Action Report: August/September 2006

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

08-01-2006 // NWF Staff

Florida Fishing Tradition at Risk
Sea-level rise caused by global warming could threaten state's fisheries

Half of the salt marsh habitat and nearly one-third of the ocean beaches at Biscayne Bay, Indian River Lagoon and seven other critical locations along Florida's coasts could be lost over the next century to a sea-level rise caused by global warming, according to a new report sponsored jointly by NWF and the Florida Wildlife Federation. And that's just the beginning. The study, based on data from an independent researcher, also finds that 84 percent of tidal flats at the sites would vanish, along with 14 percent of dry land. Such loss would imperil large numbers of the state's most important game fish, including flounder, bonefish and gray snapper, which rely on the habitats for breeding and feeding.

"What is really alarming is just how much habitat change occurs with even a 'moderate' sea-level rise," says Patty Glick, NWF global warming specialist and author of the report, An Unfavorable Tide: Global Warming, Coastal Habitats and Sportfishing in Florida. Most climate scientists agree that if global warming continues unabated, average sea levels could rise 15 inches by the year 2100. Given Florida's gently sloping shores, this means that the ocean could intrude as much as 250 feet inland, resulting in erosion and drastic changes to coastal wetlands. Such habitat loss could have a very real economic impact on Florida: In 2005, sportfishermen spent $3.3 billion in the state on saltwater recreational fishing, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs. "Coastal habitats and the fisheries they support are among the very things that make Florida such a wonderful place to live and visit," says Glick. "Their destruction would be devastating."

Florida's wildlife is already under pressure from extensive development, and scientists believe global warming will only worsen the situation. The report recommends a long-term, two-pronged strategy for easing that pressure: Minimize the threat of global warming by reducing the pollution that causes it, and implement more rigorous fishery and coastal resource management practices that "fully incorporate the likely impacts of global warming" on Florida's coastal habitats. With the state's economy and wildlife hanging in the balance, the report calls on agencies and officials--at local, state and federal levels--to begin working now to counteract the harmful effects of global warming on Florida's fisheries. To read the full report, go to www.targetglobalwarming.org.

American Sportsmen Speak Out
An overwhelming majority believes that warming is affecting wildlife

A survey recently commissioned by NWF shows that an overwhelming majority of sportsmen across the country agree with the consensus of scientists that global warming is occurring, and that it already is affecting wildlife and wildlife habitat. The survey--the first-ever comprehensive nationwide poll of licensed hunters and anglers on their opinions about global warming--is significant because it represents an attitude shift in an important segment of American voters: 73 percent of the respondents consider themselves moderate to conservative on political issues; they voted by a margin of about 2 to 1 for President Bush over Senator Kerry in 2004.

According to the survey, more than three-quarters of America's hunters and anglers (76 percent) say that they have observed changes in climate conditions where they live, such as warmer, shorter winters, hotter summers, earlier spring and less snow. More than half (54 percent) said they believe these changes are related to global warming. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) believe it either is currently impacting or will impact hunting and fishing.

"We are reaching a tipping point in this country," says NWF President Larry Schweiger, "where the vital sportsmen's constituency is adding its voice to those who recognize global warming already is occurring, that it poses a serious threat to our future and that action must be taken immediately to address it." To read more about the survey, see www.targetglobalwarming.org.

The Legacy of Ranger Rick
Award-winning children's magazine celebrates 40 years Come 2007, Ranger Rick® magazine will have been entertaining, teaching and wowing kids about wildlife for 40 years. And NWF would like to find out what impact it has had on readers during that time.

The Federation knows of one charter subscriber, for example, who still has Volume 1, Issue 1, of the magazine. She grew up to be an environmental biologist and planner. Her husband, a geotechnical engineer, was also an early Ranger Rick reader. They share a strong environmental ethic.

If the publication played a role in your growing up, career choice or commitment to wildlife, send your story to Ranger Rick; 11100 Wildlife Center Drive; Reston, VA 20190; or to reyzer@nwf.org. NWF will publish a selection of reflections in the January 2007 anniversary issue.

Dial In: A Greener U
This fall, NWF's Campus Ecology® program will launch a five-part teleconference and podcast series designed to help its members confront global warming. Green purchasing and climate-friendly investing will be among the topics discussed. Each teleconference will include a question-and-answer session. For more information or to register, contact Kristy Jones at 703-438-6262 or jonesk@nwf.org.

Maryland Scores Clean Air Victory
In a move unprecedented in this country, Maryland lawmakers earlier this year passed legislation to reduce emissions of four pollutants from the state's power plants--a win for both wildlife and people. Known as the Healthy Air Act, the law targets the release of mercury, nitrogen oxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

"Passage of this legislation confirms NWF's message that addressing air pollution means reducing all pollutants, including carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming," says Adam Kolton, senior director of congressional and federal affairs at NWF. The act will prevent more than 1,700 pounds of toxic mercury from being released into the environment each year. It also requires Maryland to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an agreement among northeastern states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 10 percent by 2018.

For two years leading up to the historic vote, NWF urged Maryland lawmakers to approve the legislation. During that time, the Federation founded and coordinated the Healthy Air Coalition, produced analyses of the costs and benefits of power plant pollution reduction and secured community support for the landmark bill--most notably from sportsmen who fish in the Chesapeake Bay.

Chocolate for Conservation
Purchasing organic, fair-trade chocolate is good for the environment. It's also good for NWF. Each year Endangered Species Chocolate donates 10 percent of its net profits to organizations involved in "the conservation of species, habitat and humanity." NWF is one of three beneficiaries for 2006.

