Action Report: June/July 2008

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

06-01-2008 // NWF Staff

One Night in Nature
Campout event helps families connect with world outside their doors

Last summer, Donna Wible's daughters, then ages 6 and 8, begged her to take them camping near their home at Washington's Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Wible, whose husband was deployed to the Middle East, was reluctant to camp without him until she discovered that the base was participating in the Great American Backyard Campout®--a one-night, nationwide event, cosponsored by NWF, that encourages families and individuals to get outside and sleep under the stars, even in their own backyards. "I thought this would be an easier way to let them go camping," says Wible.

As it turned out, the Whidbey Island event was not only easy but also lots of fun. More than 100 campers turned out for the beachfront campout, which included a nature walk, bird-watching, Dutch oven cooking lessons, and a campfire gathering with songs and skits. At the end of the campout, each family filled out a survey about the experience. "The only negative anyone put down was that it was too short," says Dave Myers, the outdoor program manager at the naval air station who planned the outing. This year, he is solving that problem by expanding the campout to two nights. And once again, the group will focus on keeping it green; last year, the whole event produced less than 20 gallons of waste. "Everything else was compostable or recyclable," says Myers.

The fourth annual Great American Backyard Campout will be held June 28, 2008, and thousands have already registered online. The number of people participating in the event has steadily grown each year; in 2007, more than 40,000 campers joined in the action.

"The best part about the Great American Backyard Campout is how easy it is," says Eliza Russell, NWF director of education. "Many of our campers from past years have told us that this was the first time they'd ever camped. It's a great activity for everyone and a fun way to spend a night with neighbors and friends."

For more information, including a list of camping essentials, or to register for this year's Great American Backyard Campout, visit www.backyardcampout.org.

Give Kids a Green Hour
To encourage parents and other caregivers to get outside with their kids to discover the wonders of nature, NWF is actively promoting a program called Green Hour™. For information about the initiative, including ideas for family fun and exploration, visit our Green Hour section.

Victory for Endangered Species
A U.S. court of appeals recently upheld an injunction that prohibits the Federal Emergency Management Agency from issuing flood insurance for new development in the sensitive habitats of the Florida Key deer and seven other federally listed species. The decision is the latest ruling in a lawsuit filed by NWF, Florida Wildlife Federation and Defenders of Wildlife.

Lend a Hand
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 our volunteer section.

NWF Tree Guide Now Available
Leaves, bark, fruits and flowers are among the topics discussed in NWF's newest resource: Field Guide to Trees of North America. The book is filled with thousands of color photographs, depicting more than 700 species. Special features include a quick-flip index, waterproof cover and a unique identification tip for each tree. The guide, produced by Sterling Publishing, is the third in a series; previous titles focused on birds and insects. All of the NWF field guides are available at Barnes and Noble retail stores and www.bn.com.

American Beauties Bring Life to D.C.
Through mid-October, an NWF demonstration habitat will be on display at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. The Federation's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ partner, American Beauties, provided native plants for the exhibition. Trees, vines, shrubs, grasses and wildflowers from the company are available at garden centers throughout the East and Midwest. A portion of the proceeds from each American Beauties plant sold helps to fund NWF's conservation work. See www.abnativeplants.com.

Take Action: Speak Up for Wildlife
Help pass the most important conservation legislation in American history

Do you ever look to the future and try to imagine the world our children and grandchildren may grow up in? With all the news these days about global warming and how it is impacting the environment, this picture might be scary. However, it doesn't have to be.

NWF is working hard to pass a new global warming bill in Congress that we feel is the most important wildlife conservation legislation in America's history. The Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act will not only reduce the global warming pollution that is impacting wildlife habitat across the country, it will also put billions of dollars toward helping wildlife--and people--survive a changing climate.

Your senators will soon be voting on this measure, and you can help influence the outcome by urging them to support the bill. For more information about this legislation, including how you can speak up for wildlife, visit our Global Warming page.

A Plan for Salmon Recovery
New report offers solutions to help endangered fish face global warming

As this issue went to press, federal agencies were preparing to unveil their fourth court-ordered plan to recover salmon and steelhead in the Columbia and Snake Rivers of the Northwest. (Three previous Biological Opinions were ruled illegal for failing to comply with the Endangered Species Act.) In advance of this release, conservation groups published a report, titled A Great Wave Rising, that documents the effects of global warming on the fish and outlines meaningful steps to help them.

"We offer a scientifically robust strategy that has so far been missing in federal actions," says Patty Glick, NWF senior policy specialist and co-author of the report. "Solutions are not only available; they can and must be implemented now."

