Action Report: April/May 2000

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

04-01-2000 // NWF Staff

Congress Poised for Action to Restore Florida Everglades

Declaring that the time is ripe for action, NWF and one of its affiliates, the Florida Wildlife Federation, are leading a nationwide campaign to mobilize public and congressional support for restoring the Everglades.

NWF is preparing a fact sheet and brochure to educate members of Congress and grass-roots activists about Everglades restoration and will launch a petition drive to get citizen signatures in support of congressional action. Once specific legislation is introduced, NWF and the Florida Wildlife Federation will educate activists about how to enlist lawmakers´ support and how to use the media to publicize the issue.

For more than a century, and especially since the 1940s, people have tinkered with the natural plumbing of the Everglades to divert water for agriculture and urban development in South Florida. Currently, as a result of a 25-year project to channelize the Kissimmee River and construct 1,400 miles of canals and levees, 1.7 billion gallons of fresh water are dumped into the Atlantic Ocean every year instead of nourishing the Everglades.

At the direction of Congress, the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a study of how to undo the damage, which it submitted to the lawmakers last summer. With bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and backing from the Clinton administration and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Congress is now poised to act on the Corps proposal, which calls for a 25-year series of projects to remove man-made structures and acquire land necessary to restore natural flows to America´s "River of Grass."

Ecological restoration of the Everglades will restore wildlife habitat by allowing water to flow more naturally. The goal, says Carolyn Waldron, NWF´s vice president for the southeast region, is to "undo the disaster by putting the right amount of water in the right places at the right time of year."

Sen. Robert Smith (R-New Hampshire), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has pledged his commitment to begin congressional action on Everglades restoration this spring.

Throughout most of their history, both NWF and the Florida Wildlife Federation have been deeply involved in Everglades protection. Their efforts have included helping to establish the Big Cypress National Preserve and Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge in South Florida and filing key litigation that put Everglades restoration on the political map in the 1990s.

NWF, Dole Foods Unite in Consumer Sweepstakes

This spring NWF is joining with Dole Foods in a national consumer promotion designed to raise awareness of NWF´s conservation work and at the same time raise revenues to support its programs.

The promotion is being publicized in the coupon section of Sunday newspapers reaching 50 million households and in 10,000 store displays. Consumers can enter a sweepstakes in which the winning family will receive a camping vacation for four people to the national park of its choice, Coleman camping equipment and a personal, one-day, NWF-guided tour of the park.

With the purchase of four Dole products, consumers can receive a "Push-n-Pull" light from Coleman, a free copy of Ranger Rick® magazine and a discounted subscription to Ranger Rick® or to one of NWF´s other children's magazines, Your Big Backyard® and Wild Animal Baby.™

Consumers also will have the opportunity to make a donation to NWF when they send for the free items or register to win the sweepstakes prize.

Recovery Zone for Grizzly Bears Needs Widening

Concerned about the gradual erosion of Yellowstone grizzly habitat because of human activities, NWF is calling on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the bears´ habitat on public lands beyond the current recovery zone.

In comments on the agency´s recovery plan for the Yellowstone bears, NWF strongly recommended extending the policy of "no net loss" of habitat to all federal lands in the region, including the Beaverhead, Gallatin, Custer, Bridger-Teton, Shoshone and Targhee National Forests. This would mean that road building or other activities that adversely affect grizzly habitat would have to be mitigated by protection of habitat elsewhere in the region.

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem are increasingly threatened by such activities as logging and greater use of recreational vehicles, NWF notes. All of their major food sources also are somewhat precarious, and if any one of these disappeared, more land area would be necessary to support the current population of 400 to 600 bears.

"There can be no doubt that the long-term health of the Yellowstone grizzly population would be substantially enhanced by allowing and encouraging a larger bear population to inhabit a greater land area," NWF´s comments state.

Second Vermont Frog Study Shows High Rate of Stress

There´s clearly trouble in the frog pond, according to the second phase of a study of Vermont´s frogs by NWF´s Northeast Field Office.

