Action Report: February/March 2007

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

02-01-2007 // NWF Staff

NWF Priority: Restoring the Great Lakes
Coalition seeks help from elected leaders to advance conservation strategy

As the new Congress settles in, NWF is ramping up its campaign to secure federal action to restore the Great Lakes, source of one-fifth of the world’s fresh water. An immediate priority is convincing lawmakers to activate and provide permanent funding for an electric barrier to stop invasive Asian carp from entering the lakes. The carp, which were imported by Mississippi Basin catfish farmers three decades ago to help keep their ponds clean, are prolific breeders and voracious eaters. Floods in the 1990s allowed the fish to escape and begin their northward journey. Funding for a temporary barrier is set to run out by year’s end, and Congress has not yet approved funds to operate a new one. “If we’re unable to keep the Asian carp out, the already fragile and damaged Great Lakes would be put at increased risk,” says Jeff Skelding, senior manager of NWF’s Great Lakes Restoration Campaign.

As important as it is, the barrier is just one project on the agenda of the Healing Our Waters™–Great Lakes (HOW) coalition, a group of 90 national, regional and local organizations—including NWF’s Great Lakes affiliates—and led by NWF and the National Parks Conservation Association. HOW’s comprehensive plan to combat sewage contamination, rid the lakes of aquatic invasive species and restore habitat and native fisheries, among other activities, spawned the Great Lakes Restoration Implementation Act. That federal legislation was introduced into Congress in 2006 and has received bipartisan support—including the unanimous backing of Michigan’s congressional delegation.

“Michigan’s hunters and anglers understand that the health of our natural resources is at stake,” says Sam Washington, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, an NWF affiliate, which played a key role in persuading the state’s representatives to sign on to the legislation.

In the run-up to November’s elections, NWF and its allies won a key victory by getting Congress to double the authorization—from $40 million to $80 million over 5 years—for fish and wildlife restoration. That is an important piece of the coalition’s comprehensive strategy, which NWF hopes to advance this year.

With a new party in control of both houses of Congress, the campaign faces a new crop of legislators who need to be convinced of the urgency of the Great Lakes situation. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, says Skelding: “Given the results of Election Day, I would say that our hopes for Great Lakes restoration have greatly improved.

“But we’re not out of the woods yet,” he adds. “Every day we wait to clean up the lakes the problems get worse and more costly. We’re counting on the incoming Congress to act to restore the lakes.”

To learn more about the HOW coalition and its efforts, visit Healthy Lake's Website.

Annual Meeting
“America’s Conservation Future: Renewing Our Heritage” is the theme for NWF’s 2007 annual meeting, to be held at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., March 29-31.

Distance Learning
Free online classes about wildlife and wild places are just a few keystrokes away at NWF’s Campus Stewardship Courses™. For information about course subjects and registration.

Smithsonain Exhibit
The 2006 winners of the annual National Wildlife Photography Awards competition are on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History through March 19. Visit Smithsonian Museum of Natural History's Best Photos of 2006.

Climate Conference: Tribes Gather for Historic Event
Dialogue centers on global warming impacts and finding viable solutions

Representatives from 55 Native American tribes from around the country gathered in Somerton, Arizona, in early December to talk about how their reservations, cultures and lives are being affected by global warming. NWF and the Cocopah Indian Nation partnered to host the conference, the first-ever event of its kind.

“Native Americans are important eyewitnesses to our changing planet,” says Garrit Voggesser, manager of the Federation’s Tribal Lands Conservation Program. “It was very important to see how other tribes are feeling the effects of climate change and their ideas on how we can solve it,” adds Verner Wilson, a member of the Curyung Tribe, Yup’ik Eskimo.

Many tribes have already taken steps to reduce global warming pollution by investing in renewable energy (wind turbine on Rosebud Sioux Reservation, left) and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Conference participants discussed the importance of finding solutions that foster not only economic development and natural resource sustainability but also cultural preservation. Learn more at www.tribalclimate.org.

