Action Report: December/January 2009

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

12-01-2008 // NWF Staff

Yazoo Pumps Get Dumped
Veto of Army Corps project saves Mississippi wetlands from destruction

A half century ago, members of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation (MWF), an NWF affiliate, set out to defeat the costly Yazoo Pumps Project that threatened wetland resources in the state's Delta region. In the years that followed, they met with officials, penned editorials and took legal action. Gathering allies in the fight was also central to their battle strategy, says Gerald Barber, MWF past president and former chair of NWF's board of directors: "It doesn't matter who gets the credit, just so long as we win."

That sought-after victory finally came in late August when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed the Yazoo Pumps under the Clean Water Act, putting an end to the federal boondoggle conceived by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers back in 1941. More than 45,000 citizens, including 5,874 NWF volunteer activists, called on the EPA to "dump the pumps" during a public comment period last spring, accounting for 99.9 percent of the feedback received. And for the first time since the project's inception, testimonials of Yazoo opponents outnumbered those of supporters at an EPA hearing about the veto in April.

Proposed for construction just north of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the Yazoo Pumps would have drained more than 200,000 acres of wetlands--an area roughly the size of New York City--to help make more land available for crop production. Wealthy agribusiness owners who stood to reap the most rewards lobbied hard for the project for decades. "They claimed the Delta as their own, while asking for our money," says Barber. "But the environment is for all of us."

George Sorvalis, manager of NWF water resources campaigns and coordinator of the Corps Reform Network, credits diverse groups advocating for conservation and fiscal responsibility for helping to sway EPA's decision-making. The veto, which is only the 12th in the agency's history, ensures that Delta wetlands will continue to boost water quality, reduce the impacts of flooding and provide critical habitat to a diverse array of fish and wildlife species, including one of the largest gatherings of wintering waterfowl in the country. It also saves American taxpayers more than $220 million.

"Faith-based, civic, community and youth organizations came together with environmental groups to change the course of history in the Mississippi Delta," says Sorvalis. "With the Yazoo project threat now behind us, the door opens up to some new opportunities--the potential to grow a local economy that emphasizes the value of these tremendous wetlands resources." See www.corpsreform.org.

Photographer Honored
For his efforts to promote habitat protection, Florian Schulz was recently named the 2008 Conservation Photographer of the Year by NWF and the Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice Awards, sponsored by Canon USA. The honor recognizes an individual whose images advance work to protect the natural world and the environment. To read about the 2007 winner, see this issue's feature "Passion with a Purpose."

Green Expo: Making It Real
NWF recently cohosted a green expo in Seattle with the goal of moving beyond the talk about "green jobs" and a "green economy" to action. The event highlighted business and career opportunities that are being created by the growing need for energy independence and environmental protection. It also provided examples of clean energy technologies and associated workforce training programs from around the region to help participants better understand the nature and potential of green-collar jobs. "These opportunities can help us achieve a sustainable future in which people, industry and the environment all benefit," says Katie Manuel of NWF's Western Natural Resource Center.

Share Your Backyard Wildlife Photos
What kind of wildlife does your garden attract? NWF wants to see. Certified Wildlife Habitat™ owners and others are invited to be part of a new, free photo-sharing group. Images of winter visitors are currently being sought.

Prized California Landscape Preserved
Landmark agreement protects 240,000 wildlife-rich acres at Tejon Ranch

About 60 miles north of Los Angeles is a 270,000-acre working ranch that is the largest contiguous private landholding in California. With landscapes ranging from native grasslands to Joshua tree woodlands to oak and fir forests, Tejon Ranch contains critical foraging habitat for the endangered California condor and is home to more than two dozen other rare plant and animal species. To keep this biodiversity hot spot intact, NWF's California affiliate, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), helped negotiate a historic conservation and land-use agreement that will protect 240,000 acres, or roughly 90 percent of the property.

"We got out in front of the development process to protect natural resources and achieve a great conservation bottom line," says Gary Patton, general counsel for PCL. While landowner Tejon Ranch Company retains the right to propose development of the remaining acreage for housing and business use, the proposals are subject to environmental review and can be legally challenged by groups not party to the agreement. An independent nonprofit, created and funded under the agreement, will oversee management of the conserved lands. To learn more, visit www.pcl.org.

Just for Fun
Brand new from the editors of NWF's award-winning Ranger Rick® magazine, Just for Fun™ is filled with wildlife-themed puzzles, games, crafts and activities for children ages 5 and up. To learn more about this quarterly publication, visit Kids Magazines.

Trailblazer Shares Her Passion
Member's support helps NWF grow its conservation and education efforts

Kathryn Cochrane surrounds herself with nature: She paints it, writes about it, reads about it and spends as much time as possible outdoors immersed in it. The longtime NWF member began her deep connection with the natural world more than 60 years ago during her childhood in Ohio, where she birded and explored wildflower meadows with her mother and father. In 1960 she was hired as the National Park Service's first woman landscape architect in the East, a position that allowed her to, among other jobs, design landscaping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which straddles the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.

Cochrane recalls some resistance on the part of the project's laborers--all men--when she first showed up. But in the end, the workers presented her with a beautiful handcrafted stool. "They told me, 'If we ever have to work for a woman again, we hope she's like you.'"

Eventually Cochrane and her husband, Douglas, settled in northern Virginia, where as a volunteer she helped design a neighborhood park and ensured the environmental sensitivity of a local sewer project. Her hobbies include painting landscapes and writing poetry about the outdoors.

"Kathy blazed a trail at the Park Service and she continues to inspire people to enjoy nature," says Tim Brady, NWF director of development. "We are grateful to Kathy and her husband Doug for leading by example and for providing the financial resources that help NWF to protect wildlife and habitat." The Cochranes are members of the Federation's J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle, a group of supporters who each provide an annual tax-deductible gift of $1,000 or more.

For her part, Cochrane says she appreciates that NWF focuses on "the whole big picture" of the environment, including fighting global warming and connecting people--particularly kids--with nature. "As one who was involved at a child," she says, "it disturbs me now that children spend all this time on the computer rather than walking along the lane, looking for frogs." See Ding Darling.

Donate Real Estate and Help Wildlife
NWF has long been at the forefront of efforts to create positive change in the conservation of our world's natural resources--whether it's promoting efforts to reduce carbon emissions or helping to protect wildlife and habitat. Support from members is key to this success, and donating real estate is among the ways individuals can lend a hand. Donors may even receive lifetime income and significant tax benefits as a result. For the free brochure "Giving Real Estate," call 1-800-332-4949.

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