The latest research focused on agricultural ponds, golf courses and storm-water runoff sites, and it found higher than expected rates of limb abnormalities at 53 percent of sites studied. An earlier survey, in July 1998 of frogs at relatively pristine sites in the state, found abnormalities at only 20 percent of sites.

Almost as troubling as the rate of deformities was the scarcity of frogs in general, says Monique Gilbert, who directed the study. Of 66 sites visited for the study, only 19 had enough frogs to be considered statistically significant. Many ponds had few or no frogs.

While last summer´s drought may be largely to blame, researchers are concerned that Vermont´s frog populations are becoming stressed due to environmental factors.

To protect frogs, NWF is developing recommendations that will suggest state lawmakers require buffer strips of vegetation along shorelines and in logging areas to stop sediment and pollutants from reaching waterways.

For information about creating your own frog pond, see the " Natural Gardening" article in this issue.

NWF Backs Right to Save Public Lands from Grazing Abuse

In a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, NWF has joined with several other national environmental organizations to defend the federal government´s right to protect public lands from abusive livestock grazing.

NWF and the other groups filed a friend of the court brief supporting the Interior Department´s authority to adjust livestock levels on public lands so that other values, such as clean water, wildlife and recreation, can be protected and enhanced.

In the Supreme Court case, Interior also is defending its right to issue use permits for activities other than grazing and to retain ownership of rangeland improvements, such as fences and water tanks. Historically, only the livestock industry had access to permits for public lands. But Interior´s new rules allow individuals and organizations to use a permit to conserve endangered species habitat, set aside important winter range for big game species or help save a watershed.

By retaining ownership of any development on public land, the government can ensure that watering holes and other ecologically important features are available for wildlife, as well as for cattle.

The more than 160 million acres of public lands are home to hundreds of wildlife species, including some of the world´s largest herds of deer, elk and pronghorn, and provide vacation and recreation opportunities for thousands of Americans. Abusive livestock grazing strips the land of forage for wildlife and causes erosion and sediment pollution in streams and rivers, endangering numerous fish species.

North Carolina Adopts New Strategy for Flood Control

The state hardest hit by Hurricane Floyd is adopting on a massive scale an approach long advocated by NWF to reduce flood damage.

North Carolina plans to buy out as many as 11,000 homes and businesses in the 100-year floodplain that were destroyed by flooding in the hurricane´s wake. With an expected total price tag of $600 million, it would be the largest voluntary buyout in U.S. history, costing nearly as much as the federal government has spent on voluntary buyouts nationwide since the Midwest flood of 1993.

In its 1998 report, Higher Ground, NWF concluded that hundreds of communities across the country could significantly reduce flood losses through buyouts and relocation of flood-prone properties.

NWF and one of its affiliates, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, have been helping the state implement its plan and are working with individual communities to find appropriate uses for bought-out land in floodplains.

The North Carolina Wildlife Federation also has teamed up with the North Carolina Sierra Club and Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt to produce public service radio messages urging people not to build in flood-prone areas.

"It´s gratifying that states are responding so seriously to the ideas we presented in Higher Ground to reduce repetitive flood losses in their communities," says the report´s author, David Conrad, NWF´s water resources specialist.

The federal agency recently awarded Conrad its Outstanding Public Service Award for his work in promoting sound floodplain management.

Wolves Can Stay in Yellowstone, Appeals Court Rules

A federal appeals court has in effect ripped up an eviction notice for reintroduced wolves in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver reversed a lower court ruling that the wolf reintroduction program in the northern Rockies was illegal. NWF, the first organization to appeal that ruling, hailed the latest decision as "a stunning victory for the Endangered Species Act and commonsense conservation."

In the original 1997 case, wolf reintroduction opponents at the American Farm Bureau Federation seized on a provision of the program that protected farmers by designating reintroduced wolves as an "experimental" population, which would allow removal of animals that prey on livestock. Such designation, the plaintiffs argued, would reduce protection for native wolves that might migrate into the area.

