Action Report: February/March 2006

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

02-01-2006 // NWF Staff

Endangered Species Act Under Attack
Fight to save landmark law--and the wildlife it helps to protect--moves to the Senate

The Endangered Species Act, one of America's most successful environmental laws, is in danger of being eviscerated by Congress. Last September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would rip a hole in America's safety net for animals and plants that are on the brink of extinction. If put into law, this legislation would turn back 30 years of successful stewardship and cripple the ability of the American people to recover species threatened with extinction.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), strips the Endangered Species Act of its strongest protections. It eliminates critical habitat protection requirements, cuts wildlife experts out of the loop on key decisions, politicizes science and excuses developers from complying with the law unless they are paid for lost profits. It aims to squander our nation's natural heritage and is out of step with the American public's support of the Endangered Species Act. This legislation was rushed through the House before the American people had a chance to voice their opposition. Now, we must let the Senate know that Americans support a strong Endangered Species Act and oppose any legislation that would weaken its safeguards.

For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has helped protect the wildlife that defines America. It has a 99 percent success rate at preventing the extinction of plants, fish and animals placed under its care. From the bald eagle to the grizzly bear, the gray wolf to the American alligator, the Endangered Species Act has saved hundreds of species from being lost forever and helped countless more along the road toward recovery.

If successes such as these are to continue, the Senate must take a stand and save the Endangered Species Act. As our last defense in this fight, senators must reject Rep. Pombo's bill and refuse to pass any legislation that will strip away protections for species on the brink of extinction. The fate of this landmark law and the plants, fish and wildlife it protects rests in their hands.

The Senate must act more responsibly than the House to ensure that the Endangered Species Act stays strong so we can continue conserving imperiled wildlife for future generations.

To learn more about the fight to save the Endangered Species Act, visit www.nwf.org/wildlife.

Annual Meeting
"The Heat Is on for Wildlife Restoration" is the theme for NWF's 2006 annual meeting, to be held at the Wyndham New Orleans at Canal Place, March 15-19. Visit www.nwf.org/annualmeeting.

Book Relief
NWF has donated nearly 50,000 children's magazines to First Book, a literacy group working to distribute reading materials to hurricane evacuees and organizations working to rebuild Gulf Coast communities.

Volunteering
Enjoy gardening? Working with kids? Are you a computer whiz? NWF offers dozens of regional volunteer opportunities to match your interests, skills and talents. See www.nwf.org/volunteer.

Confronting Global Warming on Campus
New campaign urges schools to reduce pollution

Together with dozens of regional and national student environmental organizations, NWF's Campus Ecology® program recently launched a campaign to get colleges and universities to reduce their global warming pollution. Dubbed the "Campus Climate Challenge," the campaign seeks to have 500 participating campuses by 2008, each one working to reduce their school's greenhouse gas emissions below 2005 levels by 2 percent per year in order to achieve the groups' overarching goal: a 90 percent drop by 2050.

"Focusing on universities to reduce global warming pollution makes a lot of sense," says Larry J. Schweiger, NWF president. "Universities are large enough to have an impact on our overall energy consumption, small enough to implement bold and aggressive programs, and house millions of students who will ultimately need to lead our country's efforts to shift to a clean energy future."

Adds Julian Keniry, director of NWF's Youth and Campus Programs: "By showing we can get a whole sector of society to meaningfully reduce their own global warming pollution, we can remove the argument that the problem is too big, too expensive, too distant. The Challenge is a leveraging tool. What starts on campus ends up in Congress." See www.campusclimatechallenge.org.

Healing the Great Lakes
Leaders unite around restoration plan

Citizens joined officials from all levels of government in December to release a precedent-setting strategy for cleaning up the Great Lakes, the world's largest body of fresh water.

"This is the first time in history that the Great Lakes have had a comprehensive plan to restore and protect them," says Andy Buchsbaum, director of NWF's Great Lakes office and cochairman of the Healing Our WatersSM--Great Lakes coalition, which helped to craft the plan. Its release comes on the heels of a paper issued by 60 of the region's leading scientists that warns that the ecosystem is on the edge of collapse from toxic pollution, invasive species and sewage contamination.

"The Great Lakes are sick," says Buchsbaum. "The actions in this plan are what will be needed to bring them back to health."

The plan calls for $20 billion in federal, state, local and private investments for projects such as modernizing waste treatment systems and restoring wetlands and other vital wildlife habitats. It also calls for new policy actions, including stopping oceangoing vessels from discharging aquatic invasive species into the lakes, a practice that threatens the survival of native plants and animals. Securing funding, an aim of the coalition and other restoration advocates, is the next step in implementing the strategy, says Buchsbaum. Learn more at www.healingourwaters.org.

Land Donated to Georgia Refuge
The largest wildlife refuge in the eastern United States just got even bigger. In November, the NWF affiliate Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF) and other members of a broad-based coalition announced the donation of nearly 7,000 acres of working forestland from The Conservation Fund to southeast Georgia's 396,000-acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

As part of the land transfer agreement, coalition member International Paper will retain harvesting and planting rights on the property and has agreed to manage the forest in a way that promotes its long-term survival, as well as to safeguard habitat for endangered species such as the red-cockaded woodpecker. In addition, a conservation easement held by GWF will permanently protect the area from mining and other development impacts.

"It's a winning outcome for all parties involved," says GWF President Jerry L. McCollum.

