Action Report: February/March 2000

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

02-01-2000 // NWF Staff

NWF Organizes Citizens to Protect Urban Watershed

How can inner-city residents become more involved in improving their natural environment? That´s one of the questions the National Wildlife Federation is attempting to answer with its Proctor Creek Watershed Action Project in Atlanta.

The project focuses on a tributary of the Chattahoochee River that flows through one of the most polluted parts of the city. NWF´s Southeastern Field Office has organized citizens´ groups, businesspeople, the faith community and individual residents into a Proctor Creek Watershed Network that informs people about what they can do personally or through civic action to improve water quality and shoreline habitat.

Activities include a bimonthly Citizens´ Water Action Workshop, where topics range from creating a Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ site to community activism; and Adopt-a-Stream projects that are getting kids at three schools involved in monitoring water quality and cleaning up the banks of Proctor Creek.

To help spread the word about citizen action and water quality, the project published an informational door hanger titled "How You Can Help Improve Atlanta´s Water Quality" which was distributed throughout the city.

The network is also getting citizens involved in helping to identify land along Proctor Creek for possible conservation under the city´s $25 million greenway acquisition program.

"The education components and activities of the Proctor Creek project are designed to provide urban residents with the training, structure and experience they need to make sustainable changes in their neighborhoods," says project director Na´Taki Osborne, sustainable communities organizer in NWF´s southeast center.

Property Rights´ Advocates Dealt Major Blow by Court

A federal appeals court has rejected claims by a Florida developer that he was entitled to compensation from the government because environmental regulations affected the value of his property.

NWF presented friend of the court arguments on the side of the United States.

Agreeing unanimously with those arguments, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled that the developer knew when he purchased wetland property on Sugarloaf Key that it would be subject to federal and state environmental rules. He had no reason to believe he could develop the property without regulatory approval, which "defeats his takings claim as a matter of law," wrote Senior Judge Edward S. Smith on behalf of the three-judge panel.

The developer, Lloyd Good, Jr., wanted to fill in 32 acres of wetlands to build a housing complex, but the Army Corps of Engineers refused to grant a permit unless he tailored the project to protect endangered species on the property. Good refused to accept those conditions and sued the federal government for "taking" his property.

"This decision is a major setback for special interests that want to use legislation and litigation to make environmental regulations too expensive to enforce," says Glenn Sugameli, an NWF attorney.

NWF Makes Case for Wolves In Northern Forest

Wolves are the missing link in the ecosystem of the 26-million-acre Northern Forest that stretches from northern Maine through New Hampshire and Vermont into the Adirondack Mountains of New York.

That is the theme of a new NWF publication designed to explain to the public why restoration of wolves to this area where they once flourished would be good for both people and wildlife.

The eight-page, newspaper-format publication titled The Missing Link: Wolves and the Northern Forest includes facts about wolf history and behavior, describes how reintroduced wolves have restored a healthy balance to the Yellowstone ecosystem and explains how a recovery plan would work in the Northeast. It also answers questions about the impact wolves would have on people, livestock and the local economy. (They don´t eat people; they rarely prey on livestock; and they also provide a boost to local economies through increased tourism.)

The publication lists readings, children´s books, Internet sites and teachers´ resources where people can learn more about wolves and suggests ways citizens can help support wolf recovery in the Northeast.

Congress Inches Closer To Passing Conservation Funding

NWF´s top legislative priority of guaranteed long-term funding for conservation is a step closer to reality.By a comfortable margin of 37 to 12, a congressional committee recently approved a bipartisan bill that would provide about $2.4 billion a year until 2015 for such programs as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, coastal conservation, state wildlife agencies and urban parks. The bill still must pass both the full House and Senate before it can become law.

The result of bipartisan cooperation rarely seen in this Congress, the compromise bill was negotiated by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Resources Committee, and Rep. George Miller (D-California), ranking minority member of the committee.

