Action Report: December/January 2007

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

12-01-2006 // NWF Staff

Warming Fuels Trouble in the West
Climate change will produce more wildfires, drought and wildlife losses

The American West is feeling the heat from global warming, and that could mean more widespread wildfires, prolonged drought and extensive loss of wildlife habitat in the years to come, according to a new NWF report. "America's addiction to fossil fuels is coming at an enormous price, one that threatens not only people but the fish, wildlife and ecosystems that are so fundamental to the region's--and nation's--economy, culture and values," observes Patty Glick, an NWF global warming specialist and author of the study.

Released in October, Fueling the Fire: Global Warming, Fossil Fuels and the Fish and Wildlife of the American West provides a detailed summary of the most recent scientific evidence regarding present and future impacts from climate change in 17 Western states. "The latest science paints a bleak picture," says Glick, noting that the last wildfire season was the most expensive on record. "It is an eerie snapshot of what will happen in the West if warming continues." Among the predictions compiled in the report:

  • Global warming will cause a significant reduction in snowpack. The Pacific Northwest is projected to lose as much as 88 percent of its average snowpack in future decades; the Central Rocky Mountains could lose as much as 75 percent.

  • Drought conditions are expected to become more extreme in some areas as higher average temperatures contribute to increased evaporation rates.

  • Big sagebrush habitats throughout the West could decline by 59 percent in coming decades, which would have devastating consequences for sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and other species that depend on them.

  • A continuing trend toward higher stream temperatures would significantly reduce habitat for trout, salmon and other cold-water fish across the West.

  • The overall area of acreage burned by wildfires will double in size by the end of the century, hitting New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and Utah particularly hard.

  • Heat waves will become more intense, more frequent and longer lasting during this century if global warming continues unabated.

"We have a real opportunity to change course," says Glick. "Fortunately, solutions are at hand." The report provides a number of recommendations, including placing significant, mandatory limits on U.S. global warming pollution; reducing the nation's overall dependence on fossil fuels through greater investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies; and implementing strategies to help wildlife survive the effects of global warming that are already underway. To read the full report, visit www.targetglobalwarming.org/fuelingthefire.

Telephone Poll
Nearly three of four Americans (74 percent) are more convinced today that global warming is a reality than they were two years ago, says an NWF-sponsored Zogby survey. See www.nwf.org/globalwarming.

Mercury Tips
Minimize the threat of mercury in your life by learning how to properly dispose of products that contain the toxic metal and finding effective alternatives to them.

Speak Out
Spread the word about global population growth and its environmental impact by participating in the NWF Population and Environment Program's Speak Out! campaign. See www.nwf.org/population.

Score One for Endangered Species
Federal court rejects the administration's new pesticide rules

A federal judge ruled that the Bush administration "plainly violated" the Endangered Species Act when it issued regulations that eliminated reviews of new pesticides by government agencies responsible for protecting rare plants and animals. He restored standards requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service officials to ensure that the use of pesticides will not jeopardize the survival of species at risk of extinction, such as the California red-legged frog.

"The judge's decision means that these species may still have a fighting chance," says John Kostyack, senior counsel at NWF. The ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by the Federation and eight other conservation groups.

To learn more about NWF's efforts to protect endangered wildlife, visit www.nwf.org/wildlife.

Let The 'Truth' Be Told
NWF helps former vice president train global warming messengers

Al Gore has presented his global warming slide show, made famous in the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth, to audiences around the world. Now, with support from NWF, he is enlisting individuals of all ages and backgrounds to help spread the word about climate change and the need for action.

By late January, Gore and a team of renowned scientists and educators will have outfitted more than 1,000 volunteers with the information and skills they need to give their own version of the former vice president's presentation. The training, coordinated and facilitated by the Federation, will take place during a series of two-day workshops. NWF prepared the curriculum and course material, recruited key faculty and designed web-based resources for the initiative.

"I can imagine that the many trained speakers over the next couple of years will be reaching millions of people in communities across America," says Larry J. Schweiger, president of NWF. "It's the beginning of what will be an important part of mobilizing citizens to stop global warming."

Giving Eagles a Boost in Vermont
When NWF and its conservation partners launched the Vermont Bald Eagle Restoration Initiative three years ago, they sought to help establish a breeding population of bald eagles in the Green Mountain State, which hadn't hosted a nesting pair in more than half a century.

Between 2004 and 2006, they released 29 captive-raised eagles into Vermont's Champlain Valley. The long-term goal is to have some of these juveniles return to the state as adults and raise broods of their own.

"We won't see the results of the project for a couple more years," says NWF biologist Margaret Fowle, noting that eagles don't reach maturity until they are 4 or 5 years old. But she and other participants in the effort have reason to be optimistic: Similar programs have been instrumental in the recovery of bald eagles throughout the Northeast.

Fowle says the project partners will now focus their attention on monitoring any breeding activity in the state and working to raise public awareness of the role bald eagles and other predators play in the wild.

Commemorating NWF's 70th Anniversary
A Backyard Habitat special about NWF's 70,000th certified habitat at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville will air December 11 on Animal Planet. "All habitats serve a vital function for wildlife," says NWF's David Mizejewski, cohost of the show. "The one at Vanderbilt is doubly important because it nurtures both the local wildlife and the children undergoing treatment at the hospital."

Auto Club Driving Change
Conservation-minded travelers wishing to balance their need for transportation with their interest in protecting the environment can now fulfill that desire.

