Action Report: October/November 2002

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

10-01-2002 // Rene Ebersole

NWF Says Global Warming Plan Is Full of Hot Air

Last February, the Bush administration announced a global warming plan that would "set America on a path to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions." Now, a new NWF report reveals that the president's plan would actually allow more global warming pollution at a faster rate than if the nation simply continued the pollution trend of recent years.

According to the report, Beneath the Hot Air, Department of Energy data indicate that the United States' carbon dioxide (CO2) levels grew by 4.6 percent over the last five years due to the nation's growing dependence on oil, coal and natural gas. If this trend continues over the next ten years, U.S. CO2 emissions would be expected to grow by 9.5 percent. The Bush administration's global warming plan, however, includes an emissions goal that could increase the nation's CO2 emissions by 13 percent over the next decade.

"The Bush administration claims to be reducing global warming pollution," says Jeremy Symons, NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program manager, "but it's an accounting sham. The proof is in the pollution." The president's plan obscures emissions growth by using "emissions intensity" targets that link the amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the size of the economy rather than identifying concrete emissions targets, Symons explains.

The United States already emits a quarter of the world's CO2 emissions. The data from the Department of Energy indicate that achieving the Bush administration's emissions goal would mean annually pumping 6,460 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in the year 2012--762 million tons more than in 2002. Ironically, the Department of Energy data comes on the heels of a new Bush Administration report detailing the environmental threats posed by global warming. The report warns that the annual average warming in the United States could be as much as nine degrees Fahrenheit during the 21st century and calls for actions to reduce emissions. Unfortunately, the administration's global warming plan misses that mark. For more information and to download a copy of Beneath the Hot Air, visit our Global Warming page.

PROGRAM PROFILE: California's Latest Water War

Water. The citizens of San Diego want it. California's agricultural Imperial Valley has plenty of it. But if a proposed Imperial Valley water transfer goes forward as planned, wildlife and wild lands could disappear forever.

To help prevent that scenario, NWF is testifying at public hearings and working with its California affiliate, the Planning and Conservation League, to ensure that all the potential environmental impacts of the transfer--the largest in U.S. history--are adequately addressed.

The agricultural runoff from the valley's alfalfa, carrot and cantaloupe fields is oddly what feeds one of the nation's largest and most important bird habitats, the Salton Sea. Millions of migrating birds, including brown pelicans, snowy plovers and mountain plovers, annually visit the sea's shores and wetlands.

The future of the Salton Sea is already uncertain. Rising salinity from evaporation and excessive nutrient loads from runoff have transformed the sea into a briny stew plagued by frequent fish kills. According to David Younkman, director of NWF's Western Natural Resource Center, the proposed water transfer stands to only worsen such problems--and also ignite more urban sprawl in San Diego. "We must find a way to supply water for human needs without drying up the Salton Sea or fueling harmful development in San Diego," says Younkman.

AFFILIATE SPOTLIGHT: Arizona Fights for Pronghorn

The Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) recently filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service to save a vanishing herd of pronghorn that live on the Anderson Mesa in northern Arizona's Coconino National Forest.

Thousands of pronghorn once roamed the 250-acre mesa. But the population has dwindled to less than 400 after decades of destructive ranching practices, such as fencing that hampers pronghorn migration and cattle grazing that reduces forage and ground cover where fawns hide from predators. The lawsuit to protect the herd follows months of fruitless negotiations between AWF, an NWF affiliate, and Forest Service representatives. "Other national forests in Arizona are pulling cows off right and left, and they don't have whole wildlife herds facing extinction," says David Gowdey, AWF executive director. "We feel we have no choice but to file a lawsuit if we are going to save the Anderson Mesa pronghorn herd."

GAO Study Stomps Delaware Dredging Project

A recently released report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, should be another nail in the coffin of the misguided U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Delaware River dredging project that NWF and its affiliate, the Delaware Nature Society, have battled for years.

According to the GAO report, the Corps' economic justification of the project is fraught with "miscalculations, invalid assumptions, and the use of significantly outdated information."

"The Corps didn't even get the basics right, using incorrect distances and other information that could be easily found in any almanac," says David Conrad, an NWF water-resources specialist. "The Corps exaggerated the Delaware project's annual benefits by more than $26.8 million, and understated the project costs by more than $100 million. It is hard to believe there could be a more scathing indictment of a project plan."

Build a Birdhouse and Win Prizes

Calling all woodworkers! Build a birdhouse or bird feeder and submit it by February 1, 2003, to Better Homes and Gardens' WOOD® magazine and you could win as much as $5,000 in prizes. Contest categories include Best Overall Birdhouse/Bird Feeder, Best Original Outdoor Birdhouse and Best Original Bird Feeder. Winning entries will be auctioned and the proceeds will benefit NWF's Backyard Wildlife HabitatTM program. See the October 2002 issue of WOOD magazine or visit www.woodmagazine.com for complete rules, contest categories and a list of prizes.

NWF Supports Sounds Science On White River

Leaders from several state, federal and nongovernmental agencies recently gathered on the banks of the White River in Clarendon, Arkansas, to formally kick off an unprecedented $8.6 million study of the entire White River Basin. "This study will give us a better understanding of how to protect and, where appropriate, restore the White River [Basin] and its bottomland hardwood forests," says Jeff Barger, an NWF aquatic habitats specialist. "The basin, covering approximately 28,000 square miles, includes some of the region's most important natural resources. The rivers are amazingly diverse and productive while the bottomland forests are some of the finest and last examples of the immense floodplain forest ecosystem that once grew throughout the Mississippi River Valley."

