Action Report: June/July 2002

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

06-01-2002 // Sarah Boyle

NWF Leads Fight for Texas Water

They're fighting over water in Texas, and so far the environment has come up short.

But through the Texas Living Waters Project, NWF and one of its affiliates, the Texas Committee on Natural Resources (TCONR), are working hard to ensure that as the state plans for future water needs, sufficient water is maintained for wildlife and habitat.

The State Water Plan, mandated by the legislature, is required to meet the needs of all water users through 2050, as well as provide water for natural resources. But in its present form, it largely ignores promoting water conservation and calls instead for $17 billion worth of reservoirs, pipelines and dams that NWF says would harm rather than enhance the environment.

Last fall, NWF released a report, Down the Drain, that highlighted six of the most damaging and wasteful projects in the state. These endeavors would disrupt freshwater flow to coastal bays, destroy vital wildlife habitat and deplete groundwater resources. Heading the list is the proposed Marvin Nichols Dam and Reservoir in northeast Texas, which would inundate 72,000 acres of ranch and farmland, including 30,000 acres of rare bottomland hardwood forest. This proposed project would supply 161 billion gallons of water each year to Dallas, located in a region with the highest per capita water usage.

NWF and TCONR members have been instrumental in conveying the conservation message to state agency officials and legislators. Last fall, they testified at public hearings, submitted written comments and organized other citizens to take action. Of nearly 2,000 public comments submitted on the State Water Plan, 96 percent were critical of the plan and called for increased conservation as a way to meet water needs.

"We've got to find a way to supply water for human needs without drying up our streams and rivers and without wasting billions of tax dollars," says Susan Kaderka, director of NWF's Gulf States office in Austin. "That means looking at how we can use water more efficiently, making sure flowing rivers and healthy estuaries are passed on to future generations."

See our South Central Regional Center page for more information and to download the report.

Climate Change's Impacts on Wildlife
Global warming resulting from human activities will likely mean growing threats to North America's wildlife, more trouble with invasive species and significant environmental changes that jeopardize our quality of life in the future, according to landmark research released by NWF. These alarming findings are contained in a new book, Wildlife Responses to Climate Change, and a new report, The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming.

Wildlife Responses to Climate Change is a culmination of a three-year project to study the impacts of global climate change on North American wildlife species and ecosystems. "As these studies show," says Patty Glick, coordinator of NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program, "whether climate change causes species' ranges to shift, alters predator-prey interactions, decouples animals from food sources or reduces habitat, the ultimate outcome is that ecosystems will likely be thrown off balance."

The research in The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming--released by NWF and the American Bird Conservancy--shows that climate change is already shifting songbird ranges, altering their migration behavior and habitat, and perhaps diminishing some species' ability to survive as migration and nesting become out of step with food supplies. These changes could have great impacts on both ecosystems and the economy: Birds play important roles as pollinators, seed dispersers and in insect control, and bird-watchers pump billions of dollars annually into local economies.

To download the report or order the book on-line, log onto the Climate Change and Wildlife Program Web site.

Global Warming: Species' Habitats Risk Major Changes
Climate change has major repercussions for wildlife according to NWF's recent publications Wildlife Responses to Climate Change and The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming. These findings indicate that:

  • The suitable climatic ranges of state birds in Maryland, Georgia, Iowa, Washington, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and California may shift entirely outside of their official states by the end of the century.
  • Changes in climate may alter essential habitat for grizzly bears, red squirrels and other wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
  • Nonnative fire ants in the Southeast may expand their range, dominating native ant species and creating an enhanced health risk to humans.
  • Climate changes may alter important intertidal habitats for Pacific Northwest marine invertebrates, shifting the balance of predators and prey throughout the ecosystem.

New Partnership Monitors Declining U.S. Amphibians
This spring, NWF and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Patuxent Wildlife Research Center formed a partnership to help amphibian populations nationwide through Frogwatch USA.

Created in 1999 by USGS, Frogwatch is a monitoring program that relies on volunteers to gather data on amphibian populations. Under the partnership USGS will maintain and analyze the data, while NWF will play a role in increasing Frogwatch participation, promoting citizen advocacy and producing educational materials.

Across the globe, amphibians are rapidly disappearing. "Frogs and toads play critical roles in their ecosystems," says Elizabeth Murdock, manager of NWF's Keep the Wild Aliveª Program. "They serve as important indicator species, alerting us when a system is not functioning as it should." Visit www.frogwatch.org or our Wildlife pages.

"Cool" Video Examines Effects of Consumerism
American teenagers have enormous buying power, spending $150 billion every year. With that in mind, NWF and Population International recently showcased their new video, The Cost of Cool, at an event in Washington, D.C., to coincide with Earth Day. The video focuses on the environmental and social consequences of population growth and American consumption patterns.

Targeted at high school students, The Cost of Cool takes items from T-shirts to sneakers and examines how manufacturing these items impacts the world's resources. A curriculum guide that provides activities to promote active learning and discussion accompanies the video.

eNature Provides Park Service Species Info
In March, NWF and the National Park Service (NPS) signed an agreement that calls for the sharing of natural resource information via the Internet. Through the collaboration, NPS will enhance its site with material from NWF's eNature.com, and visitors will be able to view species information on a park-specific basis.

"The shared content from eNature and NWF, combined with our natural resource information, has enormous potential," says NPS's John Peterson. "We are also equally enthusiastic about the future potential in terms of the related education materials and combined outreach activities between NWF's large membership and the millions of visitors to our Web site and parks."

