Action Report: February/March 2009

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

02-01-2009 // NWF Staff

A Tool for Reducing Risks
Biological opinion calls for changes that will benefit people and wildlife

Five years ago, a federal district court judge in Seattle agreed with an NWF argument that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood insurance program encouraged floodplain development and harmed salmon already threatened with extinction. The judge ordered the agency to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ensure compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

When the consultation concluded last fall, NMFS proclaimed that the National Flood Insurance Program is jeopardizing the survival of not only salmon but the orcas that depend on them for food--in violation of U.S. law. "This biological opinion is expected to trigger significant improvements in the development codes applicable in cities and counties across Puget Sound," says Randy Sargent Neppl, NWF's wildlife conservation counsel. Without implementing the changes called for by NMFS, these localities could lose eligibility for federal flood insurance.

"We have always known that building homes and businesses in the floodplain was dangerous and economically senseless," says John Kostyack, NWF's executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming. "With global warming causing sea level rise and intensified storms, the risks of such development are now higher than ever. With this decision, we now have a tool for reducing risks to both wildlife and people."

Coastal Louisiana Program Honored
After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita severely damaged wildlife habitat in coastal Louisiana, NWF issued a call for volunteers to help restore more than a dozen of the region's parks and refuges. Some 1,400 citizens from across the country answered the appeal, contributing more than 15,000 service hours. In that time, they removed 20,000 pounds of trash and debris, cleared 175 acres of invasive plants, built and installed 450 wood duck nesting boxes, collected 50 pounds of native grass seeds (below) and added 87,000 new plants to forest, prairie and marsh habitats.

This past fall, the Gulf of Mexico Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored NWF with a first-place Gulf Guardian Award for its Coastal Louisiana Habitat Restoration Initiative. EPA launched the awards program in 2000 as a way to recognize the businesses, community groups, individuals and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy and productive. The annual winners, says EPA Regional Administrator Richard E. Greene, "represent the very best in efforts to ensure the Gulf of Mexico region remains a place where people, industry and the environment can continue to thrive."

NWF Annual Meeting
Workshops, restoration projects and guest-speaker presentations are among the events scheduled for NWF's 73rd annual meeting, which will take place April 30–May 2 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This year's theme is "People and Wildlife: Thriving in a Clean Energy Economy." For additional details, including registration information, email events@nwf.org or call 703-438-6299.

Southeast Water Report Released
In the past half century, the population of the U.S. Southeast has doubled, and water use in the region has tripled. With a relatively abundant water supply during this time period, strategies for meeting the demand have not typically accounted for the regular occurrence of drought--making the region vulnerable as the natural cycle of drought returns.

A new scientific report from NWF says global warming may make the Southeast's water supply even more uncertain, due to its potential to cause longer dry periods, heavier rainfall events and rising sea levels that could allow saltwater intrusion into important groundwater aquifers. "Climate changes will affect water supplies to communities and put the amazing biodiversity of the Southeast at risk," says Amanda Staudt, NWF's climate scientist. The region's river basins are globally renowned for fish, amphibians and other freshwater species, many of which are already imperiled.

More Variable and Uncertain Water Supply: Global Warming's Wake-Up Call for the Southeastern United States outlines how the region can better prepare for managing its water availability challenges. 

Great Lakes Compact Enacted
Agreement provides protections for the nation's largest fresh surface water resource

When President Bush signed the historic Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact last fall, farsighted plans to safeguard the Great Lakes were locked in place. The pact protects the nation's largest fresh surface water resource from depletion and diversions by stressing conservation and establishing first-of-its-kind decision-making standards for water use.

"With President Bush's signature, we've given notice that the Rust Belt is turning into the Blue Belt, where our freshwater defines our economic future," says Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of NWF's Great Lakes office. The Federation, working closely with its affiliates and other partners, played a lead role in developing the compact and secured the support of state and national lawmakers to enact the agreement. "The compact," says Buchsbaum, "is important to all the citizens of the Great Lakes region who depend on the lakes for their way of life and for recreational opportunities."

