Action Report: April/May 2002

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

04-01-2002 // Sarah Boyle and Phyllis McIntosh

Conservation Partnership Launched With Mexico
Through a new international initiative, NWF is setting up partnerships with organizations in Mexico. The goal: to educate children and adults about conservation and to assist citizens in influencing environmental policy. The new program, called La Alianza Para la Vida Silvestre (Partnership for Wildlife), grew out of requests from Mexican organizations hoping to adapt NWF's educational materials and commonsense approach to conservation in their own country.

"This is a special time in Mexico's history," says Barbara Bramble, director of the new program. "The election of Vicente Fox overturned 70 years of single-party domination and ushered in a new era of openness to new ideas. This creates an unprecedented opportunity for environmental advocacy and education that Mexican organizations have never before enjoyed."

Cooperation with Mexico is important because North America is one continuous habitat, Bramble adds. As home to more birds and mammals and three times more native plant species than the United States, Mexico is key to conservation in North America.

NWF will work with partners in schools, state and federal agencies, and environmental groups in Mexico to help build public support for conservation. The program will focus on training teachers so they can create schoolyard habitats and instruct students about conservation. It will teach citizens how to influence environmental policy and recruit and motivate volunteers.

To reach the maximum number of students, NWF and its partners hope to help train "master teachers" in 10 to 15 major cities who will in turn train other teachers about schoolyard habitats and other methods of conservation education.

NWF has had an international program for the past 19 years, focusing on the environmental impacts of international finance and trade, human population growth and climate change. During the 1990s, NWF worked in Japan to help environmental organizations influence their country's involvement in funding development projects around the world.

NWF Aims To "Green" Corps of Engineers
AT a recent hearing in Delaware, NWF joined a chorus of local, regional and national organizations condemning a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to deepen the main channel of the Delaware River--a $360 million project that would threaten populations of horseshoe and blue crabs and other wildlife while providing minimal public benefit.

The Delaware Deepening project is one of the main targets of NWF's Greening the Corps campaign, launched in 2000 to direct the Corps away from water projects that harm the environment and waste taxpayers' money.

Since its formation in 1779, the Corps has constructed 8,500 miles of levees and seawalls, more than 500 dams and 11,000 miles of inland waterway navigation channels--many of which have altered the nation's sensitive landscapes.

In a report, Troubled Waters, NWF and Taxpayers for Common Sense highlighted 25 of the worst Corps projects, including the Delaware River deepening, an Arkansas irrigation project that would divert water from the White River and a massive plan to replumb the Mississippi River Delta. In other action, the Greening the Corps campaign has:

  • Helped pass landmark federal legislation to restore the Florida Everglades.
  • Prodded Congress and the Clinton and Bush administrations to take action to reform the Corps' water resources policy.
  • Convened regional and national meetings, given talks, prepared white papers and generated media attention to rally public support for halting damaging water projects and redirecting the Corps' resources toward restoring damaged aquatic ecosystems.

Tune-Ups Help Protect Environment
As expansive yards have become part of the American culture, so have gas-powered lawnmowers. Thus NWF and Briggs & Stratton teamed together in March to launch National Mower Tune-Up Month, a joint effort to improve the public's mowers and the environment.

According to research by Briggs & Stratton, a well-maintained mower could help reduce mower emissions by as much as 50 percent. In addition to improving air quality, tuned mowers consume 30 percent less fuel than non-tuned ones, have stronger engines and longer lives, and save consumers money. "By using energy more efficiently and cutting down on emissions, homeowners can help stretch limited resources, cut down on air pollution, slow global warming and protect wildlife habitat," says Jeremy Symons, manager of NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program.

Tune up your mower in about 30 minutes with an easy-to-use maintenance kit or take it to a service dealer. For more information, visit www.tuneupmonth.com.

NWF Ranked Among Nation's Best Charities
NWF has been ranked among the top 100 charities most deserving of the public's contributions in Worth magazine's prestigious annual guide to national charities. Worth's analysis also shows that NWF ranks highest among environmental organizations in the percentage of revenue devoted to its conservation mission.

The magazine derived its list by studying tens of thousands of charities, examining what groups actually accomplish and how they are viewed by those knowledgeable about their mission.

Monitoring Effort Helps Northeast Falcons Rebound
The peregrine falcon, one of the first species to receive protection under the Endangered Species Act, reached record population levels in the Northeast in 2001, according to a report by NWF and the state of Vermont.

Nearly driven to extinction the pesticide DDT, the falcon had recovered enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List in 1999. In 2001, the Northeast Recovery Region, which includes New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and northern New York, hosted 64 territorial pairs that produced a record 115 young, NWF reports.

"The success of the recovery efforts would never have happened without local activists and volunteers in the northeastern states who monitor and track these birds," says Margaret Fowle, NWF's peregrine falcon recovery program coordinator. Anyone interested in helping to locate and monitor peregrine nests in Vermont this spring should contact Fowle at 802-229-0650 or by e-mail at fowle@nwf.org.

New Campaign Urges Campuses To Buy "Green"
Encouraging the nation's colleges and universities to purchase more environmentally friendly products is the goal of a new campaign launched by NWF's Campus Ecology® Program in partnership with the National Association of Educational Buyers.

The campaign--Driving Sustainable Markets--aims to educate college faculty, staff and students about how they can help sustain the world's resources through their purchases. "With expenditures of more than $250 billion annually, colleges and universities create markets and determine what is produced and how it is made," says Kathleen Cacciola, coordinator of the Campus Ecology Program.

Beginning in early April, NWF will offer an on-line "Teach-In" taught by Kevin Lyons of Rutgers University. It will focus on why and how to buy "green" products such as SmartWood, paper, coffee and computers.

