idaho and Montana--the first time in the history of the Endangered Species Act that a plan negotiated and written outside the agency has been selected as the favored method for restoring a species.

The plan itself is unprecedented on several counts. It is the first to put real authority for day-to-day management of a recovery effort in the hands of local citizens. And it is the result of an extraordinary three-year cooperative effort among groups that often are on opposite sides of controversial issues--conservationists, labor organizations and the timber industry.

Under the plan, written by NWF and Defenders of Wildlife, grizzlies would be reintroduced at the rate of three to five bears per year into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area of western Montana and Idaho, the largest roadless wilderness area in the 48 states. The bear releases would stop once a sustainable population is established.

"As exciting as this is, we have to remember that we still have a long way to go before this plan becomes final," says Tom France, the attorney in NWF´s Missoula, Montana, office who was the moving force behind the plan. "The Fish and Wildlife Service is now seeking public comments, and it is more important than ever for NWF members to let the agency know they support this plan."

To generate further support, NWF is conducting a nationwide petition campaign to urge the Fish and Wildlife Service to give a final go-ahead to the citizen management plan.

A recent poll commissioned by NWF and Defenders of Wildlife found that more people in the Bitterroot area favor reintroduction than oppose it, and the more regional residents learn about the plan, the more they like it. Most who oppose it do so because they fear grizzlies. However, the citizen management committee will have authority to designate certain areas off-limits to bears and remove animals if they threaten communities. NWF plans a campaign to educate people on avoiding conflict with grizzlies.

The federal government is accepting public comments on the plan until October 9. Send your letters or telegrams to Dr. Christopher Servheen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bitterroot Grizzly Bear EIS, P.O. Box 5127, Missoula, Montana 59806.

With NWF Push, Disaster-Aid Law Helps Environment

From an environmental standpoint, the huge disaster-relief bill passed by Congress in June, and signed by the President after an earlier veto, is notable both for what it does and does not contain.

One key provision, strongly supported by NWF, targets $500 million for voluntary buyouts and relocation of flood-prone properties in states hardest hit by recent flooding.

Federation pressure helped persuade Congress to delete a destructive measure from the bill that would have exempted virtually all flood-control projects--dams, levees, channelizations, dredging and draining--from requirements of the Endangered Species Act. The law does contain a provision that grants a deferral of certain consultation requirements of the act in a limited number of emergency situations.

Victories Mount in War Against Takings Laws

NWF and its affiliates continue to win the war against "takings" legislation that aims to derail environmental regulations under the guise of protecting property rights.

Takings bills have been introduced in at least 13 states this year. "In effect, these bills tell corporations and developers that unless they are paid, they do not have to obey anti-pollution and other laws that protect our homes and children," says NWF counsel Glenn Sugameli.

In Colorado, NWF provided key information on the history of takings bills in other states that convinced the governor to veto a bill passed by the legislature. One of NWF´s affiliates, the Montana Wild- life Federation, was instrumental in persuading the governor´s office and attorney general to oppose a bill in that state. As a result of their opposition, the bill never made it out of the senate committee.

One of the toughest ongoing battles involves the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate. It is working to defeat a proposed bill that would hamstring state and local zoning laws and other environmental regulations through litigation and other bureaucratic requirements. On the national level, NWF is fighting a revived version of a takings bill that failed in the last Congress. If passed, it would create a new multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded entitlement which would bust the budget and create a corporate right to pollute, Sugameli says.

NWF, Seattle School System Team Up on Environmental Ed

Tens of thousands of school children and hundreds of teachers in Seattle will be the beneficiaries of a unique partnership among NWF, the city´s school district and the Alliance for Education, a citywide education association.

A major goal of the project is to develop 40 schoolyard habitats during the next three years. Already, NWF has donated $2,500 to be used as seed grants of $250 each to get schools started in creating their habitats. NWF also will help the Seattle School District construct a model schoolyard habitat to serve as an example of what is possible and as a learning center for city students.

Under the agreement, NWF also is offering seven different environmental-training workshops specifically geared to the Seattle curriculum for teachers in grades K-12. Finally, the school district and the Federation will link websites to share environmental resources and to highlight schoolyard-habitat projects.

"Education has always been a dominant goal for NWF," says Jim Lyon, NWF´s director of community-based programs. "This is an historic opportunity for us to have a major impact on thousands of children throughout a metropolitan area."

NWF Asks Members to Write EPA on Airborne Toxics

NWF and the Sierra Club are criticizing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for telling Congress that it wants to wait, rather than take immediate tough action, to reduce the deposits of airborne pollution in the nation´s Great Waters, such as the Great Lakes, Lake Champlain and Chesapeake Bay.