"It´s gratifying that the appeals court would not allow overly technical interpretations of the Endangered Species Act to stand in the way of its true intent," says NWF President Mark Van Putten.

The appeals court decision means that "the act can help us unite people to bring back additional species like the grizzly bear and to stop the decline of others," adds NWF Attorney Tom France, cocounsel on the appeal.

NWF was a leader in the decade-long struggle to return wolves to their historic habitat in Yellowstone park. Without wolves, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem was badly out of balance. The elk populations grew far too large and were destroying the park´s plant life. This upset the dynamic balance of various predator and prey animals and most of the plant life as well. Animals released there in the mid-1990s and their offspring have flourished, and the population now numbers nearly 300.

NWF Spotlights Alaska´s Magnificent Copper River Delta

NWF has stepped up its campaign to persuade the U.S. Forest Service to declare Alaska´s 700,000-acre Copper River Delta wilderness area to protect it from encroaching development.

The largest wetlands complex on the Pacific coast, the delta is one of the most important shorebird habitats in the Western Hemisphere. It is home to the world´s largest concentrations of sea otters, beavers and nesting trumpeter swans, and virtually the entire world population of dusky Canada geese.

NWF´s Alaska office is sending a color booklet, designed to convey in words and pictures the stunning beauty and unique value of the delta, to federal and state officials, members of Congress and other policymakers. Thousands of activists around the country will receive a one-page version along with an action alert asking for their help in appealing to the Forest Service.

To get a copy of the booklet, "Alaska´s Copper River Delta," and to find out more about this issue, write National Wildlife Federation, Alaska Project Office, 750 West Second Avenue, Suite 200, Anchorage, Alaska 99501 or call 907-258-4808.

To let the Forest Service know you want the delta declared a wilderness area, write Dave Gibbons, Forest Supervisor, U.S. Forest Service, 3301 C St., Suite 300, Anchorage, Alaska 99503.

Water For Life: Keep The Wild Alive Wildlife Week Theme

NWF´s National Wildlife Week, to be celebrated April 16-22, again emphasizes endangered species, this year focusing on those species that live in or near water.

For the first time, Wildlife Week teacher's kits are available on-line rather than by mail or from NWF´s state affiliates. Teachers can download ten free lessons, available in English and Spanish, from NWF´s web site.

Each classroom lesson includes background information on a specific endangered species along with hands-on activities to increase students´ understanding of how the species interacts with its habitat and the issues affecting its survival.

The Federation also is encouraging students and teachers to develop their own community service projects, such as stream monitoring or cleanups, creating trails along shores of local streams or lakes, or building a Schoolyard Habitats site that includes a water feature such as a pond, bog or wetland.

During Wildlife Week, NWF will host an on-line celebration that will feature interactive games for students to reinforce the classroom lessons and spotlight successful stewardship projects.

NWF, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens Celebrate One Wild Week

NWF´s Keep the Wild Alive program is joining with SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Adventure Parks, sponsors of Keep the Wild Alive, to spotlight endangered species conservation at park locations across the country.

Known as "One Wild Week," the event is scheduled for April 10-16, just prior to NWF´s Wildlife Week, at Busch parks in Orlando and Tampa, Florida, and San Diego, California. Weekend events will be held April 14-16 at parks in San Antonio, Texas, and Williamsburg, Virginia.

One Wild Week will feature live animal presentations by Jeff Flocken, NWF´s endangered species coordinator, and Julie Scardina, SeaWorld/Busch Gardens´ animal ambassador, as well as opportunities to learn about endangered species through special activities and events.

As part of the celebration, any child age 12 and under who comes to a park dressed as his or her favorite animal will be admitted free with a full-paying adult. Each of the parks also will distribute NWF´s Keep the Wild Alive poster featuring 25 endangered species from around the world.

For more information about this special event, contact NWF Customer Service at 1-800-822-9919.

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