Action Report: April?May 2004

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

04-01-2004 // Heidi Ridgley

Advancing Solutions
To protect wildlife and wild places, NWF is working to combat global warming on a number of fronts

Recent studies warn that as many as a third of all wildlife species in some regions could be headed for extinction within the next 50 years because of global warming. NWF is working to help reverse this trend by advancing solutions that will reduce our country's emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, without damaging the nation's economy. NWF has made global warming a priority in order to:

  • Save vital ecosystems that are particularly threatened by global warming, such as coral reefs, the Arctic and the New England maple forests.

  • Prevent widespread extinctions and protect species such as salmon, trout and waterfowl, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change.

  • Combat threats from invasive species, pests and pathogens that may be exacerbated by global warming.

  • Conserve protected areas that are most threatened by global warming, such as the Everglades, Glacier National Park and the Florida Keys.

A glimpse of NWF's work on global warming issues is featured on the following pages. For more, visit our Global Warming site.

Get Green
Discover how much climate-changing carbon dioxide you generate. Then follow the tips to reduce your individual impact.

Changing Ranges
Many songbirds rely on specific temperatures to breed and live. Find out if your state bird is changing its range and moving away because of warming temperatures. Visit our Global Warming site.

Fly Away Home
As global warming intensifies, butterflies and other key pollinators may be at risk. You can help by creating a protected backyard habitat for these species. Learn more at our Garden for Wildlife site.

Confronting Global Warming
In its ongoing effort to inform lawmakers and the American public about the threats global warming poses to wildlife and the environment, NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program has generated a series of reports that document these risks--and promote ways that government and citizens can contribute to solutions. Recent NWF studies include:

  • The Birdwatcher's Guide to Global Warming, written by NWF staff in concert with the American Bird Conservancy, examines how global warming may be altering the ranges of a number of migratory bird species, including the Baltimore oriole in Maryland, the purple finch in New Hampshire, the brown thrasher in Georgia and the American goldfinch in Iowa.

  • Wildlife Responses to Climate Change: North American Case Studies, a three-year project overseen by two of the country's top climate scientists, presents eight peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the impacts of global warming on U.S. ecosystems and individual wildlife species.

  • Beneath the Hot Air, based on U.S. government data, critiques the Bush administration's response to global warming, which could increase the nation's carbon dioxide emissions by 13 percent in the next decade.

In the coming months, NWF will release more reports examining how global warming is expected to affect wildlife and habitat in North America by the end of this century if action is not taken.

Shifting Ranges in North America
NWF helps produce the first comprehensive study on global warming's effects on wildlife

Many North American species are shifting their ranges in response to climate change and unless action is taken, consequences will be dire, says Doug Inkley, NWF senior science advisor and chairman of the committee that wrote the new Wildlife Society report, Global Climate Change and Wildlife in North America.

Detailing the displacement and disappearance of coastal wetlands species, loss of coastal marshes and disruption of alpine and Arctic ecosystems, the report is the first comprehensive assessment of global warming's likely consequences in North America by top wildlife professionals. "The evidence marshaled in this report is a message to every American who cares about wildlife to awaken to global warming's threat and to rally to confront it," says NWF President Larry J. Schweiger.

Wildlife directly threatened include polar bears, waterfowl and amphibians. "One of our concerns is that plant and animal populations trying to extend their ranges northward as temperatures increase won't be able to because migratory corridors may already be closed off by urban sprawl and agriculture," says Inkley. For more, visit our News and Views site.

Clearing the Air
Sportsmen speak out on Bush's climate change policy

The numbers are overwhelming: A majority of hunters and anglers believe the Bush administration's priorities are wrong when it comes to mercury pollution, oil and gas drilling--and global warming, according to an NWF-commissioned poll.

Nearly two-thirds of the sportsmen questioned said they believed that global warming already does or will impact hunting and fishing conditions. "When a majority of the people who know the land best express this level of concern about global warming, you are seeing a tidal shift in public opinion on this issue," says NWF President Larry J. Schweiger.

Affiliates Tackle the Heat
To address global warming, NWF affiliates across the country have undertaken a wide range of efforts. For example, the Natural Resources Council of Maine produced a booklet, Warning Signs, Winning Solutions, pointing out changes taking place, such as more lyme disease and declining sugar maples. It also suggests ways people can reign in their emissions. For a copy, visit Natural Resources Council of Maine website. A similar booklet by the Environment Council of Rhode Island is in the works.

Meanwhile, the Conservation Council of Hawaii compiled research on global warming's impacts on the state and is backing initiatives in the state legislature aimed at promoting renewable energy. Environmental Advocates of New York is leading a campaign to make the state a leader in reducing CO2 from power plants. The Washington Wildlife Federation cosponsored two climate change conferences, bringing together scientists and anglers to discuss impacts on fish. NWF's California affiliate, the Planning and Conservation League, is also pushing for solutions, such as California's new vehicle emissions standards.

Fueling Environmental Progress
In the fight to save wildlife, NWF is pushing for a 21st century energy plan that protects wildlife while growing the economy. Read all NWF's recommendations to the U.S. National Commission on Energy Policy at our Global Warming Policy Solutions site.