Annual Meeting Celebrates Conservation
This year's NWF Annual Meeting celebrated the diversity of grass-roots conservation activists. Held in Georgia in early March, the meeting provided attendees with a range of updates on environmental issues and opportunities to share strategies that define NWF's agenda.

At the meeting NWF elected three new members to its volunteer Board of Directors. Michael Dombeck, former U.S. Forest Service chief, has dedicated a quarter of a century to managing federal lands and natural resources. Kathleen Hadley, past president of the Montana Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, has focused on riparian habitat protection, Superfund issues and resolving land conflicts. Levi Joseph Holt, a Nez Perce tribal leader and conservationist, is an advocate for wolf restoration in the Northern Rockies region and other carnivore and prey population restorations in central Idaho and eastern Oregon.

NWF also presented its top honor, the Jay N. "Ding" Darling Award, to Tom Bell, founder of High Country News. A Wyoming rancher, Bell has spent more than 30 years using this newspaper--and other opportunities--to address conservation issues such as proposed dams on the White River and protection of Wyoming's Red Desert.

Georgia Volunteer Embraces Chattachoochee
Communications manager Bruce Morton enjoys biking to work in Atlanta. He also likes to pedal away from traffic when he can. Getting to off-road trails nowadays requires him to load his bike in the car and drive through the most congested parts of the city. But that will hopefully soon change. A coalition of local organizations and community members has proposed that the city of Atlanta build its first non-paved bike trail along Utoy Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River.

Morton, an active member of the nonprofit Atlanta Bicycle Campaign (ABC), suggested the location. It is a place where he played as a child. "I have fond memories of that land," he says. "I remember fish 18 inches long in Utoy Creek."

But Morton didn't stop there. He consequently became involved in several projects aimed at improving the health of the Chattahoochee watershed. Morton collaborated with other residents to get Utoy Creek disconnected from the local sewer system and is now working to get all other local Chattahoochee tributaries disconnected from the system as well.

Getting the streams off the sewage system is a big job, and Morton needed help educating the public. He turned to NWF to learn outreach strategies and participated in an eight-week NWF training seminar to improve his lobbying and leadership skills.

Morton is also working with ABC and other organizations to convert 400 acres along Utoy Creek into a green space for conservation, recreation and education. A proponent of NWF's Schoolyard Habitats® Program, Morton looks forward to designing hands-on learning opportunities for the children who will visit the Utoy Creek natural area. "Kids are not getting out and connecting with nature anymore," he says. "Exposing children to healthy and constructive activities is something I believe is necessary."

Sportsmen Help Protect Mammal Habitat
To help combat the state's severe wildlife habitat loss, the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, an NWF affiliate, has partnered with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, NWF and other organizations in the Important Mammal Areas Project (IMAP). The pilot project will identify habitat that has high conservation priorities for mammals. "IMAP differs from other Pennsylvania projects," says NWF Regional Organizer Rick Spencer, "in that scientists, educators and sportsmen joined forces from the beginning to implement a wildlife conservation program."

During the two-year project, the public will nominate mammal sites and scientists will analyze which ones meet the criteria as most critical, summarizing the results in a report. A second phase will focus on developing management plans and conducting educational programs. To learn more, visit www.pawildlife.org/imap.

Kentucky Student Develops "Buy Recycled" Policy
Buying environmentally friendly products is important to Morehead State University student Darryl Huston. A recipient of an NWF Campus Ecology® Fellowship, the chemistry major is working to increase the amount of recycled products used on campus.

Huston developed a purchasing policy, which he submitted to university officials, to encourage the use of recycled goods by faculty, staff and students. He also forwarded samples of the items to the school's purchasing office, created a guide and Web site to identify environmentally friendly products, helped label recycled items at the university bookstore and administered a campus questionnaire to assess the demand for and knowledge of recycled products. "I want to be able to promote recycled products not just here on campus, but throughout the community," says Huston. For more information, see Campus Ecology.

Grant Recipients Plant Endangered Pondberry
As recipients of a Keep the Wild AliveTM Species Recovery Fund grant, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and several local Mississippi garden clubs are working with middle school students to reestablish pondberry plant communities at two national wildlife refuges and a state park. After planting the seedlings, students will monitor and water the pondberries, and USFS will provide educational material about the endangered species at each site.

"Many people in Mississippi don't understand that they should protect endangered species," says USFS ecologist Margaret Devall. "They think 'endangered species' is synonymous with property restrictions. But if we involve the students and have them understand that they need to protect the species, then maybe we can make a difference."

Degradation and destruction of wetlands threaten the pondberry, one of 25 imperiled species highlighted in the Keep the Wild Alive campaign. Learn more on our Wildlife pages.

Donated Land to Provide City Nature Habitat
Catherine Ladnier, a member of NWF's President's Council, recently decided she would like to give a gift to the community of Easley, South Carolina: a gift of nature. Inspired by the work of children and educators at the local West End Elementary School--an NWF-certified Schoolyard Habitats® site that features a butterfly garden--Ladnier will donate approximately 35 acres of family land to the city for use as a nature park and preserve.

Ladnier is working with area educators and organizations to preserve the land in its natural state, with plans of adding hiking trails, nature displays and an educational center. "I wouldn't feel good," says Ladnier, "if I took the last little bit of land in my mother's family and sold it and had it developed. If I can play a role in turning a child into a responsible member of the community who loves nature and wildlife, it will have a long-term effect."

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