Action Report: August/September 2002
How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference
NWF Fights for Forest Conservation Funds
The 26-million-acre Northern Forest is the largest unbroken forest in the East, stretching across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Recognizing that current practices threaten the region's future, NWF's Northeastern Natural Resource Center is working to achieve harmony between forest users and habitat needs.
A key challenge is reconciling this goal with a land base that is mostly privately owned, since such ownerships do not always mesh with the public's need for recreation areas, well-managed forests and wildlife habitat protection. Next year, Maine needs more than $22 million in federal Forest Legacy funds to complete deals the state has already negotiated. And that is just the beginning.
In Maine, where only five percent of the land base is in public ownership, fragmentation and irresponsible development of the Northern Forest would have woeful consequences. With willing sellers looking to capitalize on their land assets, the opportunity now exists to protect these areas.
NWF is working with a number of other groups to bring much-needed conservation funds to the region. A just-completed project involving the West Branch of the Penobscot River, which provides wintering habitat for deer and is home to rare blueback trout and bald eagles, will rely on almost $20 million of Legacy funding alone.
"Our challenge is to seize these one-time opportunities, and protect this remote, landscape-level wildlife habitat for our children and their children," says Don Hooper, NWF regional organizer. "If the land is traded for development, we won't ever get it back."
Recently NWF and others successfully got Congress to more than double President Bush's $30 million appropriation recommendation from last year to $70 million this year to fund conservation projects in 30 participating states. Now NWF is lobbying to increase the amount to a minimum of $100 million. "The fear is that the $70 million could erode down to less," says Hooper. "This is inadequate for the number of terrific projects in the queue for funding, some of the best of which are in Maine." For more information, see Northern Forest.
Program Profile: Native Partnerships Protect Land
Native American lands, home to more than 525 species, provide valuable habitat across the United States. Native tribes manage--directly or indirectly--approximately 95 million acres of land. Recognizing the immense opportunity Native Americans have to help protect and restore their land and wildlife, NWF's Tribal Lands Conservation Program is working with tribal councils, managers and activists to achieve positive results for future generations.
Through its partnerships, NWF has established working relationships with more than 100 tribes, focusing on education, wildlife management planning and advocacy. An advisory committee composed of tribal and NWF representatives provides guidance and assists with outreach and fundraising efforts.
"Native Americans hold the key to revitalizing America's conservation efforts," says Steve Torbit, program director. "Not only because they control vast land and water resources, but also because they are culturally connected to wildlife and wild places."
NWF's recent efforts include:
- Working with the Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) to gather support from tribal governments and members to protect buffalo in Yellowstone National Park and Montana. NWF and ITBC developed a management plan for the Yellowstone animals.
- Assisting the Nez Perce Tribe in securing political and financial support for wolf restoration in Idaho and supporting Mexican wolf restoration by the White Mountain Apache Tribe.
- Producing a report, Restoring the Prairie: Mending the Sacred Hoop, with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Healthy Habitats: First School District Certified
As a pioneer in a growing educational trend, the Orinda Union School District in Orinda, California, has been certified as the nation's first public school district to create certified Schoolyard Habitats® sites at every school.
Orinda's outdoor classrooms serve as a model for other school districts: Teachers use the habitat sites for teaching natural science and appreciation of Nature, as well as interdisciplinary lessons in math, art, English and history. Orinda's district-wide Math in the Garden Program combines math concepts and skills required by the new state standards with hands-on work in the garden. "We are proud to have such a fine example of our program in action," says NWF Education Vice President Jim Stofan. "Orinda Union School District truly exemplifies how everyone, especially children, has the ability to improve our environment for people and wildlife alike." More than 1,600 schools are certified by NWF. To learn more, visit Schoolyard Habitats.
NWF Headquarters Garners Annual "Green" Award
The American Institute of Architects recently honored NWF's headquarters building in Reston, Virginia, as one of its Top Ten "Green" Projects for 2002. The award is given to projects that contribute to the surrounding ecosystems and use high-performance, energy-efficient technologies and environmentally sensitive materials.
Designed by the firm Hellmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, NWF's building features native plantings that support local wildlife and reduce the need for irrigation and frequent mowing; a northern exposure curtainwall of glass that floods the interior with natural light; and a vertical trellis of deciduous vines on the south side, which provides habitat for wildlife, shade in the summer, and light and heat in the winter.
Youth Learn Civic Skills at Summit
NWF's Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) Program recently hosted the Civics and Conservation Summit in Juneau. At the event in April, rural and urban students met with their legislators, learned how to talk to the media, participated in mock Senate committees and interpreted conservation-related bills.
"The summit provided a diverse group of students the chance to learn about the governmental processes that affect environmental decision-making, and to appreciate the value of civic participation," says Polly Carr, AYEA coordinator.
NWF Material Adapted for Use in Mexican Schools
NWF's new Mexican initiative, La Alianza Para la Vida Silvestre (Partnership for Wildlife), is collaborating with Pronatura Noreste, a Mexican conservation organization, to provide training workshops to teachers in Monterrey, Mexico. Based on NWF's Discovering Habitats curriculum, the workshops will train teachers how to create and incorporate Schoolyard Habitats® sites into their lessons.
"The project represents a milestone for NWF as it will be the first time that an NWF-developed education curriculum has been systematically translated and adapted for use in another country," says Barbara Bramble, program director. "It will bring us one step closer to coordinating conservation efforts throughout all of North America."
Shareholders Tell General Electric: Reveal Costs
In April, 21.8 percent of participating General Electric (GE) shareholders (a two-fold increase from 2001) voted in favor of a proposal urging the company to reveal how much it spent on efforts to avoid dredging the Hudson River of PCBs. The increased support indicates an awareness among shareholders of the need to clean up the Hudson. As a result of a campaign by NWF and an affiliate, Environmental Advocates of New York, more than 1,000 people faxed letters to GE and voted shares of stock in favor of the proposal. NWF voted its shares in favor as well.