Better World Club, an NWF supporter, offers a full range of trip planning and roadside assistance benefits to its members coast-to-coast. The company also works to reduce the environmental footprint created by travel.

In addition to offering discounts on eco-lodging and hybrid car rentals, the club donates 1 percent of its revenues each year to organizations that seek to reduce fossil fuel usage and fight global warming. It also sponsors a carbon-offset program to neutralize the impact of air travel: A portion of the proceeds from each airline ticket sold goes to programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

NWF members receive a 10 percent discount on first-year club membership dues. Visit www.betterworldclub.com/nwf.

Soggy Forecast for Maine
President Bush's family home near Kennebunkport could be among the landmarks in Maine left underwater if global warming continues unabated and sea levels rise in the decades ahead, says the Natural Resources Council of Maine. The NWF affiliate created maps to show how portions of the state would be affected by rising water. See www.maineenvironment.org.

Landmark Case Reaches High Court
Conservation groups join legal battle over regulation of tailpipe emissions

For the first time in the Supreme Court's history, its justices are weighing in on the issue of global warming. The case before them, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, centers on a 2003 EPA decision not to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles as pollution.

NWF, which filed an amicus brief with the Court on behalf of itself and 72 other conservation groups, asserts that the EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act to consider whether tailpipe emissions may endanger public welfare by harming the climate and the healthy ecosystems on which people depend.

"We're seeing the effects of global warming on wildlife and habitats all over North America," says George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, one of 43 NWF state affiliates that signed on to the brief. "If we don't address the root of the problem, literally decades of work to conserve wildlife could be lost." The brief outlines the latest scientific research on the impacts of climate change on species to underscore the need for regulatory action.

At this writing, the Supreme Court was scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on November 29.

Mercury's Polluting Food Chain
Research shows the contaminant poses a risk to a range of wildlife

Mercury pollution from power plants and other industrial sources is making its way into wildlife habitats across the nation, exposing species in nearly every link of the food chain to contamination, says a new NWF report.

"Fish, long believed to be the key species affected by mercury, are just the tip of the iceberg," says Catherine Bowes, NWF project manager and principal author of Poisoning Wildlife: The Reality of Mercury Pollution. The report is a compilation of 65 published studies documenting elevated levels of mercury in wildlife ranging from turtles to bats, songbirds to whales. Adverse health effects attributed to this exposure include fish having difficulty schooling and spawning, birds laying fewer eggs, and mammals such as river otters suffering from impaired motor function, which hinders their ability to hunt and find food.

"Now that we have hard evidence that mercury is affecting more species than originally thought," says Bowes, "anything short of phasing out this toxic metal is inadequate."

Honored for Going 'Above and Beyond'
Volunteers across the country contribute directly to the success of NWF's conservation efforts. "They're at the heart of everything we do," says Melinda Hughes, manager of volunteer programs for the Federation. To recognize certain individuals who go "above and beyond" to protect wildlife and wild places, NWF recently established a Volunteer of the Year awards program. The first class of honorees includes two residents of Washington state:

  • Val Schroeder led the effort to get her hometown of Camano Island certified as a Community Wildlife Habitat. It boasts the highest concentration of NWF-certified backyards in the Puget Sound area.

  • Bob Johnson helped win safeguards for endangered salmon, rallied sportsmen to protect public lands from private interests and developed a database application to assist nonprofits in organizing conservation fundraising events. The Renton resident is an active member of the Washington Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate.

Making a Difference: Donating to the Cause of Conservation
Member helps fund restoration of trout habitat in New England

For nearly as long as NWF has worked to protect the nation's wildlife, Bob Storm has supported its efforts. The Vienna, Virginia, resident first began donating to NWF in the 1930s. "I would send in a dollar and get the stamps," he says, referring to the popular wildlife conservation stamps that were once the Federation's primary source of funding. Storm, now in his 80s, is representative of the thousands of NWF members whose generous support is so crucial to the organization.

"I've always been interested in saving wildlife," says Storm, who is particularly interested in restoring habitat for native brook trout. Since childhood, he has spent countless hours fishing in the streams of his hometown, Meriden, Connecticut, and across New England, where he has seen firsthand the damage wreaked by human intervention on the waterways. "In Meriden, there used to be about 10 trout streams," says Storm. "Now there are maybe two left." The brook trout requires clean, cold water to thrive, making it especially appealing to conservation-minded sport fishermen. According to Storm, "When these fish start dying out, you know there's something wrong--that the water is too warm or polluted."

Storm enlisted in the Army during World War II and went on to careers in the military and in engineering. Throughout his worldwide travels he retained his passion for wildlife, particularly the ecologically important brook trout.

Storm has been a strong advocate of NWF's habitat work in New England, says Eric Palola, the Federation's executive director of wildlife restoration. The retiree makes frequent trips to the Northeast, often checking in with NWF staff on their efforts to restore the health of trout streams through what Palola calls "a lot of dirt-under-your-fingernails work," which includes planting streamside shade trees.

Although Storm has supported a number of different conservation organizations over the years, he now concentrates on NWF, where he is a member of the J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle of donors. "The National Wildlife Federation can be relied on," he says.

NWF staff members who work with Storm feel the same way about him. "He's so passionate about his cause," says NWF Prospect Manager Susan Delgado. "His enthusiasm is contagious."

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