Several proposed water development projects threaten to change the hydrology of the White River Basin. The White River Comprehensive Study--a multiagency, multistate effort--aims to gather and compile biological, hydrological, social and economic data throughout the basin in order to give resource managers a tool to make well-informed regulatory decisions.

For more information, or to find out how to participate in the study, contact Jeff Barger at NWF's Gulf States Natural Resource Center, 44 East Ave., Austin, TX 78701; 512-476-9805; barger@nwf.org.

Mardy Murie Receives NWF's Highest Honor

Margaret Thomas (Mardy) Murie, the centenarian pioneer in the study and protection of Alaska's rugged wilderness and a legendary figure in the conservation movement, has been named NWF's 2002 J.N. "Ding" Darling Conservationist of the Year. The organization's highest honor, the award is given for a lifetime of achievement in the protection of wildlife and wild places.

"Few people have done more for the cause of conservation than Mardy Murie," says NWF President Mark Van Putten. "Her writing, lectures and persuasive skills helped countless people to understand and promote the value of wilderness, leaving a legacy of protected areas for the enjoyment of future generations."

CONSERVATION HERO: Texan Paddles to Protect River

Until recently, Richard Donovan could have counted the number of times he had climbed into a canoe on one hand. But that didn't stop the 65-year-old retired realtor from Lufkin, Texas, from launching a 400-mile canoeing crusade to protect Texas's Neches River last October. Through the grueling thickets in the river's upper reaches and three weeks of sore shoulders, Donovan never lost sight of his goal to put one of Texas's wildest water flows--and the hazards that threaten to keep it from flowing--in the public spotlight.

For more than 50 years, developers have been eyeing the upper Neches in hopes of building a dam that would retain billions of gallons of water to be routed to local industries and people in nearby cities. While unrelenting conservationists killed the original dam proposal in 1988, it somehow sneaked back into the 2001 State Water Plan.

Although the threat of development is not immediate, Donovan--a board member of the Texas Committee on Natural Resources, NWF's Texas affiliate--wants to see the river protected under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Such protection would safeguard an estimated 200 species of trees, 300 species of birds, 50 species of mammals and countless species of reptiles, amphibians and fish. To garner public support, Donovan invited local elected officials, timber company executives, landowners, a reporter and a photographer to accompany him on segments of his three-week expedition down the river. "Threats to the river have never been greater," Donovan says. "The freshwater flows provide critical habitat for species of wildlife, trees and native grasses that will disappear if we don't fight to preserve them."

PUBLIC OPINION: Water Plan Out of Sync With Texans' Beliefs

According to a recent NWF poll, Texans prefer a different approach to water conservation than their state's new plan proposes. Among the poll's findings:

  • Ninety-three percent of voters say it is important to protect rivers, bays and wildlife in planning for the state's water needs. The Texas Water Plan, however, does not recognize wildlife or the environment as a category of water use in planning efforts.
  • By a margin of two to one, voters support water conservation over building new dams and pipelines. The water plan relies heavily on the construction of dams and pipelines.
  • Seventy-six percent of voters favor limits on the use of groundwater. The water plan recommends strategies that would deplete or exhaust many groundwater supplies.
  • Ninety-one percent of voters say water supply projects should be proven to be cost-effective to qualify for state funding. Nothing in the water plan ensures that state funding will go to the most cost-effective method of meeting a community's water needs.

ON THE WILDLIFE FRONT

Grants Awarded to Local Conservation Groups

NWF's Keep the Wild Alive TM Program recently awarded ten Species Recovery Fund grants to local conservation groups working to improve on-the-ground conditions for endangered species. Selected from 120 applications, the ten projects reflect the taxonomic and geographic diversity of endangered species. Some of the species that will benefit from the grants include Schaus swallowtail butterflies in South Florida, ocelots in Texas, salmon in Washington and endangered native plants in Hawaii.

Educating the Public About Gray Wolves

After decades of silence, the howls of gray wolves can be heard once again echoing throughout the Great Lakes and Rockies. NWF is collaborating with its affiliate, the Colorado Wildlife Federation (CWF), on a number of wolf restoration issues. The two groups recently received a grant to produce and distribute a booklet, Wolves in the Southern Rockies: Principles, Problems and Prospects, that provides information about wolves and illustrates the key role these animals would play in the ecosystem if restored to the region. A video is expected to follow. "There are so many myths and misconceptions when it comes to wolves," says Wayne East, executive director of CWF. "It is my hope that these products will educate people about wolves in general and the pros and cons associated with their possible reintroduction." The booklet is available at our Gray Wolves page and in print at various zoos throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

Protecting Prairie Dogs on Public Lands

NWF recently petitioned the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to protect black-tailed prairie dogs on all BLM-managed lands, especially in Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico. "Saving the black-tailed prairie dog on these public lands is critical because the majority of prairie dog towns are located on private lands that are rarely subject to even minimal protections for this imperiled species," says Tom France, director of NWF's Northern Rockies Project Office. By designating BLM lands where prairie dogs live as "areas of critical environmental concern," BLM would be placing prairie dog colonies under special management regulations. The regulations would prohibit poisoning (except under exceptional conditions), allow for relocation of prairie dogs to suitable habitat and protect existing colonies through dusting to combat plague. "These actions are necessary to begin to reverse the decline in black-tailed prairie dog populations," France says. "They can be accomplished with minimal impacts on other uses of the land."

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