The report identifies three principles to incorporate into the salmon recovery plan that are global warming specific: reconnect salmon to high headwater habitats; protect healthy flows and cool waters in headwater areas; and reduce human-caused mortalities to adult and juvenile fish in the main stems of the Columbia and Snake Rivers. To read the full report, including detailed recommendations based on these principles, visit our News section.

Challenging the Department of Energy
Eleven conservation groups, led by NWF and the Piedmont Environmental Council, recently sued the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for blatantly violating the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act when it designated the mid-Atlantic National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. These laws required DOE to study the impacts of the designation on wildlife and other natural resources to ensure that informed decisions are made and that endangered species are adequately protected.

Stretching from upstate New York through Ohio, the mid-Atlantic corridor spans eight states and covers 116,000 square miles. Within this area, proposed utility and power line projects will be subject to "fast-track" approval, bypassing state-level processes for locating infrastructure, overriding U.S. environmental laws and enabling federal condemnation of private land for new high-voltage transmission lines.

"The Department of Energy has ignored the public interest in favor of power companies," says Randy Sargent Neppl, wildlife conservation counsel at NWF. The groups are asking a U.S. district court to compel DOE to perform an environmental impact statement on the corridor and consult with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over impacts to endangered species as required by law.

Because the current designation would rely on some of the country's oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants to service the region's power demands, the groups are also asking that DOE go back and consider more eco-friendly alternatives.

Rethink Plastics
For their latest campaign, members of NWF's Alaska Youth for Environmental Action program are adding a fourth "R" to the reduce, reuse, recycle mix: rethink. Their goal is to get Alaskans to re-examine their use of plastics and cut down on consumption and waste. To learn about their education and advocacy efforts, as well as ways you can help in your community, visit www.ayea.org.

Retirement Works for Wildlife
Thanks to a deal brokered by NWF, cattle will no longer graze in a section of prime wildlife habitat south of Yellowstone National Park. A rancher has agreed to retire his grazing privileges on 34,500 acres of public land in Shoshone National Forest where his livestock have experienced repeated run-ins with grizzly bears and wolves.

Since 2002, NWF has been working with ranchers willing to accept payment to stop grazing livestock in areas where chronic wildlife conflicts occur--money that most ranchers use to secure grazing rights on other lands. NWF Special Projects Coordinator Hank Fischer calls these retirements "a common sense solution" to contentious problems. "We protect core wildlife areas, and ranchers run their livestock in more profitable locations," he adds. "This program succeeds because it works for both parties."

So far, says Fischer, about 550,000 acres have been retired in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Building a Balanced Energy Plan
A new study helps chart a clean, cost-efficient course in Alaska

A recent report prepared by NWF's Alaska Project Office details how The Last Frontier can meet its energy needs cost-effectively over the coming decades by employing a balanced combination of energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas.

Produced for the Alaska Clean Energy Campaign, an Alaska-based coalition focused on reducing both energy costs and greenhouse gas pollution from the energy sector in the state, the landmark study focuses on the so-called "Railbelt"--the area stretching from Homer on the Kenai Peninsula through Anchorage to Fairbanks--where most of the state's energy is consumed. "The goal of this report is to help people make informed decisions about how best to craft Alaska's energy future," says NWF Project Manager Pat Lavin, one of the contributors to A Balanced Energy Plan. "It is exciting to see the many clean, affordable ways that Alaska can meet its energy needs."

Among other things, the study suggests embracing greater energy efficiency measures, developing geothermal power from volcanic sources such as Mt. Spurr and harnessing the powerful Cook Inlet winds offshore of Anchorage. If implemented, the plan could reduce the region's greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming by 25 percent in the next three decades. To read the full report, visit our Alaska Regional Center.

Campuses Provide Climate Leadership
As members of Congress consider legislation that seeks to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by mid-century (see "Speak Up for Wildlife," above), they might look to colleges and universities for keys to conserving energy and cutting pollution. Campuses nationwide have launched projects that are taking a significant bite out of emissions--and saving money--according to Higher Education in a Warming World: The Business Case for Climate Leadership on Campus. The report, produced by NWF's Campus Ecology® program, showcases more than 100 schools that are stepping up efforts to combat global warming and how these institutions are reaping multiple rewards.

"As traditional hubs of innovation, colleges can model emission reductions that can be replicated by companies and communities," says Kevin Coyle, NWF's vice president of education. "They can also generate the research and inventions that will be needed for large reductions while preparing a workforce that will embrace opportunities for a new low-carbon, energy-smart economy." To read the full report, go to Campus Ecology.

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