Green Jobs for Alaska Teens
NWF partners with city of Anchorage to provide youth employment in parks

As part of NWF's efforts to help people from diverse backgrounds connect with nature, the Federation's Alaska Youth for Environmental Action, a high school leadership program, has partnered with the city of Anchorage to offer Youth Employment in the Parks (YEP).

In 2008, dozens of teens were employed by the summer jobs program. They spent their days working outdoors in Anchorage parks, doing needed improvement projects, such as trail maintenance and stream-bed restoration, and working with kids in recreation programs.

"YEP has made me so much more aware of global issues, environmental issues and even problems going on in our very own neighborhoods," says Vance Woodruff, a YEP crew member. "It showed me what I can do for my environment and community to make a positive change." To learn more, visit www.ayea.org.

Conservation Heroes
Tim Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, and Thomas Friedman, a columnist for The New York Times, were among the 12 honorees recognized at NWF's 2008 National Conservation Achievement Awards dinner last fall.

Rewards for Pac Purchase
For each junior backpack from its fall collection sold through June 30, Kelty will donate $1 to help support NWF's efforts to connect people with nature (see NWF Get Outside section). In return, NWF will reward purchasers with three free issues of Ranger Rick®, its award-winning nature magazine for kids.

"Teaming up with Kelty, a company already committed to promoting an active outdoor lifestyle, is a fantastic way to help spread our message of wildlife advocacy," says Tony Summers, NWF's director of cause marketing. To learn more, visit www.kelty.com.

Wildlife Week Set for March
Celebrate National Wildlife Week, March 16–20. NWF offers lesson plans and resources to help both educators and parents connect kids with nature right in their own neighborhoods. 

Offer NWF a Helping Hand
Whether you're creating habitat, speaking up for wildlife or assisting with office chores, the volunteer actions you take on NWF's behalf make a difference. Visit NWF Volunteer site.

The Business of Being Green
Member helps fight pollution with eco-friendly products

Jeff Marshall is helping fix the planet's environmental woes, one quart of motor oil at a time. Marshall is the CEO of Green Earth Technologies, Inc. (GET), a growing company that uses research from the emerging field of nanotechnology--which deals in particles on a molecular scale--to create household and automotive products that are renewable and environmentally friendly. The company's motor oil, made from the waste from meat processing plants, is highly biodegradable. Other products, such as car wash solution and windshield water repellent, are made from derivatives of cactus and coconut, "all of which you can wash down the drain without risk to the environment," says Marshall. And the oils and cleaners are created to be effective, not just eco-friendly, he adds. "Our company's slogan is 'Save the Earth--Sacrifice Nothing.'"

Marshall spent decades as a venture capitalist, investing in companies such as Silicon Valley firms working with nanotechnology for medical uses. In 2007, he says, "I became so intrigued by the [green technology] market that I decided to devote myself to it full-time." Marshall has been working ever since to build Green Earth into a nationwide brand.

Last year, Marshall became a member of the J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle, a group of NWF supporters that makes generous annual contributions, because he thinks the Federation's goals are a good fit with those of his company. As GET expands, Marshall also plans to expand its relationship with NWF.

"NWF is proud to be associated with Jeff and his company," says Tim Brady, NWF director of development. "Green Earth Technologies is helping to combat global warming by replacing petroleum products with biodegradable ones, and for that we are grateful."

Florida Takes Action
State provides conservation models for others to follow

Identifying ways to protect Florida's wildlife from global warming was the focus of a summit cosponsored by NWF and its affiliate Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) in October. The conference brought together state wildlife managers, nonprofits, academics and citizens to identify research needs, suggestions for improving public awareness and ideas for optimizing species conservation.

Just days after the summit, Governor Charlie Crist's Action Team on Energy and Climate Change released a report outlining specific policy recommendations Florida should enact to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save the state billions of dollars. Thanks to input from NWF, FWF and other members of the conservation community, the plan also outlines a host of strategies to protect manatees and other Florida wildlife from the harmful effects of climate change.

"These actions in Florida provide models for other states and represent important milestones," says John Kostyack, NWF's executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming.

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