Action Report: December/January 2008

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

12-01-2007 // NWF Staff

Examining the Impact of Rising Sea Levels
New studies analyze the threat global warming poses to two of the nation's most beloved coastal ecosystems

Rising sea levels could swamp irreplaceable wildlife habitat on both coasts within the next century and endanger the futures of several native species, according to recent NWF reports on two of the nation's most important coastal ecosystems, the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound. Along with the warning, the reports also offer concrete steps to protect wildlife in those regions from the threat of global warming.

The Puget Sound study, Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Habitats in the Pacific Northwest, published in July, analyzes a range of sea-level rise scenarios put forth by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, from a three-inch rise by 2025 to a rise of more than two feet by 2100. It warns that a rise of two feet--considered a moderate prediction--would cause nearly two-thirds of the Tacoma area's beaches to be lost to erosion. As much as 44 percent of the sound's tidal flats could disappear, and a quarter of the region's tidal freshwater marshes could be lost.

"Global warming isn't just about melting glaciers thousands of miles away," says Patty Glick, the senior global warming specialist at NWF's Western Natural Resource Center and author of the report. "It could have a dramatic impact on the health of our beloved coastlines, marine life, even the size of the snowpack that feeds the Columbia River system."

All this could have a dramatic effect on the already imperiled salmon, orcas and shorebirds that make their homes in the Pacific Northwest.

"You may not think variations at the shoreline impact whales that spend most of their time in deep waters, but small changes can set off a chain reaction," says Glick. "When salmon are threatened by habitat changes, lack of food and warmer water, orcas suddenly can't find enough food to live and reproduce."

In its recommendations, the report says that policy-makers and planners must account for global warming in habitat restoration efforts and incorporate sea-level rise in coastal development plans. Above all, the report cautions, public officials must not use the uncertainties of climate change as an excuse for inaction.

The second report, The Chesapeake Bay and Global Warming, focuses on the threat a warming climate poses to hunting, angling and other outdoor pursuits in the Chesapeake. "For anglers, increasing temperatures could mean fewer striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, soft-shelled clams and winter flounder," says NWF senior scientist Doug Inkley. "For waterfowl enthusiasts, less bountiful hunting seasons can be expected as waterfowl fly south later or stop short of their usual wintering grounds."

Along with inundating coastal marshes and other habitats and making valuable coastal property more vulnerable to flooding, global warming will make the already ailing Chesapeake Bay sicker, warns the report. Warmer air and water will alter the composition of the bay ecosystem, worsen dead zones and algal blooms, exacerbate marine diseases and encourage the proliferation of invasive species such as nutria. More extreme weather events such as floods, droughts and heat waves will send more polluted runoff into the bay.

As in the Puget Sound report, NWF recommends that policy-makers allow for global warming in their planning for the Chesapeake's future by protecting wetlands and forests from encroaching urban development. The study also calls on Congress to place mandatory limits on the nation's global warming pollution in order to reach an 80 percent reduction below current emissions by 2050, and it urges the federal government to provide adequate, dedicated funding for conservation. State legislatures in Virginia and Maryland should also ensure adequate funding to meet existing conservation goals and address the new challenges posed by a warming Chesapeake.

"The warning bell has sounded, the threat has been identified, and the solutions have been presented," says NWF President Larry Schweiger. "Today the Chesapeake Bay is a sportsman's paradise. Whether or not it will remain so for our children and grandchildren will depend on how well we are able to confront the challenge set before us." Learn about sealevel rise in the Chesapeake Bay.

Good Reading
NWF's award-winning print magazines also publish web-exclusive content for both children and adults. Find news articles, crafts, conservation tips and more. View NWF's magazines.

Adopt a Bear
Protect imperiled species in America by "adopting" a polar bear or other animal. Your contribution will help support NWF's conservation efforts. Go to the online catalog or call 1-800-822-9919.

Focus the Nation
Join NWF for "The 2% Solution," a live broadcast on January 30 to kick off the "Focus the Nation" teach-in to discuss global warming solutions. To learn more, visit www.nwf.org/campusecology.

Conservation Heroes Honored
For his pioneering efforts over the past three decades to awaken America to the reality of global warming and the need for action, former Vice President Al Gore was named NWF's 2007 Ding Darling Conservationist of the Year. The Federation celebrated his accomplishments and those of 12 other individuals and organizations at its annual National Conservation Achievement Awards dinner in Washington, D.C., in early November. Honoring those who take a leadership role in protecting wildlife and wild places has been an NWF tradition since 1965.

"Whether through education, advocacy or organizational leadership, each of our award winners inspires others to unite in the common cause of conservation," says Marie Uehling, director of NWF donor stewardship and an organizer of the recognition event. Among the honorees was Annie Sugrue, who has seen the EcoCity initiative she cofounded in South Africa--a poverty-alleviation program that promotes sustainable economic development--imitated around the world. Another award recipient, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has tackled greenhouse gas pollution head-on by securing passage of strong environmental regulations that other states have modeled.

To read bios of all the winners and to view images from the event, visit www.nwf.org/about/connieawards2007.cfm.

Judge to Army Corps: Halt!
Ruling in favor of NWF and Environmental Defense, a federal judge recently ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not to build the St. John's Bayou/New Madrid Floodway Project in Missouri. The conservation groups successfully argued that the project would destroy tens of thousands of acres of wetland habitat while failing to provide the flood-control benefits it promised.

Hatching Future Wildlife Stewards
NWF's Oregon affiliate helps students raise native fish species for release

For decades, volunteers have played a key role in the restoration of native fish stocks in Oregon. Schoolchildren who hatch trout and salmon in their classrooms are among those lending a hand. Their efforts are bolstered by the contributions of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS).