Plugging Into Green Power
Here's a practical way to help confront global warming: NWF is partnering with WindCurrent wind farm to provide "green tags," or renewable energy certificates, which allow you to offset the harmful effects of the nonrenewable fossil fuels you use.

You'll still get electricity through your local utility, but the certificates guarantee that electricity is being generated elsewhere with wind power. A subscription costs $5 a month and will support the production of about 25 percent of an average household's electricity use--which prevents the release of more than one and a half tons of harmful carbon dioxide emissions annually.

Subscriptions are also available at other levels. For more information, visit our Renewable Energy and Wildlife site.

Canaries of the Sea
Global warming threatens tourists' favorite diving destinations

Pollution, coastal development and rising water levels due to global warming threaten to destroy coral reefs in some of the world's best diving places, including the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and Mexico. To help draw attention to the problem, NWF has launched a public awareness campaign targeted at divers and snorkelers to arm them with information about how they can help protect coral and minimize global warming's impact.

Some of the most important actions recommended by NWF include:

  • Never anchor on a reef.

  • Volunteer with organizations working to clean up local waterways. The health of all waterways--rivers, lakes and bays--ultimately affects the ocean.

  • Slow global warming by conserving energy, which includes using energy-efficient lighting and appliances and using mass transportation whenever possible.

    "Coral reefs are like the canary in the coal mine, sending us important signals about the health of our ocean ecosystems," says Patty Glick, NWF's climate change specialist.

Get It on DVD
As part of its coral reef-related work, NWF is distributing a free, multimedia DVD, Coral Reefs: Canaries of the Sea, to alert people about the reefs' plight. Distributed at dive shops, zoos and aquariums, and tourism offices, the DVD explains the ecological importance of reefs and offers practical tips to reverse the damage. Get your copy by emailing coralreefs@nwf.org.

Getting Informed
Global warming threatens to unravel many of the local conservation successes that Americans fought for in recent decades and that our children will cherish--but only if we fail to act. Get the facts about climate change, find out about steps you can take and which wildlife and habitats are most vulnerable in a new NWF brochure, "Wildlife at Risk," at out Global Warming site.

Carbon Solutions
Reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases is the most important step we can take to combat global warming. But protecting forest habitat is another, given the amount of carbon that trees can store. One of the biggest U.S. reservoirs of carbon is in the Northern Forest of New England, which contains habitat jewels such as the Downeast Lakes region of coastal Maine. In addition to absorbing and storing vast amounts of carbon in its trees, soils and wetlands, the Downeast region boasts some of the highest densities of bobcats, Canada lynx and common loons. It also sits at the crossroads for rare migratory Neotropical and boreal bird species, including more than 20 types of warblers. As part of its work promoting sustainable forestry and protecting habitat, NWF is an active partner in a campaign to conserve 342,000 acres in the Downeast Lakes region. For more, visit www.newenglandforestry.org and our Northern Forest site, or call NWF's northeast office at 802-229-0650.

One Green Campus at a Time
NWF helps colleges help the environment

In the fight against global climate change, college campuses serve as an ideal laboratory for designing new and innovative technologies. To this end, NWF's Campus Ecology® Program provides grants to more than 100 campuses across the country to help students pursue their vision of an ecologically sustainable future through tangible projects that help the environment.

Whether it's rooftop solar panels, better heating and cooling systems for residence halls or basic energy education in the classroom, these campuses, with support from NWF, are serving as models of energy efficiency. For example:

  • The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, is offseting 100 percent of the greenhouse gases it produces by purchasing "green tags," or renewable energy certificates. This means that although the campus still relies on fossil fuels, it is offsetting their harmful effects by guaranteeing that electricity is being generated elsewhere from a renewable form of energy.

  • At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, students get some of their electricity from a wind turbine installed in 2003. "Although the turbine doesn't significantly reduce the campus's reliance on conventional energy, it is a symbol of the school's commitment to sustainability and a first step to a more significant commitment to renewable energy," says Kristy Jones, NWF green campus coordinator.

  • Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is using a biodiesel fuel mix in its shuttle fleet. The fuel burns cleaner than high-emission petroleum diesel and works in any diesel engine. It can also be made from renewable resources such as vegetable oil, animal fat and used cooking oil.

  • Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage constructed its own biodiesel processor on campus and developed a biodiesel workshop for undergraduate and graduate students as part of a summer session on sustainability.

  • The University of South Carolina in Columbia operates its shuttle system for faculty and students using biodiesel, publicizing its commitment to a sustainable future with signs that tell passengers and passersby that the buses are fueled with green power.

For more information, read the Campus Ecology report Green Investment, Green Return at Campus Solutions.

A Witness To Warming
Do you have a firsthand example of climate change? If so, we want to hear about it.

Have you witnessed global warming in your own backyard? Have you been tracking bird migrations, or have you measured changes in seasonal temperatures, snowfall or rainfall over the years? Have you noticed changes in wildlife or habitats that seem to be caused by changes in the climate? We want to hear from you! Send your stories to yourstory@nwf.org and you may be featured on our global warming website in the future.

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