The groups point to data in EPA´s own report to Congress that show airborne pollution in the Great Waters is a significant problem. The report was required as part of settlement of a lawsuit that NWF and the Sierra Club brought against EPA for failing to protect the nation´s waters from toxic air pollution as required under the 1990 Clean Air Act.

"Airborne toxics such as lead, mercury, arsenic and PCBs are falling into our Great Lakes and coastal waters and now make up anywhere from 25 to 90 percent of all the toxic pollution fouling these vital bodies of water," says Norman Dean, NWF senior vice president for conservation programs. Air-quality standards recently proposed by EPA address only soot and smog, not these toxics.

NWF is urging its members to let EPA know they want immediate action to control airborne pollution in the Great Waters.

Send your comments to Carol M. Browner, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street SW, Washington, DC 20460.

Bird-Watching Series Premieres Soon on Public Television

Next to gardening, bird-watching is the most popular hobby in North America. Now, in cooperation with other major television producers, NWF has created a TV series for the 65-to 75-million bird lovers in this country.

BirdWatch With Don and Lillian Stokes premieres on PBS in October and will run for 13 weeks. The hosts, authors of best-selling nature books, will show viewers how they have landscaped their five-acre property in Carlisle, Massachusetts, to attract more than 140 species of birds.

The magazine-style show features a half-dozen other segments on such topics as identifying birds, understanding bird behavior, getting started in bird-watching, birding hotspots, activities for kids and conservation success stories.

"A deeper purpose of the show is to help viewers understand the vital connection between birds and their environment and how important conservation of habitats is to birds´ survival,"says Chris Palmer, president of National Wildlife Productions.

Joining NWF as producers of the show are Don and Lillian Stokes, Connecticut Public Television and the Company for Home Entertainment.

Alaskans Learn to Focus on Value of Local Wetlands

Training wetlands "know-it-alls" to work with school children, sponsoring seasonal "bog days" and working with neighborhoods to fight development in wetlands are some of the ways NWF´s Alaska Project Office is helping Anchorage residents get involved with a valuable resource.

Each of the 24 volunteer "know-it-alls," trained over the summer in wetlands ecology and wildlife, has adopted a local school where he or she will conduct outdoor-education classes and lead field trips through nearby bogs.

Kristin Siemann, NWF´s Anchorage Wetlands Watch coordinator, and teachers from one city school have received a state grant for a program called "Bogged Down in Math and Science," which will use nearby Baxter Bog to teach those subjects to sixth graders.

Baxter Bog was the site last February of a winter bog day in which 85 students learned about winter pond ecology and how wildlife adapts to the cold. Other NWF-sponsored events have featured bog cleanups, bog walks and puppet shows.

Siemann also is working with neighborhood groups to fight a proposed housing development and a gas station and convenience store complex proposed for two of the city´s most valuable wetlands.

"In Anchorage, wetlands are the neighborhood backyard--where people go to fish, hike and bird-watch," Siemann says. "People already appreciate this resource. We´re working to help them learn how to protect it."

NWF Helps Promote Action to Reduce Ozone Pollution

Through a program known as ENDZONE, employees at NWF´s suburban Virginia headquarters and Washington, D.C., office are learning what they can do to help reduce pollution in the Washington metropolitan area.

NWF and other members of the public-private partnership distribute information explaining the health hazards of ozone pollution and spelling out steps people should take on Ozone Action Days, when the air quality is expected to be unhealthful.

Among the practical tips: carpool or use mass transit, wait until after dark to refuel your car and postpone painting or lawn mowing until air quality improves.

NWF Operates Bison Information Kiosk at Yellowstone

This summer, the Federation operated an information kiosk in Yellowstone National Park to educate the public about the continuing slaughter of bison that wander out of the park.

The killings were dictated by the state of Montana, which claims they are necessary to protect livestock and people from brucellosis, a cow disease. There is no evidence the disease has ever been transmitted from wild bison to cattle or people.

"Through the kiosk, we want to generate support for an NWF and InterTribal Bison Cooperative plan to relocate disease-free bison onto tribal and public lands instead of shooting them on sight," says Steve Torbit, head of NWF´s Bison team and senior scientist at NWF´s Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center.

The kiosk was staffed daily by two full-time clerks, who distributed brochures and explained to visitors what they can do to help sustain the important relationship between Native Americans and bison. By mid-summer, an estimated 20,000 people had stopped by the kiosk. NWF plans to reopen it on Memorial Day weekend next summer.