To learn more about the program and the Teach-In, check out our Campus Ecology page or e-mail campus@nwf.org.

GE Shareholders Urged To Help Hudson River
People can use the power of their personal investments to protect habitat and wildlife. NWF and one of its affiliates, the Environmental Advocates of New York, are urging General Electric (GE) shareholders to help protect wildlife by voting for a share-owner proposal that will encourage GE to disclose its costs on a public relations campaign to avoid cleanup of the Hudson River.

For 30 years, GE dumped PCBs--which have been strongly linked to cancer--into the Hudson. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other federal and state scientists have concluded that removing PCBs from the river's sediment is the best way to protect human health and wildlife.

GE stockholders should have received a proxy ballot from GE in the mail. NWF, also a shareholder, asks GE shareholders to join it and vote "FOR" the proposal to disclose the cost of the company's campaign.

Shareholders may vote by mail, telephone or Internet. Voting must be completed by April 24. For additional information, call 202-797-6602 or e-mail tanner@nwf.org.

Residents Help Community Rebuild
After fires ravaged New Mexico in May 2000, destroying more than 43,000 acres of land and leaving 400 families homeless, Fred Gross, Jr., recognized an opportunity to assist his devastated community in Los Alamos. Gross, a retired nuclear physicist who has been involved with NWF for more than 40 years, coordinated and implemented an NWF Habitat StewardsTM training program for a group of area Master Gardeners.

His plan was to train the gardeners to work with people who were rebuilding their homes. Instead of planting nonnative species that require a lot of resources and upkeep, the stewards would encourage residents to make their backyards wildlife friendly by landscaping with native plants and providing food, water, shelter and a place for animals to raise young.

Many of the people affected by the fires are still in the early stages of reconstruction, so Gross and the habitat stewards are making an effort to reach out to these people now. "It's so easy to get a conventional landscape architect," says Gross. "We're trying to get into the loop to help connect with the homeowners."

In addition to working with fire victims, Gross and his team are encouraging other residents to apply to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat, working with an area school and senior nursing home on their wildlife habitats, and helping to certify a high-visibility demonstration habitat at a city municipal building. In all, there are more than 15 projects in the works. Find out how you can turn your garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Gross has long had a passion for conservation, and it looks to continue. "His enthusiasm and timing are great," says Janine Fales, a Master Gardener participant in the Habitat Stewards training. Gross plans to offer residents of Los Alamos further opportunities for certification as a steward. For more information, e-mail him at fgrossjr@cybermesa.com.

Washington Affiliate Focuses on the Outdoors
Conservation education has become a top priority at the Washington Wildlife Federation (WWF), an affiliate of NWF. Spurred by the leadership of Kyle Winton, WWF's new executive director, the group recently mapped out a plan to focus on grass-roots education in the community.

WWF is partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to encourage children to become involved in outdoor activities that build enthusiasm for nature through WDFW's "Go Play Outside" campaign. WWF hopes that this program will provide a strong base for grass-roots participation in further environmental matters.

Other projects of the organization have included joining with the Idaho Wildlife Federation, another NWF affiliate, and other groups to encourage the breaching of four dams on the lower Snake River, and working to preserve the Loomis Forest.

Nebraska Volunteers Monitor Whoopers
During last spring's migration, some 20 volunteers drove back roads along 80 miles of Nebraska's Central Platte River or monitored farmlands and wetlands to record data on whooping cranes. It was all part of Whooper Watch, cosponsored by NWF and one of its affiliates, the Nebraska Wildlife Federation, with support from a number of other organizations. Now gearing up for its second year, the project aids biologists in monitoring the endangered cranes and educates area landowners about preserving the birds' habitats.

Expanding its efforts with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Whooper Watch plans to recruit additional volunteers--including rural mail carriers and school bus drivers and their passengers--to help monitor whooping cranes during their spring migration.

Nebraskans who would like to help should call the Nebraska Wildlife Federation volunteer coordinator at 402-297-5630 or fill out the on-line form and learn more at our whooping crane page.

Student Publicizes Hazards of Art Supplies
Artists face a daunting array of toxins in materials they use, yet few are aware of the dangers or what to do about them. To help correct this situation, NWF Campus Ecology® Fellowship winner Jenifer Roth has researched the health and environmental hazards associated with art supplies and produced a handbook for students, faculty and staff at Pratt Institute, a renowned art and architecture school in Brooklyn, New York.

Roth, a student in Pratt's Graduate Center for Planning and Environment, launched her EARTH (Educating Artists to Reduce Toxic Harm) project after taking a course that examined campus environmental issues. The handbook she produced describes such hazards as heavy metals, asbestos and organic solvents that are present in pigments, talcs and paint removal products and suggests safer alternatives, such as water-based inks and citrus-based solvents. For more on Campus Ecology Fellowships, check out Campus Ecology.

Anglers Turn In Lead Tackle To Save Birds
Over the past three years, thousands of anglers in Vermont and New Hampshire have voluntarily exchanged 20,000 lead sinkers for nontoxic alternatives to protect loons, bald eagles and other aquatic birds from lead poisoning. Ingesting lead sinkers along with fish or pebbles scavenged from pond bottoms has caused deaths among 26 bird species.

Dozens of volunteers have helped NWF's Northeastern Field Office set up sinker exchange sites at more than 40 tackle shops, marinas, state parks and fishing events in the two states and distributed education materials and free steel sinkers to anglers. The 100 pounds of lead collected will be safely reused by Tom Hill, a Burlington, Vermont, boatbuilder, as ballast in the keel of a new sailboat.

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