In a massive grass-roots effort to move the process along, NWF persuaded 865 local, state and national organizations representing tens of millions of Americans from every state to sign a letter in support of guaranteed funding for conservation.

As the current bill moves through Congress, NWF will work for further improvements, such as making funding permanent rather than limited to a certain number of years and clarifying how money for state wildlife programs would be spent.

NWF Marks 25,000 Habitats, Launches New Partnership

NWF recently celebrated certification of its 25,000th Backyard Wildlife Habitat site and launched a partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, to educate Americans about the importance of native plants for people and wildlife.

The 25,000th habitat site belongs to Cathy Nordstrom, an Austin resident who has converted her traditional lawn-dominated yard into a wildlife haven thriving with native plants. Her efforts were recognized in a ceremony at the Johnson wildflower center, attended by Lady Bird Johnson.

Through their new partnership, NWF and the wildflower center will create an extensive on-line database about native plants and the wildlife they attract. Organized by regions, it will allow people from Anchorage and Honolulu to Miami to find information about plants that will thrive in their areas, so they can provide homes for wildlife.

Plants native to the soil and climate of an area may support 10 to 50 times as many species of wildlife as nonnative plants and also require less water, fertilizer and chemical pesticides.

Cindy Nordstrom´s backyard habitat includes a wide variety of native plants as well as bird feeders and baths, logs, nest boxes and a bat house. To receive NWF certification, Backyard Wildlife Habitat sites must include food, water, shelter and a place to raise young.

For more information on how to create and certify your own Backyard Wildlife Habitat project, check NWF´s website for Backyard Wildlife Habitat or call 703-438-6100 for a free brochure. For further information about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, visit its web site at www.wildflower.org.

NWF Wins Round In Latest Fight To Save Wetlands

In an important decision for wetlands and waterfowl, a federal district judge in South Dakota has temporarily halted a government agency from weakening wetlands protection in that state.

The temporary injunction is a major win for NWF and one of its affiliates, the South Dakota Wildlife Federation. The two groups are suing the federal government over a new wetlands mapping scheme that would overlook and leave unprotected thousands of seasonal wetlands in the upper Midwest that provide vital breeding habitat for waterfowl. Identifying wetlands is crucial to enforcement of the nation´s Swampbuster law, which denies federal crop subsidies and other benefits to farmers who drain wetlands.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wants to rely on summer aerial photos rather than site visits to identify wetlands in South Dakota, a method that would miss temporary ponds that appear after the spring snowmelt. According to NRCS´s own estimate, as many as 525,000 of the state´s two million acres of wetlands could be reclassified as "non-wetlands" and drained under the new mapping plan.

Another study shows that more than 200,000 pairs of breeding ducks could be lost if the change is upheld, says Tom Darin, an attorney representing NWF and the other groups in the suit.

The court´s ruling means that the agency must continue using site visits to identify wetlands while the lawsuit is under consideration.

Maine Voters Approve Huge Land Bond Issue

By a landslide vote of 68 to 32 percent, Maine voters have approved a $50 million bond issue for land acquisition and conservation easements in the state.

Pete Didisheim, advocacy director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, an NWF affiliate, says, "It´s a landslide for land protection." The council was a key strategist in the 42-group coalition that campaigned for passage of the measure. NWF aided the effort by sending an Action Alert to its Maine members.

The bond will enable the state to purchase land and easements for conservation, water access, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland preservation, and recreation, including hunting and fishing. It will be matched by $25 million in federal and private funds.

"A win of this size, over the protests of the property rights movement, not only guarantees protection of prime mountain and shore land in Maine, but also will make the state´s conservation agenda politically credible for years to come," says Don Hooper, regional organizer in NWF´s Northeast Natural Resource Center.

Other Parks Adopt Maine´s Clean Air For Acadia Campaign

An air-pollution education program initiated at Acadia National Park by the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), one of NWF´s affiliates, has inspired similar efforts at some other national parks plagued by chronic air pollution.