Appeals Board Halts Huge Copper Mine Near Canyonlands

The U.S. Department of Interior´s Board of Land Appeals has prevented a massive copper mine from beginning operation on public land near the Utah Canyonlands.

The decision is a victory for NWF and local citizens who argued that Interior had failed to test groundwater adequately before allowing the Lisbon Valley Copper Project to proceed. Interior also had not required the mining company to post a bond to protect groundwater quality in the future.

"In effect, the agency leaped before it looked, which is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act," says Deanne Barney, a summer law clerk at NWF´s regional office in Boulder, Colorado, who did most of the work on the case.

The mine, scheduled to operate for eight to ten years, would include four open ore pits, three huge waste dumps, crushing facilities, a 266-acre pad where copper would be leached from ore with sulfuric acid, a processing plant and ponds to recover the ore and a 10-mile power line.

Besides polluting groundwater, the project would leave behind enormous open pits that would likely fill with toxic water. These lakes would serve as poisonous magnets for migratory birds flying over the desert region, Barney explains.

Wisconsin City Launches Citizens Wetlands Watch

With the help of NWF´s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center and the Lake Superior Greens, a local environmental organization, the residents of Superior, Wisconsin, have formed a Citizens Wetlands Watch to monitor how a new area development plan will affect valuable wetlands within the city.

Under the city´s Special Area Management Plan, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has given the city five general permits to fill 143 acres of wetlands for development. The filling is permitted if an equal or greater amount of land in another area is preserved, enhanced or created as wetlands. A watchdog group is especially important because the plan contains no opportunities for public comment on proposed development.

Over the past five years, NWF and the Lake Superior Greens were part of a cooperative effort that reduced the city´s original development proposal from 496 acres to 143 acres and assured that some wetlands would be preserved for flood protection, water purification and wildlife habitat.

Western Resource Center Relocates to Greener Quarters

More than just the grass is greener on the other side of town for NWF´s Western Natural Resource Center in Portland, Oregon.
The center´s new office, designed to practice what its occupants preach, includes many principles for sustainable communities.

The carpet is made of wholly recycled material cut into tiles that can be recycled again after their current use. Other floor spaces are covered with Marmoleum, a natural material made of linseed oil and cork.

The walls are made of recycled gypsum and covered with paint recycled from Portland-area hazardous-waste collections.

The office is conveniently located on a city bus line and near bike paths, so employees and visitors are not dependent on automobiles.

"Moving into a storefront building in a thriving neighborhood also makes us more accessible to the community and gives us an opportunity to create a variety of wildlife habitats on our outside space," says Jacqui Bonomo, NWF´s acting western region vice president. With the help of NWF´s Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ program, the center plans to demonstrate how homeowners, apartment dwellers and small businesses can create a place for wildlife in their everyday lives.

Detroit Water Festival to Teach Kids Conservation

An estimated 2,500 Detroit fifth and eighth graders will learn about water quality and pollution prevention through a Detroit Water Education Festival cosponsored by NWF, the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage and the Detroit Public Schools.

Scheduled for November 19 in Cobo Hall, a convention center in downtown Detroit, the festival will focus on the Detroit River and what individuals can do to help protect water resources. Teacher workshops will provide information that can be incorporated into classroom curricula.

More than 250 high-school members of EARTH TOMORROW, NWF´s environmental-education and leadership program for urban teens, will operate stations featuring hands-on activities for the younger children. "This festival is an opportunity for the high schoolers to share what they´ve learned through EARTH TOMORROW with younger students, teachers and community groups," says Carey Rogers, NWF´s EARTH TOMORROW program manager.

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the water festival should contact Rogers at NWF´s Great Lakes office at 1-313-769-3351.

Around the Nation

NWF´s Northeast Natural Resource Center in Vermont is helping area school children and community organizations participate in the Adopt-a-Salmon family program coordinated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Youngsters raise Atlantic salmon from egg to fry stage, then release them into local streams, thus learning to appreciate the importance of healthy watersheds for the future of the fish.

The newest of more than 1,500 NWF-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitats in South Carolina is the headquarters of NWF´s state affiliate, the South Carolina Wildlife Federation. The front yard of the group´s office--a converted bungalow in an older residential area of Columbia--is planted entirely with native plants attractive to wildlife.

At a recent workshop cosponsored by NWF, Maryland school-facilities planners and groundskeepers learned how to landscape schoolyards to attract wildlife and create outdoor learning areas. The conference offered practical ideas for incorporating natural areas into new and renovated school sites, such as building wetlands, planting low-maintenance meadows and using stormwater to create aquatic laboratories.

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