"Saving wildlife has never required a sweeter action," says Greg Griffith, director of cause marketing at NWF. Funds earned will support the Federation's Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ and Green Hour™ programs. Visit www.chocolatebar.com/nwf.htm.

Wine Club for Nature Lovers
To enhance the connection between socializing and social responsibility, NWF has partnered with Carivintâs Winery to offer its members a diverse mix of wines produced using environmentally friendly techniques. Custom-designed labels, featuring images from NWF's historical wildlife art collection, will adorn each bottle. Carivintâs Winery is proud to support the Federation's conservation programs. Learn more at www.carivintas.com/nwf.

A Couple of Conservation Trailblazers
Floridians create haven for struggling native

Volunteers Bruce and Cathy Brown have lost track of the number of Habitat Stewards they've trained on behalf of NWF in the past six years. (It's a record 125, says NWF Volunteer Program Manager Melinda Hughes.) "But we're so proud of the work they've done," says Bruce, listing tree plantings and helping dozens of homeowners get their properties certified as NWF backyard habitats among the stewards' accomplishments.

The couple's dedication to teaching others how to create spaces for wildlife recently earned them a 2006 "Volunteer of the Year" award from NWF. But the recognition was also for their commitment to habitat restoration.

The Browns' most noteworthy project is the 12-acre Florida Scrub Jay Trail, which provides a mix of scrub and sandhill habitat preferred by the state's only endemic bird , a threatened species. "Ninety percent of the scrub jay's original population is already gone," says Cathy. "This puts the species in grave danger of extinction in our lifetime." The couple got started on the project in 2003 with support from NWF, which awarded them a grant.

To date, hundreds of volunteers have helped with the project, including dozens of local high school students who have earned service-learning credits by researching the bird's habitat needs and planting beargrass, fringetree and other native species. "This is just the beginning," says Bruce. "Our goal is to acquire more land to expand this preservation project for many years to come."

Planting Awareness
NWF's Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center in Boulder, Colorado, hosted its first-ever native plant sale in June. "The event was a great success, raising NWF's profile in the community and money for our conservation programs," says Steve Torbit, the center's director. All plant buyers were given information on certifying their yards as NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ sites.

Preserving a Center for Education
Wisconsin affiliate joins pact to save critical conservation resource

When Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources came near to closing its popular MacKenzie Environmental Education Center late last year, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation (WWF), an NWF affiliate, stepped in to help save it. WWF agreed to jointly manage the center with the state agency and The Friends of MacKenzie, a fellow nonprofit. This July, the Federation moved its headquarters to the Poynette facility and began offering nature programs. Fifty thousand people visit MacKenzie each year.

"A major part of WWF's mission is conservation education, largely focused on youth," says Corky Meyer, WWF president. "This partnership will ensure that, long term, MacKenzie will be the premier environmental education center in the Midwest."

Golf Community a Water Hazard
More than 200 acres of key foraging habitat for the endangered wood stork will be destroyed if a plan to build a golf course community in Florida's Cocohatchee Slough is allowed to proceed. NWF, the Florida Wildlife Federation and three other conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal district court in June, challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' authorization of the project. "Almost anywhere else would be a better site for a luxury golf course community than in the middle of an existing wetland slough," says Laura Hartt, NWF environmental policy specialist. The threatened site is adjacent to Corkscrew Swamp, the largest remaining breeding ground for North America's only native stork. The rookery hosts between 400 and 600 nesting pairs--roughly 10 times fewer birds than it did just a half century ago.

On A Mission to Protect Their Future
Group of Alaska teens sparks unprecedented youth campaign

In Alaska, teenagers are catching a glimpse of their future, and they're not happy at what they see. "We want our leaders to know that if they don't do something today about global warming, my generation will pay for it tomorrow," says Verner Wilson, a young Yup'ik Eskimo from Dillingham who lists eroding coastlines, shrinking glaciers and melting permafrost (see "Alaska Meltdown") among the effects of warming in the 49th state. "It's the most pressing issue Alaska has to face."

In January, Wilson and other members of Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA), a high school leadership program sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, launched a petition drive aimed at fellow teens. Over the course of several weeks, they met with students in more than 100 communities across the state, delivering presentations to some 300 classrooms on the impacts and science of global warming. At each stop, they asked the students to add their names to a "Letter to Our Leaders."

"What started out as a small group effort turned into an unprecedented youth campaign," says Polly Carr, who oversees the AYEA program for NWF.

In April, a delegation of six AYEA members traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver the 5,000 student signatures they and their peers had collected to Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski and other lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Their letter asks Congress to address global warming by requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and investment in renewable energy. To offset the thousands of pounds of emissions their travel generated, the students raised funds to purchase so-called green tags, making their trip climate neutral.

Now back in Alaska, AYEA teens pledge to continue their campaign. "We'll talk as much as needed, to as many people who will listen to us, to keep the spotlight on global warming," says Tim Treuer of Anchorage.

"One of the most alluring things about this project," adds Treuer, "is that it has the potential to make a tangible difference, both by impacting the course of events at a national level and by informing the way thousands of young Alaskans will think about the issue in the years to come." For more information, contact ayea@nwf.org.

Alaskans in Favor of Climate Action
In May, Alaska state lawmakers voted unanimously in favor of legislation to create a Climate Change Impact Assessment Commission--a move actively supported by NWF and members of its AYEA program (see above). The 11-member body is charged with assessing the impacts and costs of global warming to the state, as well as developing prescriptions for prevention.

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