Action Report: April/May 2012

How National Wildlife Federation Is Making a Difference

03-12-2012 // NWF Staff

Your Dollars at Work: Educating Youth About Nature

With your support, NWF seeks to connect 10 million kids with the outdoors

Class looking at a turtleNWF launched its first annual National Wildlife Week in 1938, producing materials for conservation instruction in schools and homes across the country. The Federation’s longest-running educational program, Wildlife Week is still going strong, but today it is just one of several efforts designed to connect youngsters with nature.

“By the end of 2014, we want to have increased by 10 million the number of children spending regular periods of time outdoors,” says Kevin Coyle, NWF vice president for education and training. “This would raise the proportion of kids getting regular nature-based playtime from an appalling 10 percent today to a more promising 25 percent. Importantly, it would reverse the 15-year decline that is eroding the soul of American conservation.”

The Federation’s current education efforts, including those listed below, are designed to help achieve that goal. None of the following programs could succeed without the support of NWF members:

Eco-Schools: Since 2008, NWF has served as the official U.S. host for this internationally acclaimed program, which provides curriculum and other information to K-12 educators and administrators, enabling them to integrate sustainable principles throughout their schools and foster environmental stewardship among youth. Last year, NWF members contributed $138,000 to Eco-Schools development.

Schoolyard Habitats®: The largest certified school garden program in the United States today, it was initiated in the 1990s to create outdoor classrooms for teaching students aged 2 to 18 about nature, wildlife, science, math and many more disciplines (See "Not the Same Old Schoolyard"  in the April/May 2012 issue of National Wildlife for more.). NWF donors contributed $165,000 last year to help provide resources and materials for the program. See www.nwf.org/schoolyardhabitats.

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA): Bringing together rural and urban teens in the 49th state, AYEA trains youth leaders to impact conservation issues through community action projects. Among other things, the program focuses on protecting culturally and ecologically valuable species. In 2011, the program’s funding included $41,000 in donations by NWF members.

Trees for the 21st Century: Combining science-based education with hands-on work, this program teaches students about the important roles trees play in the environment and how to plant seedlings that are appropriate for each region of the country. NWF donors contributed $27,000 in 2011 to the effort, enabling students to plant thousands of trees.

Wildlife Watch: By helping children keep track of the nature they see, this program provides youngsters with skills and support to learn about the natural world. In the past three years, students have contributed more than  1 million observations to the database. Last year, $25,000 of member donations went to supporting the program.


NWF’s Kids Magazines Go Digital

Your kids can now read Ranger Rick®, Big Backyard® and Wild Animal Baby® on a Nook®. Find out more at www.nwf.org/nookforkids. They also can have adventures learning about wildlife and habitats through these new game apps: Raiders of the Lost Aardvark, Click the Birdie and What Did Snakey Eat? Go to www.nwf.org/kidsapps to download on your iPad®, iPhone® or iPod Touch®.


Fight CO2 and Feed the World?

Reducing deforestation, addressing climate change and feeding the growing human population are three of the world’s biggest challenges. To help answer how we will produce the 70 percent more food that the United Nations estimates we will need by 2050 without destroying critical, carbon dioxide (CO2)–absorbing wildlife habitat, NWF has released The Food, Forest and Carbon Challenge.

The report concludes that increasing agricultural yields is necessary but not sufficient to reduce deforestation. It also stresses that if such deforestation is reduced, agriculture could expand even  farther into wetlands, savannas and grasslands, which are also vital storehouses of carbon and biodiversity.

“We can increase food production without destroying forests and other important ecosystems, but we will need to optimize land use in order to achieve this in the long term,” says Nathalie Walker, manager for NWF’s Tropical Agriculture, Forests and Climate Project.

The report makes a number of recommendations such as: encouraging the growth of native and domestic staples in developing countries and focusing on boosting yields on existing farmland and away from forest frontiers.


Historic Clean Air Standards Passed

EPA to limit mercury emitted from coal-fired power plants

A family of loonsAfter three decades of effort on the part of NWF and others to reduce air pollution in the United States, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the first national limits on the amount of mercury and other toxins allowed to spew from coal-fired power plants. The historic new standards are expected to cut mercury emissions by 91 percent while also reducing acidic gas, arsenic, lead and nickel emissions.

Rain transports mercury and other air pollutants into lakes and rivers, where aquatic organisms absorb them. Fish consume these organisms and then other animals (such as loons, right, and humans) eat the fish. The EPA reports that about half of U.S. lakes and reservoirs have mercury amounts exceeding safe levels and that nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of mercury.