National Park Forest FSC-Certified
Vermont's only national park hosts another distinction: It's the first National Park Service property to be awarded Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. Home to one of North America's oldest continuously managed woodlands, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (MBR) uses its forestry practices to demonstrate--and promote--responsible land stewardship.

NWF led the certification assessment team for MBR through a partnership with the Rainforest Alliance's SmartWood Program, an independent certifier accredited by the FSC. "For more than a decade, the Federation has been building support for FSC certification as an incentive to improve forest management practices on private and public lands and to support markets for products created with certified wood," says Stacy Brown, certification coordinator at NWF's Northeast Natural Resource Center. "With the certification of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller, NWF's work has placed demonstration sites for sustainable forest management of all sizes, ownership types and objectives within the Northern Forest landscape."

A Blueprint for Protecting Wildlife
Grant will help NWF, affiliates gather support for state plans

Last October, for the first time in history, 50 states and six U.S. territories submitted Wildlife Action Plans to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval. Taken together, these conservation strategies form a blueprint for protecting the nation's wildlife and its habitat for the long term. Prompted by federal legislation, they identify the most important places to be conserved and the actions needed to protect plants and animals in each state.

To help ensure the action plans produce meaningful results on the ground, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has awarded NWF and five of its affiliates a $906,244 grant that the organizations will use to build support for implementing the strategies that state wildlife agencies drafted.

"There is no higher priority for conservationists than ensuring the survival of America's wildlife heritage," says Jerry L. McCollum, president of the Georgia Wildlife Federation. His group, along with the Montana Wildlife Federation, North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and the Environmental League of Massachusetts, will work collaboratively with NWF to educate citizens about the state plans, organize coalitions that will ensure effective implementation of these strategies, and share success stories and best management practices with conservation proponents across the country.

"This grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation enables us to play a vital role in conserving free-ranging native wildlife populations and healthy habitats across the nation," says Larry J. Schweiger, NWF president.

The People Speak
NWF events spark discussions on global environmental issues

At the current rate of growth, the world's human population will double by the middle of this century, and that will have profound effects on wildlife habitat and the availability of natural resources such as clean water, according to Julie Starr, outreach coordinator for NWF's Population and Environment Program.

"A fifth of the global population already lacks access to safe drinking water," Starr said during a recent address about population trends and impacts at Maine's College of the Atlantic. Her visit to the campus was one of 17 events cosponsored by NWF and the United Nations Foundation as part a nationwide discussion series called "The People Speak."

"The goal of these events is to bring foreign policy issues to the local level," says Starr. "While many people think they can't help solve global problems, there are actually a lot of ways that U.S. citizens can weigh in." She lists writing letters to newspapers and talking to congressional representatives among the examples. See www.nwf.org/population.

A Good Year for Peregrines
NWF and its partners in Vermont's Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project had reasons to celebrate in 2005. In spring, the state removed the bird from its list of endangered species. In fall, 26 of the project's record 32 breeding pairs nested, fledging 61 young--a 20 percent increase in chicks fledged from 2004.

"We are thrilled Vermont's peregrines are doing so well," says Margaret Fowle, an NWF biologist and the project's coordinator. "But we also want to remain vigilant to ensure that the recovery of this amazing bird continues."

Writing Award for Coloradoan
The editors of National Wildlife recently awarded Colorado journalist Paul Tolmé the Trudy Farrand and John Strohm Magazine Writing Award, an honor bestowed annually by NWF for the best writing in the magazine. Tolmé was presented the award for "It's the Emissions, Stupid" (April/May 2005), an article that highlighed strategies for combating global warming pollution.

American Beauties for the Backyard
NWF, partners set to debut line of native plants

Spring's a season when many homeowners have planting on the brain. They trek to local garden centers in search of new flora, but are often left confused by all the choices: Is the plant I like good for wildlife? Does it grow naturally in my area? A groundbreaking program giving native plants their own brand name will help eliminate this guesswork.

NWF has partnered with North Creek Nurseries and Prides Corner Farms to create the American Beauties™ collection. Approximately 100 varieties of native plants and their cultivars, including trees, shrubs, perennials and grasses, will be included in the new line, which will be sold at garden centers from New England to the Mid-Atlantic beginning in March.

"The Federation encourages people to landscape with wildlife in mind, and incorporating natives is a big part of that," says Greg Griffith, NWF's director of cause-related marketing. "Native plants require less water, fertilizer and pest control than exotics, and they provide animals with food and shelter."

American Beauties plants will come in sage green pots bearing the brand's logo and will be divided into four garden categories--bird, butterfly, dry shade and moist sun. A portion of the proceeds from each plant sold will help fund the Federation's conservation and education work. Learn

Counties Crow
Florida and Virginia communities share habitat distinction

The race to become the first-ever county certified as an NWF Community Wildlife Habitat is over, and it is … a tie. On September 30, both Broward County, Florida, and Arlington County, Virginia, submitted the final paperwork to simultaneously become the 12th and 13th community habitats in the country--and the largest by a wide margin.

The counties worked for years to achieve certification. For Arlington, that meant registering at least 300 homes, seven public spaces (such as parks and businesses) and five schools as Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ sites, which provide animals with food, water, shelter and places to raise young. Broward County was required to register at least 800 homes, ten common areas and six schools.

"Both counties exceeded those goals," says Roxanne Paul, assistant coordinator for habitat education programs. "I think people felt responsible for giving back some of what has disappeared," she adds, noting that much of the native habitat in these communities has been lost to development in recent decades. See www.nwf.org/backyardwildlifehabitat.

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