Wins for Wildlife in Washington
Voters cast ballots with healthy environment and habitat protection in mind

A majority of voters in Washington State said “yes” and “no” on Election Day last November. They weren’t being wishy-washy. They were ensuring victories for wildlife.

NWF and its affiliate the Washington Wildlife Federation (WWF) urged citizens to support I-937, the Clean Energy Initiative, and oppose I-933, the Property Fairness Act of 2006. The two groups sent letters, made phone calls and went door-to-door to increase public awareness of the ballot measures.

The defeat of I-933 helps prevent loopholes from being created that would open the door to irresponsible development in the state. “It also safeguards critical habitat protections for species such as salmon and steelhead,” says WWF President John McGlenn. Passage of I-937, meanwhile, requires large utilities to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020.

According to a Zogby post-election survey, American voters want the U.S. government to follow the lead of states such as Washington: 75 percent of them say “Congress should pass legislation promoting renewable and alternative energy sources as an effective way to reduce global warming pollution.”

NWF and its affiliates also won important ballot initiative victories in four other states.

Volunteers Tune in to Frog Talk
Volunteers are the lifeblood of Frogwatch USA, a long-term frog and toad monitoring program launched by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1998. In 2002, NWF joined forces with the federal agency and agreed to recruit, train and coordinate “citizen scientists” for the effort. Under NWF’s management, the number of frogwatchers has more than doubled.

“Frogwatch USA is truly national in scope and has the potential to yield information on frogs and toads comparable to that for birds from the Christmas Bird Count program,” says NWF Senior Science Advisor Doug Inkley, noting that there are volunteers in every state except North Dakota. “Over time, the information that is collected by citizens will contribute to the growing body of knowledge about the status and health of amphibians in the United States.”

Melinda Hughes-Wert, manager of volunteer programs at NWF, credits the program’s growing popularity to its educational value: “It’s a wonderful family activity, providing children and adults with the opportunity to learn about the environment.”

To participate in recording different wildlife sitings visit Wildlife Watch.

Chill Out!
Colleges across the country are taking action to confront global warming—and NWF wants to recognize the schools that are “leading the way to a more sustainable future.” The Federation’s Campus Ecology® program is sponsoring a contest in which entrants will be eligible to win grant funding and be featured in a nationwide multimedia broadcast on Earth Day, April 18. Visit the Chill Out site.

Plan to Smash Mercury Advances
Pennsylvania’s coal-fired power plants currently rank second in the nation for toxic mercury emissions—a situation that NWF and its affiliate the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs (PFSC) want to see changed.

Last year, the two groups and 1,600 of their supporters submitted comments in support of a Department of Environmental Protection proposal to cut mercury pollution from the Keystone State’s power plants. They won an important victory in November when the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted in favor of the plan, which calls for an 80 percent reduction in mercury emissions by 2010 and a 90 percent reduction by 2015. The proposal also rejects the federal government’s so-called “cap and trade” program.

“The federal mercury rule allows Pennsylvania plants to purchase emissions credits rather than make pollution reductions at their stacks,” said Melody Zullinger, PFSC’s executive director, at a public hearing on the proposal. “This is not an acceptable solution for Pennsylvania, especially because we know that the pollution from these plants ends up in our local waters, fish, wildlife and the people who eat them.” For the latest updates, visit the Mercury Action Center.

Gardening for Wildlife: Students Make Good on a Promise
Hawaii school celebrates landmark achievement

“I pledge allegiance to the Earth, and to all life that it nourishes.” So begins the oath that students and teachers at Kawaiaha’o Church School in Honolulu recite each day, in which they promise “to protect life on our planet, to live in harmony with nature and to share our resources justly, so that all people can live with dignity, in good health and in peace.”

Federation President Larry Schweiger and representatives of the Conservation Council for Hawai‘i, an NWF affiliate, participated in a recent ceremony honoring Kawaiaha’o as Hawaii’s first NWF-certified schoolyard habitat. Schweiger praised the school community for making good on its pledge—for “creating a wildlife-friendly space that kids can be part of.” Each class is responsible for tending a portion of the outdoor garden, which hosts a variety of native Hawaiian and Polynesian plants.

