NWF Members at Work: April/May 1999

04-01-1999 // NWF Staff

NWF Campaigns to Give Wildlife Top Priority on Grasslands

The National Wildlife Federation has launched a prairie grasslands campaign to ensure that public grasslands are managed primarily for the benefit of wildlife rather than for livestock grazing, oil and gas development and other uses.

NWF and an affiliate, the North Dakota Wildlife Federation, have been urging the U.S. Forest Service to stress wildlife habitat conservation in its new management plan for the Northern Great Plains National Grasslands, which include three prairies in North Dakota, three in South Dakota and one in Nebraska.

"We need to maintain a mosaic of native grasses of different heights to provide cover for ground-nesting birds and forage for larger species such as mule deer," says Cathy Carlson, director of NWF´s Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center. The nation has lost about 85 percent of its original mixed-grass prairie and 98 percent of its tallgrass prairie, Carlson says.

Remnant tallgrass prairie, found on the Sheyenne National Grassland in eastern North Dakota, is one of the world´s most endangered ecosystems, Carlson adds. It supports rare species such as the western prairie fringed orchid that are found nowhere else on Earth.

More conservation-oriented management of grasslands would also enhance recovery of such species as sharp-tailed grouse and prairie dogs, which NWF recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list as a threatened species. NWF also hopes that bison might eventually be restored to the grasslands they once inhabited in great numbers.

In a related action, NWF and another of its affiliates, the Idaho Wildlife Federation, have appealed to the Forest Service to stop prescribed burns on prime sage grouse habitat in Idaho´s Curlew National Grassland. Such burns typically have been carried out to encourage growth of grasses favored by cattle. The Forest Service supervisor has agreed to postpone the burns until a new management plan for the Curlew grassland has been approved. Sage grouse, identified by the Forest Service as an indicator species that reflects the health of the ecosystem, have declined precipitously over the past decade.

Feedlot Pollution Increasingly Serious Problem

The unregulated growth of large animal feedlot operations has left many communities grappling with odor and health hazards as manure and wastewater pollute their air and water.

NWF is urging its members to let the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) know they want tough controls on feedlot wastes included in the agency´s soon-to-be-completed National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations.

Specifically, NWF wants USDA to require that:

  • Feedlots not pollute drinking water or rivers and streams important to wildlife.

  • Operators cover and line all manure storage lagoons to reduce odor, which often can be detected for miles, and seepage of wastes into groundwater.

  • Waste storage tanks and sites where animal manure is applied to fields be located a minimum of one mile from residential areas and waterways.

Storage systems for both liquid and dry manure systems be built and maintained to prevent any contact with ground or surface water. NWF also opposes burning of dry manure, which could cause additional air-pollution problems.

Send your comments to Denise C. Coleman, USDA/ NCRS, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013-2890 or e-mail denise_c.coleman@usda.gov.

NWF Wins Lawsuit to Protect Oregon Salmon Streams

An Oregon judge has agreed with NWF that the state acted illegally in issuing a general permit for gold-mining operations in streams already too degraded to support salmon.

The judge ordered the state to prohibit new discharges of mining sediments into such streams unless a recovery plan is in place that guarantees the streams would not be threatened by more mining.

The ruling applies to small gold-mining operations in which gasoline-powered suction dredges--many of them home-built--excavate streambeds, run the material through a sluice to separate the gold and then discharge the sediment back into the water. The state has allowed 1,000 such operations in about 80 Oregon streams and rivers in the past two years, says Pete Frost, an attorney in NWF´s Western Natural Resource Center.

The problem is that such mining activity heats the water to temperatures salmon cannot tolerate. Water clouded by sediment absorbs the sun´s rays more readily, and piles of sediment create shallow spots that also warm quickly, Frost explains. Warm water has less dissolved oxygen, which salmon need to breathe, and makes the fish more lethargic and thus more vulnerable to predators.

"The judge´s decision is a shot across the bow to agencies that fail to take the right measures to restore degraded streams to their beneficial uses, such as supporting wild salmon," Frost says.

New NWF Giant Screen Film Introduces Viewers to World of Wolves

NWF´s second giant-screen film, Wolves, is premiering in more than a half dozen U.S. and Canadian theaters this spring. It is slated to open in at least 10 more cities worldwide--from Kansas City to Cape Town, South Africa--within the next year.

