Action Report: June/July 2005

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

06-01-2006 // NWF Staff

Northwest Fish in Hot Water
New study shows region's rivers are at risk due to global warming

For years, fish in the Pacific Northwest have struggled to survive amid dams, water diversions and development along river shorelines. Add the emerging threat of global warming, and the effects could be devastating, according to the new NWF report Fish Out of Water.

"Global warming will add an enormous amount of pressure onto what's left of the region's prime cold-water fish habitat," says Paula Del Giudice, director of NWF's Northwest Natural Resource Center in Seattle. "If we don't act now to curb pollution, within our lifetimes a significant portion of this region's salmon and trout could be pushed out of existence."

Water temperatures are among the most important factors affecting the health of these species. When rivers they inhabit get too warm, the fish can experience slower growth rates, lower oxygen levels in the water and greater susceptibility to toxins, parasites and disease. If pollution from fossil fuels such as coal and oil continue to increase, causing temperatures to rise, as much as 20 percent of the Columbia and Snake river basins and coastal watersheds of Washington and Oregon could become too warm for many cold-water fish populations by the 2040s, says Patty Glick, NWF climate specialist and author of the report.

Research suggests that higher regional temperatures could also change the timing and volume of runoff coming from snowpack and glaciers in nearby mountains, affecting stream flows that fish populations have historically depended on.

"Earlier peak spring flows and lower-than-normal summer flows can make it more difficult for adult fish returning from the ocean at their usual time to negotiate obstacles such as falls as they navigate upstream to spawn," Glick reports. "Excessively high flows in winter, which can result from rapid melting of snowpack or increased rainfall, can cause 'scouring' events, in which the gravel beds that salmon and other fish use as nesting sites wash away."

Peak snowfall and snowmelt-derived stream flow across the region have already shifted 10 to 30 days earlier since the mid-1900s, and snow pack has decreased 11 percent over the same period.

"This isn't just bad news for fish," Del Giudice says. "It spells trouble for all of us who depend on water from Pacific Northwest rivers for irrigation, hydropower and drinking. As the region's climate shifts, we could find that our water resources are less reliable, with water arriving earlier in the spring and dwindling during the heat of summer."

According to Glick, reducing carbon dioxide pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is the number one solution to global warming. To read the full report, visit our Global Warming site.

Combat Sprawl
Transform your yard into a habitat island by planting natives and providing wildlife with food, water, shelter and places to raise young. For tips, visit our Garden For Wildlife site.

Waste Not, Want Not
Determine if you're a water waster or a water saver by taking the quiz at our Water and Wild Life site. There you'll also find tips to help you live a greener, healthier lifestyle.

Lend a Hand
Enjoy gardening? Working with kids? Are you a computer whiz? NWF offers dozens of regional volunteer opportunities to match your interests, skills and talents. Visit our Volunteer site.

Stranding Wildlife in Suburbia
Report finds sprawl a leading threat to nation's imperiled species

The rapid conversion of open space and farmland into subdivisions, shopping centers, roads and parking lots has emerged as a leading threat to America's native plants and animals, according to the new report Endangered by Sprawl.

Produced by NWF, Smart Growth America and NatureServe, the study finds runaway sprawl in many metropolitan areas is destroying essential wildlife habitat for some 1,200 imperiled species and, if left unchecked, could doom as many as a third of them to extinction. "If we allow that to happen," says John Kostyack, NWF senior counsel and coauthor of the report, "both people and wildlife will suffer."

The report recommends several ways to stem the tide of habitat loss, including changing local land use patterns and improving state and federal natural resource and transportation policies. "As Congress prepares to debate the future of the Endangered Species Act, this study drives home the critical role that better planning must play in both protecting threatened wildlife and improving our cities and towns," says Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America. "To check runaway land consumption, we need to provide incentives for development in existing urban and suburban areas, build new development at higher densities and set aside natural areas as off-limits to new development."

To read the full report, visit our News & Views site.

NWF Welcomes New Leaders
Delegates gather for conservation cause

At its 69th annual meeting in early spring, NWF honored conservationists and welcomed new leaders. When Louisiana native Jerome C. Ringo became chair of the Federation's board of directors, history was made: The proponent of habitat restoration and environmental education is the first African American to hold such a post with a major national conservation organization.

Three new members were elected to join Ringo on the board. Mark Heckert, past president of the Washington Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, has fought for wilderness protection and sensible land-use management. Walter Umphrey, former vice chairman of the Texas State Parks and Wildlife Commission, has championed efforts to preserve natural resources in the Lone Star State. Beatrice Busch von Gontard, a member of NWF's President's Council, is an advocate of environmental education and recycling.

Lady Bird Johnson was among the honorees at the meeting's awards dinner. Cofounder of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, NWF's "Conservationist of the Year" has spent more than 40 years helping to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value and natural beauty of native plants.

Judge Upholds Wolf Protections
Rebounding gray wolf populations received a boost recently when a federal district court judge blocked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) plans to reduce Endangered Species Act protections for the canids in large portions of the Lower 48.

"The administration would have ended recovery efforts prematurely by removing protections for wolves in states that have suitable habitat and where wolves are likely to return naturally and thrive," says Peggy Struhsacker, NWF's wolf project leader.

The judge's ruling concluded a lawsuit filed by NWF and 18 other conservation groups, which challenged a FWS rule that reduced the status of gray wolves in most of the eastern and western United States from endangered to threatened.