During the past two summers, NRCM volunteers have handed out more than 40,000 brochures to park visitors, explaining why Acadia´s air is sometimes as dirty as that found in downtown Boston or New York City. Park goers are urged to sign petitions and postcards asking their lawmakers to toughen controls on power plants and other sources of Acadia´s pollution. The thousands of cards and letters sent to Maine Governor Angus King have prompted his public support for cleaning up old power plants, says NRCM´s Karen Woodsum.

Last summer, impressed by NRCM´s success, the Izaak Walton League launched a similar education and petition-signing campaign at Virginia´s Shenandoah National Park, where pollution has reduced average visibility to a quarter of what it once was.

The Southeast office of the National Parks and Conservation Association has taken up the cause at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which according to the association´s Don Barger is second only to downtown Atlanta in the East for the number of unhealthful ozone-level days per year.

Annual Meeting Set for Seattle March 16-18

"Shaping a Conservation Century" is the theme of NWF´s 64th Annual Meeting, which will look back on 100 years of conservation milestones and ahead to what the new millennium holds for planet Earth.

Special break-out sessions will focus on such current issues as wildlife restoration, salmon protection and recovery efforts, and trade and the environment.

Speakers will include Nina Leopold Bradley, daughter of the late conservationist, Aldo Leopold; Denis Hayes, organizer of Earth Day; and Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Netscape Communications.

As a special treat, attendees will get an advance look at NWF´s latest giant-screen film, Dolphins. Meeting goers also will have an opportunity to work side-by-side with children from the Evergreen School in Seattle to help restore the Thornton Creek Watershed and enhance a wetland area as a Schoolyard Habitats® site. On a second field trip, participants will learn how the city of Seattle manages the 90,000-acre Cedar River Watershed to maintain water quality and wildlife habitat within a forestry economy.

Plumbing Efficiency Standards Might Be Flushed Away

National standards that mandate lower water flows in faucets, toilets and shower heads sold in the United States could go right down the drain if some members of Congress have their way.

NWF, which was instrumental in getting the standards written into federal law in 1992, is now fighting congressional efforts to repeal the requirements, even though they have dramatically reduced per capita water use.

The bill´s sponsors, led by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Michigan), argue that the federal government should not be involved in household water conservation.

Studies show, however, that not only are customers generally satisfied but also that the more efficient products have produced major financial and energy savings for consumers and communities nationwide. Since the standards were passed, average household water use in new homes has decreased 25 percent.

To learn more about this issue and what you can do to help, contact Peter Moreno, NWF, 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, call 202-797-6869.

Court Upholds Mexican Gray Wolf Reintroduction

Score another victory for endangered species. The U.S. Federal District Court in Albuquerque has dismissed a ranchers´ lawsuit challenging reintroduction of the Mexican gray wolf in Arizona´s Apache National Forest.

NWF was one of 14 organizations and individuals that intervened in the case. The Mexican wolf is the most endangered subspecies of gray wolf in North America.

In 1998, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released three family groups of Mexican gray wolves into the Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona. The New Mexico Cattle Growers´ Association and eight other rancher organizations then filed suit, charging that the government had engaged in an unfair decision-making process and that it had introduced animals that were wolf hybrids.

Species Recovery Fund Encourages Wildlife Protection Projects

NWF has established a Wild Alive Species Recovery Fund to support innovative conservation projects that will directly improve conditions for one or more of the 25 endangered species featured in its Keep the Wild Alive program.

In the first year, the fund will award approximately 10 grants ranging between $3,000 and $7,000 to individuals or organizations that propose creative ways to restore habitat, protect habitat on private land, launch a species reintroduction program or otherwise improve the lot of any of the 25 plants and animals on NWF´s Keep the Wild Alive list. The selection committee will especially look for projects that can easily be replicated elsewhere or have the potential to continue after initial funding runs out.

The deadline for grant applications is February 18. You can access the list of 25 species and download an application from NWF´s web site at www.nwf.org/keepthewildalive.

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