Following on the heels of NWF´s tremendously successful film Whales, Wolves takes viewers by plane, helicopter, on foot and through time to find out what really goes on in the world of the wolf pack. Narrated by singer-songwriter Robbie Robertson and accompanied by a soundtrack of Native American music, the film spans millennia, from the time wolves lived alongside prehistoric buffalo to their near extinction and extraordinary comeback in the twentieth century.

Viewers also spend time on the road with Koani, a wild wolf that was raised by people to be an ambassador for her species.

With a grant from the Toyota Foundation USA, NWF has produced a Wolf Tracks educational program with teacher´s guide and classroom activities relating to wolves and directly linked to scenes in the film.

Les Line Wins NWF Magazine Writing Award

Nature writing seems to be in Les Line´s blood. The Michigan native began reporting on wildlife for a hometown newspaper when he was only 12 years old. By the time he was 30, he had taken over the reins of Audubon, serving as the magazine´s editor for 25 years. In 1991, he left that position to focus on writing full-time about conservation issues and natural history. Since then, he has written more than two dozen articles for National Wildlife, including a feature on freshwater turtles for the October/November 1998 issue.

For that article, "Fast Decline of Slow Species," Line was selected as the 1998 winner of the Trudy Farrand and John Strohm Writing Award, a $1,000 prize that honors the best writing in National Wildlife and International Wildlife.

"I became intrigued with the plight of freshwater turtles when an assignment for The New York Times took me to a reserve that protects six species of chelonians," says Line, who was a charter subscriber to National Wildlife. "I was aware of the problems sea turtles face, but until that day I had pretty much taken freshwater turtles for granted." The upstate New York-based writer returned home with a concern that led to last fall´s article.

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

Art Show Proceeds to Benefit School Habitat Project

A North Carolina garden nursery has found a unique way to promote wildlife habitats both in backyards and at schools.

Niche Gardens in Chapel Hill recently held an art and sculpture show called "For the Birds," featuring works by local artists that use bird imagery or are of practical use to birds. Woven throughout the exhibit was a collection of bird baths, feeders and houses and information about native plants that attract birds.

Niche Gardens donated five percent of the proceeds from the show to NWF´s Backyard Wildlife HabitatTM program. In turn, NWF and its affiliate, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, will use the money to help a North Carolina school create a schoolyard habitat.

NWF is encouraging other businesses and organizations to explore ways they can assist schools with community habitat projects.

Oregon Kids Learn to Conserve Urban Salmon Streams

NWF´s Western Field Office is celebrating Earth Day with a "Small Fry Walk" geared to help Portland-area children and their families appreciate the presence of salmon in urban streams and learn what they can do to keep the fish there.

The walk, to be held April 17 in southeast Portland´s Tideman-Johnson Park, will feature several activity stations and an opportunity for participants to plant native vegetation along Johnson Creek to improve streamside habitat for fish.

Ranger Rick Now Available on Kids´ On-Line Network

For the first time, the popular characters and activities of NWF´s children´s magazine Ranger Rick® have gone on-line beyond NWF´s own web site.

Ranger Rick has joined four other best-loved children´s publications on JuniorNet, a safe and advertisement-free on-line network for kids.

Geared to children ages 3 to 12, JuniorNet is featuring a range of activitiesand popular characters from Ranger Rick, in some cases animating or transforming into interactive activities magazine departments such as "Ask Scarlett," "Critter Crackups" and "Quick Bits." Check out JuniorNet at www.juniornet.com.

Everglades Study Offers Best Chance to Repair Mistakes

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Restudy of the Everglades is "the last practical chance we have to improve wildlife habitat and bring clean water back to the Everglades," according to NWF President Mark Van Putten.

NWF´s Everglades Project Office and an NWF affiliate, the Florida Wildlife Federation, have been providing input for the restudy, which aims to undo a century of human intervention that has dramatically diminished the Everglades´ ability to support wildlife. To open up land for agriculture and development, natural water flows have been diverted, leaving the Everglades and Florida Bay starving for water and condemning wildlife to near extinction.

The goal of the restudy is to restore much of the natural plumbing of the region while providing for the current needs of wildlife, people and agriculture, says Kris Thoemke, director of NWF´s Everglades office.