Over a period of 30 years, GE dumped more than a million pounds of PCBs into the river. Early this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered GE to move forward with the cleanup.
Texas Affiliate Helps Halt Corps Project
The Texas Committee on Natural Resources, NWF's Texas affiliate, won an important legal victory in April when a U.S. District Court in Fort Worth ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not fully analyze the cumulative impacts of the proposed Dallas Floodway Extension Project. As a result, the Corps must halt the project until it prepares a revised environmental impact statement.
Currently, citizen conservationists are pressuring federal and local decision-makers to redesign this environmentally destructive and fiscally wasteful project.
Photo: © GEORGE AND ALICE SCHEIL
NWF members George and Alice Scheil, shown at an NWF Family Summit, have spent countless hours helping to protect wildlife and natural places. Their hard work is evident in the couple's creation of a nonprofit organization to help Missouri's Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
Conservation Heroes: Missouri Couple Donates Time to Refuge
George and Alice Scheil have dedicated decades to helping wildlife and natural places. Lifetime members of NWF since the 1970s, the Scheils are certified in NWF's Backyard Wildlife Habitat Program and have attended 26 Family Summits.
But they have also taken their enthusiasm to a higher level. In April 2000 the couple formed a nonprofit organization to help Missouri's Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.
After volunteering at the refuge for almost two decades, the Scheils recognized the need for more help and figured that creating a nonprofit would be a prime opportunity to get other local people involved. Today, the 158-member organization participates in workdays and has a prairie restoration team that is active at the refuge. And George and Alice frequently provide educational slide shows to visitors on a range of topics.
In addition to providing labor, volunteers solicit funds for special projects. The organization procured grant money, with which it constructed a handicapped-accessible nature trail dedicated to the memory of former assistant manager James Michael Callow, who had restored prairies at Squaw Creek. Also in the works are projects such as building an auditorium, boardwalk and outdoor classroom, funded by a federal appropriation of $250,000.
George and Alice continue to work alongside NWF on many of its causes. For instance, the couple encouraged Friends of Squaw Creek members and other area residents to write letters to Missouri legislators to discourage drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "You get a great deal of satisfaction from this work," says George. "It has to be done right now because the environment is being harmed right now, every day."
Affiliate Spotlight: Maine Fights to Protect Air, Water
In recent months, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) has focused much of its efforts on protecting the state's air and water resources. Working with a coalition of public-interest groups, NRCM lobbied Maine's legislature to pass environmental bills that would curb mercury pollution, strengthen the state's energy conservation program and require major water users to report how much water they remove from Maine's rivers and streams.
NRCM's recent report, Hey, Cool Car!, documents the public's support in Maine for hybrid electric-gasoline cars. "It's important for states to demonstrate leadership, because we can't count on Washington to adopt new fuel-efficiency standards," says Pete Didisheim, NRCM advocacy director. In June, the group held a press event to encourage the use of hybrid cars. For more information and to download the report, see www.maineenvironment.org.
Petition Aims to Protect Birds From Towers
NWF and other groups have petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to require immediate environmental assessments for three sites on the tip of Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula on Lake Superior. Three 475-foot communications towers were constructed at those sites, even though they are located directly in the flyway of many migratory bird and raptor species.
U.S. communication towers kill an estimated 5 to 50 million birds each year. The Keweenaw towers are only 3 of 181 that FCC licensed the Michigan State Police to erect. Petitioners chose these sites because of their location and consequential effects on a large number of Neotropical species.
"FCC needs to enforce environmental laws and the owners of the towers need to follow the laws," says NWF attorney Michelle Halley. According to the petition, environmental laws were not complied with at any of the 181 sites.
NWF Will Sue to Save Endangered Salmon
Charging that thousands of salmon protected by the Endangered Species Act are being killed, NWF announced that it will sue central Washington's Grant County Public Utility District #2. NWF contends that the utility district mismanages two hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River, contributing to the continued demise of endangered chinook salmon.
Although a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service is required under the Endangered Species Act, the Grant County district is operating without one. "Despite collaboration by local groups to restore salmon habitat, Grant County continues to sidestep the law," says NWF attorney Jan Hasselman.
Studies show that 32 percent of juvenile salmon attempting to migrate downstream past the two dams to the Pacific Ocean are being killed. Adult salmon migrating upstream to spawn are also dying. Instead of calling for the breaching of the dams, NWF is calling for the improvement of dam operations to lessen the dams' impacts. To learn more, visit our Wildlife, Salmon page.
New U.S. Postal Stamps Go Batty
On September 13, NWF will join with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and other organizations to celebrate the new American bat stamps. The official unveiling of the stamps, as well as a bat show and bat-box building workshop, will occur in Austin, Texas. Participants will then convene at the Congress Avenue Bridge and watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats fly from their roosts under the bridge to a night of catching insects over the city.
Insectivorous bats play essential roles in keeping populations of night-flying pests under control. A bat can catch up to 1,000 insects per hour, and large colonies catch millions of insects nightly. Destruction of bat habitat has decimated local populations, and careful management planning is needed to preserve them.
By joining with USPS, NWF hopes to help promote the conservation of these important but misunderstood creatures. An educator's activity guide will be launched in September at www.nwf.org.
How You Can Become Active With Your State Affiliate
National Wildlife Federation affiliates are autonomous, state-wide, nonprofit organizations that take the lead in state and local conservation issues and also partner with NWF to conduct grass-roots activities on national issues. There are currently 46 affiliates including the Virgin Islands. For more information about how you can get involved with projects going on in your state, contact your state affiliate. Address information can be found at our State Affiliates page.