Get more information about NWF’s Schoolyard Habitats® program.

Promoting Earth-Friendly Travel
NWF develops sustainable tourism practices to help protect the planet

With support from a number of charitable foundations and fellow nonprofits, NWF has been building on its efforts to promote eco-friendly travel.

The Federation’s campaign to protect Alaska’s Prince William Sound got a boost recently from the Oak Foundation, which awarded NWF a $100,000 grant to develop its sustainable tourism work in the wildlife-rich region.

“Sustainable tourism can be a tremendous tool for boosting local economies, building appreciation for the natural environment and educating the public about the on-the-ground impacts of global warming,” says Tony Turrini of NWF’s Alaska Natural Resource Center.

Meanwhile, a new partnership with Carbonfund.org will allow NWF to provide its members with an easy and affordable way to neutralize the global warming impact created by driving, flying and other activities through the purchase of carbon offsets. Reduce you global warming impact.


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, including links to state affiliates, visit NWF's homepage.

Conservation Heroes Honored
For growing the National Park System and helping to secure passage of key environmental laws such as the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act during his career in public service, former Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall was named NWF’s 2006 Ding Darling Conservationist of the Year. The Federation celebrated his accomplishments and those of 15 other individuals and organizations at its annual National Conservation Achievement Awards dinner in Washington, D.C., last fall. Honoring those who take a leadership role in protecting wildlife and wild places has been an NWF tradition for more than 40 years.

Federation supporters Marie Ridder and Deborah Spalding served as co-chairs of the awards event. “They are heroes in their own right, devoting many hours to help our organization reach its fundraising goal for the banquet—and ultimately helping us achieve success in our conservation work,” says Marie Uehling, director of NWF donor stewardship. Learn more about the Conservation Achievement Awards.

Power of Nature: The Velvet Wings of Healing

As a trained Habitat Steward Host, Lisa E. Carver teaches other NWF volunteers how to develop and implement habitat restoration projects in their communities. In the following, she reflects on her own experience introducing wildlife to some of her neighbors.

I wanted to enrich the lives of the elderly in my hometown of Mooresville, North Carolina, through NWF’s Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. Fortunately, my call to the activities director of a local skilled nursing facility was met with enthusiasm, and after nine weeks of planning and planting, our project was ready for certification.

The residents were so excited to see wildlife again. They bought a salt lick for the deer and called their families to bring birdbaths from their former homes. I made a large fly-through feeder and several other feeders were donated. I placed the first one outside the windows of the main dining room. The residents lined up in wheelchairs and held to their walkers, clapping as we filled it with seed. I placed another feeder at the corner of the property, and soon two cardinals were having a feast. Several weeks later I came by to check on the habitat and see if anyone had questions.

Brian, the assistant activities director, told me a miraculous story. “There’s a resident named Catherine here who’s had a stroke,” he began. “She’s an artist. She’d been completely unresponsive until the backyard habitat was started. When she saw the first feeder go up, she asked her family to bring her paint supplies. I walked into the sunroom yesterday to find her sitting up in a wheelchair doing a watercolor painting!”

I visited Catherine the next day. Above her bed hung a painting of a bird feeder against a blue sky. With difficulty Catherine said, “I hoped to see my velvet angels.” I looked confused, and she pointed outside to some male cardinals dining at a feeder no more than 10 feet away. “Their wings and crests look like velvet,” she added. “They’ve come to help me heal.”

After the great effort of speech, she drifted off to sleep. I turned and quietly left, feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for having the chance to touch her life.

Volunteer for Wildlife
Volunteers contribute to NWF’s conservation successes in countless ways. They create habitat for wildlife in their communities, monitor populations of frogs and toads and help combat global warming, among other activities. “Volunteers expand the reach of NWF,” says Melinda Hughes-Wert, manager of volunteer programs for the Federation. “Their dedication to the organization speaks volumes.” For information about opportunities that match your interests, skills and talents, visit the Volunteer site or call 1-800-822-9919, ext. 6177.

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