FWS argued that the gray wolf had rebounded sufficiently to warrant downlisting. The judge disagreed, citing the federal agency's failure to assess threats to the species. His ruling makes it harder for FWS to try to eliminate federal safeguards afforded to the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act.

Community Gardens
This spring, Hidden Springs, Idaho; Montreat, North Carolina; and Chesterfield, Missouri, earned a distinction shared by only a half dozen other communities in the United States: They were formally certified by NWF as Community Wildlife Habitat sites. To learn about these habitats and find out how you can start a project in your local area, visit the Community Wildlife Habitat™ site.

Making Wildlife Feel at Home
Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks dedicate space to backyard habitats

Lions and tigers and black swallowtail butterflies! A visit to an Anheuser-Busch Adventure Park is full of up-close encounters with extraordinary animals, but appreciation of wildlife doesn't have to stop at the exit gate. SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Discovery Cove, in partnership with National Wildlife Federation (NWF), are building demonstration Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ sites in each park to teach visitors how they can enjoy--and protect--wildlife at home.

"During a typical day at one of our parks, guests may get face-to-face with a polar bear or have the opportunity to feed a giraffe--experiences that hopefully inspire and excite people about wildlife around the world," says Virginia Busch, conservation ambassador for the Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks. "But to actually help conserve these species and the places they call home is a bit more challenging."

To help individuals meet that challenge, the parks' NWF-certified habitats will demonstrate a variety of ways visitors can provide the four elements vital to wildlife survival--food, water, shelter and places to raise young--in their own backyards. Guests will see how native plants thrive, requiring less water and overall care than nonnatives, while supplying local wildlife with the best food sources.

"Habitat restoration is critical for wildlife in urban and suburban settings," says Linda Ingersoll, NWF's senior director for brand loyalty. "National Wildlife Federation gives hope to the future of wildlife by encouraging everyone--homeowners, teachers, community leaders--to plan their landscapes with the needs of wildlife in mind. Anheuser-Busch's extraordinary commitment to conservation now takes NWF's Backyard Wildlife Habitat program to a new level by making it a living, breathing experience that's fun and accessible for people of all ages."

Although finishing touches are still being added, the site at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is now open. It includes a butterfly garden, hummingbird garden, tool shed, gazebo, pond, patio setting and even a white picket fence.

Construction of new sites will begin this year at the SeaWorld Orlando and Discovery Cove locations in Florida. Other parks are expected to follow close behind.

"Dedicating space to these backyard habitats aligns perfectly with the long-standing conservation commitment of my family and this company," says Busch. "For more than 100 years, protecting natural resources for future generations has remained a core mission throughout our operations--every day and at every facility. These habitats are just one way we hope to inspire a similar conservation ethic among the millions of park guests who visit us each year."

Water Fight
To prevent wildlife-rich wetlands in Tennessee's Falling Water River basin from being paved during an airport expansion, NWF and other conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in March for failing to uphold Clean Water Act safeguards. Barking tree frogs and endangered gray bats are among the species that call these wetlands home.

Pledging to Protect Plants and Animals
For more than 30 years, the Endangered Species Act has served as the nation's safety net for wildlife--rescuing hundreds of plants and animals from extinction, putting hundreds more on the path to recovery and protecting the habitats on which they all depend. "Today, some in Congress are seeking to weaken this safety net," says Corry Westbrook, NWF legislative representative. "For all those who support the protection of imperiled species, it is time for action."

To give citizens an opportunity to make their voices heard, NWF, in coalition with other conservation groups, has developed an Endangered Species Act Pledge, which will be used to galvanize and demonstrate broad public support for the legislation. To sign the pledge, go to our Action Headquarters site and click on "Keep Wildlife in Our Future."

Getting Dirty for a Good Cause
Grade-schooler helps endangered species with homegrown fare

"I want to grow a garden and get money," Stephen Mattingly told his mother. That was two years ago, and Mattingly, then eight years old, was hardly in financial need. When Jennifer Mattingly asked her son what he wanted the money for, he answered simply: "For the animals." Mattingly had been reading in the library when he had a flash of inspiration. The book he was looking at was about the plight of whooping cranes: Only one wild flock of these migratory birds remains in the United States. His plan was to save them--along with American bison and the critically endangered Florida panther.

As challenging as these goals may seem, Mattingly was not deterred. He decided to combine his two loves. "I wanted to help the animals, and I like to grow things," he explains.

The last two summers, with the help of his grandparents, Mattingly planted everything from corn and cucumbers to beets and beans, and then sold what he harvested at a front yard farm stand.

Mattingly also visited area businesses in his home of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, telling them about his project and soliciting matching donations. The fruits of his labor have already yielded several hundred dollars for NWF programs that focus on the three endangered species Mattingly wanted to help.

"All of us were so impressed by his commitment," says Patti Beattie, NWF's manager of membership services. "Young people like him give us hope for the future."

Mattingly intends to continue his gardening project this summer. His dedication stems from a straightforward and simple appreciation: Without nature, he says, we couldn't survive.

Calling All Shutterbugs
Captivating images sought for annual photo contest

It's not too late to enter the National Wildlife photography competition. The deadline for submitting entries is July 15, 2005. To view contest guidelines and upload digital photos, visit the National Wildlife Photo Contest Entry Rules site. Winning selections will appear in the December/January 2006 issue.

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