NWF is stressing the importance of acquiring land for water storage, restoring the remaining parts of the Everglades and conserving water so that people and wildlife in South Florida can coexist.

In a major step for land acquisition, federal, state and sugar-company negotiators recently agreed that 55,000 acres of agricultural land will henceforth be used to help restore the Everglades ecosystem.

NWF Promotes Sustainability in New Trade Pact

Thanks in part to the unrelenting efforts of NWF, 1999 offers unprecedented opportunities for environmental organizations to influence international trade negotiations.

As a result of pressure from NWF´s Trade and Environment Program, the 34 nations negotiating a new trade pact called the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) have agreed to invite comments from the public--the first time this has happened in ongoing trade negotiations.

The FTAA involves every country in the Western Hemisphere except Cuba and aims to establish a free-trade zone from the tip of Argentina to the Arctic Circle. NWF is working to build support for measures that would encourage environmentally neutral economic competition, guarantee enforcement of environmental laws and ensure that resources are used in a sustainable way.

Copper Mine Plan Threatens Endangered River

NWF and one of its affiliates, the Arizona Wildlife Federation, are strongly opposing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency´s decision to permit a Canadian copper-mining company to discharge contaminated wastewater into an already imperiled desert stream.

Pinto Creek, the victim of pollution from past mining, has been named by the group American Rivers as one of the nation´s most endangered waterways. The proposed Carlota Copper Mine would carve up much of the creek´s watershed in Arizona´s Tonto National Forest, break up rock containing microscopic specks of copper and spray the rubble with sulfuric acid, creating runoff that would threaten wildlife habitat as well as drinking water for the city of Phoenix.

The Pinto Creek area provides valuable habitat for a number of endangered and threatened birds. It is also an important corridor for species such as mule deer.

NWF argues that a permit allowing the mine to discharge pollutants into Pinto Creek would violate the Clean Water Act and other state and federal water-quality regulations. The Forest Service, which manages the Tonto National Forest, originally approved the Carlota project under the antiquated Mining Law of 1872, which continues to allow mining abuse of public lands.

 

´Connies´ Honor Top Conservation Action Achievers

In addition to naming oceanographer Sylvia Earle recipient of its J.N. "Ding" Darling Award as Conservationist of the Year (see Sylvia Earle´s Excellent Adventure), NWF will present 11 Conservation Achievement Awards at its annual meeting March 18-21 in Houston, Texas. The winners are:

Outstanding NWF Affiliate Award: Natural Resources Council of Maine for its efforts to protect and restore Maine´s land and waters, and for securing the landmark removal of a functioning hydroelectric dam for environmental reasons.

Communications Award: Rocky Barker, environmental reporter for the Idaho Statesman, for providing thorough, thought-provoking coverage that increases public understanding of key conservation issues.

Youth Award: Ney Frog Project students at the Minnesota New Country School for discovering and publicizing frog deformities, which led to a nationwide effort to find the causes of the problem.

Science Award: L. David Mech, senior scientist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for his outstanding work to increase public and scientific understanding of wolves that has enhanced recovery efforts nationwide.

Corporate Award: Jim Hills, co-owner of Native and Nature in Tucson, Arizona, for promoting sustainably harvested products and collaborations among businesses, nonprofits and Native tribes to conserve both wildlife and traditional ecological knowledge.

Education Award: Maureen Austin for launching the Sage and Songbirds habitat project in her home town of Alpine, California, the first town certified by NWF as a Community Wildlife Habitat.

International Award: Hiroshi Hasegawa, ornithologist at Japan´s Toho University, for his success in rescuing the short-tailed albatross, largest seabird in the Northern Hemisphere, from near extinction.

Government Award: Wellington E. Webb, mayor of Denver, Colorado, for ongoing environmental leadership aimed at restoring the South Platte River and transforming Denver into an ecological model for the country.

Legislative/Legal Award: John Adams, founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, for creating a powerful force for legislative and legal action to protect natural resources and the environment.

Organization Award: Partners for Wildlife Farmland Habitat Project for bringing together diverse organizations and volunteer landowners in a model effort to restore wildlife habitats and populations throughout Pennsylvania.

Special Achievement Award: Earth Ministry for educating and enlisting members of the Seattle religious community in environmental stewardship.

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