Twice a year, members of the NWF affiliate deliver fish eggs--provided by the Salmon-Trout Enhancement Program of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife--to participating classrooms, where the eggs are placed in refrigerated tanks (right) often provided by ANWS. The students conduct daily water-quality testing to ensure healthy growing conditions for the fish.

"It takes about 32 days for the eggs to hatch," says ANWS volunteer LeRoy Schultz. "Then it's time to release the fry." Last year, the kids and their ANWS partners discharged roughly 156,000 young fish into local lakes and streams.

"The students take tremendous pride in ownership," says Schultz, explaining it's one of the reasons why ANWS has been involved in the education project for the past 25 years. "People who feel a connection to fish want to protect them." See www.nwsteelheaders.org.

What's Yours Is Mined
Coalition calls for law reform to protect public lands

NWF, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership have set their sights on reforming the federal Mining Act of 1872, which has allowed hardrock mining operations to damage wildlife habitat and pollute waterways for more than a century. This past summer, the groups launched the Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining Campaign.

Under current law, more than 270 million acres of Western public land are open for private mineral claims. The U.S. government receives little compensation for this private use of the land--and no money for the minerals removed--yet it's often left to pay for the costly devastation left in mining's wake. To address these concerns, the campaign is calling on Congress to: 1) better protect clean water, fish and wildlife from mining's adverse impacts, 2) assess a royalty on minerals taken from public lands, 3) provide incentives to enable "good samaritans" to clean up abandoned mines, and 4) prohibit the sale of public lands claimed by mining companies. To learn more, visit www.sensiblemining.org.

Habitats for Houston Schools
Texas's Houston Independent School District has set an ambitious goal: Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat™ site at each of its 202 elementary schools in the next five years. Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra made the announcement at an environmental education summit co-hosted by NWF in August. "Hopefully other districts around the country will follow Houston's lead," says Alice Nance, manager of education programs at NWF's Gulf States Natural Resource Center. "There is no better way to get children excited about nature than giving them the opportunity to experience it firsthand." See www.nwf.org/schoolyard.

New NWF DVD for Preschoolers
NWF recently debuted a new title in its award-winning Wild Animal Baby® series: Flying Whales and Other Stories. The DVD, for ages two and up, combines animation with live-action footage to promote nature appreciation, literacy, simple math concepts and development of motor skills. For more details about the product, including how to purchase a copy, visit the Wild Animal Baby website.

FACES OF NWF
In the seven decades since it was founded, the National Wildlife Federation could not have achieved so much conservation success without the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers, members, state affiliate leaders and supporters from all across the country--people like those discussed below. To learn about how you can get involved, and to find links to state affiliates, visit www.nwf.org.

Boat Captain Reels Them In
NWF global warming ambassador reaches out to anglers in the Southeast

Dan Kipnis does not consider himself a typical conservationist: He has spent a lifetime reeling in the most impressive fish Florida's coastal waters have to offer--and encouraging others to do the same. As an angler, charter boat captain and organizer of sportfishing tournaments, he says, "I've slain more animals than just about anyone." But in recent years, Kipnis has seen for himself the terrible damage that humans have inflicted on Florida fisheries and has shifted his focus from catching the big one to convincing his fellow anglers that their paradise is at risk, particularly from global warming.

Kipnis holds multiple saltwater fishing world records and is a past president of the Miami Beach Rod and Reel Club, all of which gives him instant credibility in his newest role: working with NWF as a global warming ambassador to the angling community. He travels throughout the Southeast giving presentations on how a warming Earth will affect sportfishing. Kipnis believes he can already see climate change in action. "I notice the water going up higher on pylons," he says. The Miami Beach native remembers a childhood of plentiful fish and summer days that rarely topped 88 degrees F. "Now it gets up to 94 and stays that way," he says.

Kipnis, who is also on the board of the Florida Wildlife Federation, an NWF affiliate, adapted the presentations from Nobel Prize winner Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth slide show, incorporating information specific to threatened fisheries around the country. He is finding a receptive audience among anglers: "I think they're concerned about the environment," he says. "Climate change is not yet on their radar screen, but it will be. The temperature rise will affect them."

And if anyone can convince them of that, it is Kipnis, whose presentations have been earning standing ovations from his angler audiences. F.G. Courtney, director of NWF's Southeastern Natural Resource Center, says that Kipnis's energy and enthusiasm are infectious. "His passion for these fisheries, and the way he delivers information with a sense of urgency that we take action to address global warming," she says, "make him an indefatigable force to be reckoned with."

Become a Global Warming Speaker
Want to help spread the word about how global warming is affecting--and could affect--the outdoor traditions you hold dear? NWF is recruiting individuals from across the country to give slide show presentations to sportsmen and other nature enthusiasts. For information on training opportunities, as well as steps you can take to combat climate change, visit www.targetglobalwarming.org.

Supporting Work to Save Species
A founding member of NWF's J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle of donors, Gwendolen Stoughton has actively supported efforts to protect wildlife for as long as she can remember. She grew up in the Hoosier State, near the Lake Michigan coast. Regularly exploring the area that would become Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with her family helped spark her love of nature. She recalls her parents being among the "generations that fought tooth and nail" to secure federal protection for the lakeside oasis. Eventually, she received a doctorate in biopsychology and became a teacher.

Though she now resides in Southern California, Stoughton jests she's "still scratching the mosquito bites" from her many visits to J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge near her second home on Sanibel Island, Florida. It was there among the mangroves and mud flats that she honed her wildlife photography skills. "People like Gwendolen are the backbone of our work," says Christopher Harvey, an NWF director of development. "Her support of NWF and the nation's conservation community is unflagging."

To learn more about the J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle, visit www.nwf.org/dingdarling.

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