Action Report: August/September 2004

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

08-01-2004 // Heidi Ridgley

Wetland Woes
The administration's no-net-loss wetlands promise doesn't hold water

The Bush administration claims it is initiating policies that will enhance or protect 2 million wetland acres and create or restore at least a million more during the next five years. But Julie Sibbing, NWF's wetlands specialist, worries that the president's promise is based more on dreams than data because the protection of existing wetlands does not add acreage. "The key to the president's plan is wetlands restoration, but making wetlands is an elusive goal," she says. "Wetlands take decades, if not centuries, to develop. You can't just trade off a rich, natural wetland for a human-made pond."

A recent NWF report, America's Wetlands: Nowhere Near No-Net-Loss," indicates that the nation has yet to achieve President George H.W. Bush's plan to balance wetlands loss with wetlands protection.

"Wetlands loss may be declining, but we haven't begun to reach the no-net-loss goal the first President Bush set, let alone a net gain," Sibbing says. "And the current administration's policies, including a directive removing protection from an estimated 20 million acres of wetlands under the Clean Water Act, virtually guarantee that we will continue to lose wetlands."

By the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's own estimate, the plan strips protections from an estimated 20 percent of the remaining wetlands in the lower 48 states that are critical to waterfowl, migratory birds, trout and other fish and wildlife species.

In Minnesota, for example, thousands of acres in and around St. Paul, including several large navigable lakes used by anglers, would not be subject to protection. In Texas an estimated 10,000 acres of coastal habitats are at risk.

According to the NWF report, to meet the pledge, the Bush administration will need to:

  • Strongly enforce, rather than weaken, Clean Water Act protections for wetlands;
  • Expand wetlands-recovery incentive programs for farmers and developers and create new programs to ensure restoration of all types of wetlands in all regions of the country; and
  • Improve the collection of wetlands data to reflect national and regional trends in wetlands management accurately.

"The president's plan to restore a million acres of wetlands, while allowing 20 million acres to be destroyed, lets developers off the hook and forces taxpayers to pick up the tab for restoring wetlands that should never have been lost in the first place," Sibbing says. "It is gratifying to hear the president articulate his commitment to improving our nation's wetlands, but his actions speak much louder than his words."

Habitat Milestone
NWF recently certified Schoolyard Habitats® site number 2,000 in Charlotte, North Carolina, after students and teachers provided nesting sites and foliage to attract wildlife. NWF Board Chair Becky Scheibelhut, who was on hand for the dedication, pointed out that schoolyard habitats have an additional benefit: "They also help teach our children how to deal with the daunting challenges in their world."

Wild Animal Baby® Takes a Big Step
This summer, NWF's children's magazine Wild Animal Baby began publishing on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent group that verifies wood products come from healthy, well-managed forests that preserve wildlife habitat.

Spurred by NWF and Norm Thompson Outfitters, a large West Coast catalog company, Quad/Graphics, printer of NWF's National Wildlife®, Ranger Rick®, Your Big Backyard® and Wild Animal Baby, became the first national commercial printing company to receive FSC certification.

Laura Hickey, senior director for production of NWF publications, says NWF's goal is to make the switch for all its publications. "NWF is one of the largest conservation education organizations in the country," she says. "Being able to use FSC-certified paper and display the FSC logo demonstrates our support of responsible forest management, which is critical for maintaining healthy wildlife habitat."

Dubious Data Puts Panther at Risk
NWF blasts FWS for ignoring evidence

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been relying on discredited science to justify development of the endangered Florida panther's last remaining habitat for nearly a decade, according to a recent paper by NWF. "The agency essentially has been rubber-stamping development applications in panther habitat for years," says John Kostyack, NWF senior counsel and coauthor of the report.

Produced in cooperation with the Florida Panther Society and the Florida Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, "Discrediting a Decade of Panther Science: Implications of the Scientific Review Team Report" describes how FWS and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have consented to the destruction of thousands of acres of Florida panther habitat in southwest Florida--much of it labeled as "essential" to the panther's survival in FWS's own scientific documents.

For example, FWS dismissed large blocks of habitat as unimportant to the panther, ignoring some 6,000 radio-telemetry recordings of panthers that proved the species occurred there.

"We now have damning evidence that FWS has been using discredited science to allow irreversible harm to one of the most endangered mammals in North America," Kostyack says.

Traffic Jam
NWF works to reduce wildlife road fatalities

Joining with state departments of transportation to reduce wildlife casualties on roadways nationwide, NWF is involved in key efforts to protect species such as the critically endangered Florida panther--the poster child for wildlife and auto collisions. Recent efforts to build panther crossings have reduced cat mortality on roads by as much as 90 percent. NWF is also helping frogs in Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Vermont by installing a half-mile of mesh fencing along a stretch of state highway.

Get Green
NWF's new green consumer website, Green Purchasing, is chock-full of ways to help you make environmentally friendly purchases, from coffee to cleaning products.

Garden for Wildlife
Find out how to register your garden as an NWF-certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ site by visiting our backyard wildlife habitat site or calling 1-800-822-9919.

Rocky Mountain Front
NWF has fought to protect the Rocky Mountain Front from oil and gas drilling for two decades. Read "Frontal Assault" to find out why grizzlies and other species call the region home.

Something to Howl About
NWF Urges Great Lakes states to adopt responsible wolf management

Not so long ago Minnesota was the last stronghold for gray wolves in the Lower 48--with only about 200 clinging to existence. Today, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes harbors some 2,500, making it the birthplace of a wolf revival.

The continent's largest wild canids are also spreading into neighboring Wisconsin and Michigan, which each provide enough habitat for some 400 wolves.

"Wolf recovery in the western Great Lakes states during the past 25 years is a tremendous wildlife success story brought to us courtesy of the Endangered Species Act," says NWF Wolf Team Leader Peggy Struhsacker. But, she adds, with the federal government preparing to remove the animals from the Endangered Species List, how well the wolves continue to do will now be a measure of the states' ability to protect recovered species.

Once wolves are delisted, their recovery will fall primarily into the hands of state wildlife agencies--with federal oversight. To keep wolf recovery on track, NWF is urging the states to ensure that biologists--not legislators--serve as managers of wolf conservation and that a population analysis is completed before beginning any wolf hunting season.

See NWF's Wildlife Site.

The Falcon & the Nicaraguan
Vermont peregrine makes an incredible journey

NWF volunteers who track peregrines in the Northeast received a shock last spring when one of the birds they monitor was found in Nicaragua by a local farmer. Previously, no peregrine falcon banded in Vermont had ever been known to travel south of the Florida Keys.

"It was bittersweet news because the bird died by hitting a fence," says Margaret Fowle, who leads a handful of NWF volunteers monitoring nest sites. "But it's also a sign that the birds are on the road to recovery."

Just 30 years ago, peregrines had vanished completely from Vermont. Today, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, there are about 30 breeding pairs.

Angling for Climate Change Solutions
Bird-watchers have already seen how climate change is affecting the range and behavior of many North American birds, but now sportfishermen are learning that fish are feeling the heat, too.

With global temperatures already up an average of 1 degree F--and expected to rise--the nation's cold-water fish, such as salmon and trout, are increasingly at risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. To spread awareness of the problem and provide people with tips about how they can combat global warming, NWF staff and volunteers have set up information booths at numerous sporting events, from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes. "The goal is to help people reduce their contribution to global warming so that their children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities to fish and enjoy the natural world that we do," says NWF Climate Change Specialist Patty Glick. See www.nwf.org/ourprograms.

Shoring Up Support for Great Lakes Restoration
Protecting the Great Lakes is important to a majority of Michigan voters, who say the issue will influence their ballot selections in upcoming elections. According to a recent NWF survey, 81 percent of the state's voters say they support the Great Lakes Restoration Financing Act, which authorizes $4 billion to control pollution, combat invasive species and conserve wetlands and coastal habitat.

Cast Your Vote for NWF
Next time you reach for yogurt or ice cream at the supermarket, make it Stonyfield Farm. The company is donating $100,000 to NWF and two other nonprofits, and asking customers to help divvy it up.

All you have to do is send the lids back to Stonyfield Farm with a slip of paper marked "NWF," and a percentage of the total donation--based on how many lids are sent in--will go to conserving wildlife. As an incentive, sending in 10 or more lids will earn you an American Hiking Zip Pull Compass, 20 or more and you'll receive a six-month membership in Beyond Pesticides along with a subscription to Pesticides and You magazine, and 30 will get you NWF's DVD, El Lobo: Song of the Wolf. You can also cast your vote at www.stonyfield.com.

In Maine on a Mission
NWF volunteer raises awareness about population issues

Jason Reynolds was sitting in a freshman biology class two years ago when something disturbing caught his eye. "It was a graph of human population growth over the past 200 years and projected growth in the coming years," he says. "It grabbed my attention instantly."

The person holding the graph was NWF's Population and Environment Specialist Julie Starr, who had come to Maine's Unity College to talk to the class about population issues.

Ever since, Reynolds, now a 25-year-old junior, has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about population issues on his campus, with state lawmakers, at other colleges and in his local community.

"Julie was really instrumental in getting me involved," says Reynolds. He has since participated twice in NWF's annual Capitol Hill Days, which empowers citizens to speak with their legislators about population issues such as supporting the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). "This fund helps stabilize population pressures and provides education, contraceptives and health care to millions of women worldwide," says Reynolds. "When given these choices, women often choose to have smaller families."

When the Bush administration yanked U.S. funding from the UNFPA in 2002, Reynolds began focusing most of his efforts on Congressman Michael Michaud. "He was a rookie legislator and never voted on [population] issues before," says Reynolds. "But at the end of our conversation, he told me he would support international family planning."

Reynolds didn't stop there. He called Michaud persistently for months. He also wrote an editorial in the local newspaper and organized a campus population and environment forum. Michaud is now a key congressional proponent of international family planning funding. "That," says Reynolds, "felt really good. It made me realize that this kind of activism is effective."

Reynolds also recently launched a campus "Constructive Activist Club," which focuses on international population issues, he lead the fight to wean his college off fossil fuels, and he's on the college's sustainability committee, hoping to convert one of the dorms into an "eco-cottage" powered by wind turbines and heated with bio-diesel from the campus's used frying oil.

"By greening our campus we're setting an example for the rest of society," he says.--Gretel Schueller

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