Ingesting large amounts of mercury can impair brain development in children and cause neurological problems in other animals. Mercury emissions are linked to childhood asthma, acute bronchitis, heart attacks and premature deaths. The new rule will help prevent these conditions and create an estimated 54,000 construction and utility jobs as older power plants are updated.

More than 800,000 U.S. citizens commented that they support the mercury limits. NWF President Larry Schwieger says, “At long last, these prudent and overdue limits on unchecked mercury and toxic air pollution will ensure our fish will be safer to eat and our children can breathe easier.”


Climate Change to Burden Millions

U.S. mental health care system not prepared for onslaught

Some 200 million U.S. residents will suffer serious psychological distress and illness from climate-triggered weather events—extreme floods, heat waves, droughts, fires, hurricanes and tornados—as well as the property damage, food and water shortages and international conflicts that result from them, says a new NWF report.

The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the United States compiles the conclusions of multiple climate change, mental health and policy studies to look at the cumulative mental impacts of such events. It also states that the current U.S. health system is ill equipped to deal with them.

Coauthor and NWF Board Member Lise Van Susteren says, “This is a call to arms.” The report asks the U.S. mental health care community to develop a focused, comprehensive plan for adequately handling the effects of large-scale climate-triggered incidents and disasters, including improved response, assessment, diagnosis and treatment programs. It also suggests that health care professionals need to push for policy changes that address the underlying causes of climate change. For more information, go to www.nwf.org/climatementalimpacts.


NWF Annual Meeting

NWF will hold its 76th Annual Meeting, “Keep the Wild Alive,” May 18 to 20, 2012, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. For more information, call 703-438-6299 or email events@nwf.org.


Honoring the Inspirational

Join us May 17 in Washington, D.C., for the 2012 National Conservation Achievement Awards and Dinner to honor conservation leaders. Visit www.nwf.org/connies for tickets.


Restoring Gulf Wetlands, Jobs

The anticipated billions of dollars in fines from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could “kick-start the launch of a long-term investment in ecosystem restoration,” says Restoring the Gulf Coast, a new Duke University report. The fines would fund hundreds of businesses and manufacturers making the supplies needed to rebuild the region’s wetlands.

The study was released by Restore the Mississippi River Delta, a collaborative effort of NWF, the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Audubon Society that is striving to revitalize the delta’s habitat. The oil disaster further damaged the region’s degraded wetlands, which contribute billions of dollars to the U.S. economy each year through energy, shipping, tourism and fishing industries,  and provides 33 percent of the nation’s seafood.

The organizations support the RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act, which says 80 percent of the $5 to $21 billion in anticipated fines should be dedicated to revitalizing the Gulf’s environment and economy.

To download the report and find out more, go to www.mississippiriverdelta.org/economics.


Grand Canyon’s Wonders Protected

Twenty-year moratorium on uranium mining enacted on 1 million acres

Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon will be safe from the impacts of uranium mining for the next two decades, thanks to efforts by NWF, the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) and several other partners. In January, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a 20-year moratorium on such mining claims on more than 1 million acres of public lands surrounding the national park.

This mixed riparian, mountain and desert canyon ecosystem is critical habitat for a vast array of wildlife, including mountain lions and mule deer as well as endangered California condors, humpback chubs and razorback suckers. The Colorado River and its tributaries also provide drinking water to 25 million people, irrigate more than 2.5 million acres of farmland and are treasured for fishing, rafting and kayaking. The surrounding landscape also is known for its magnificent hiking and camping spots. This natural wonder of the world attracts more than 4 million visitors a year and generates an estimated $3.5 billion in economic activity.

AWF President Tom Mackin says, “We all have a responsibility to our future generations to protect and preserve that which cannot be replaced. Short-term economic gains for a very few individuals or corporations pale in comparison to the greater responsibility we share.”

At the signing in Washington, D.C., NWF staff presented Secretary Salazar with a DVD and accompanying postcards full of grateful notes from sportsmen, business owners and other Arizona leaders. Salazar said, “Every generation of Americans faces moments when we must choose between the pressure of the now and the protection of the timeless.”


National Aquarium to Certified Wildlife Habitat

Join NWF and the National Aquarium to celebrate our new affiliation and unveil the aquarium’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on April 22, 2012. The 90,000-square-foot park features plants native to Maryland, uses collected rainwater for irrigation and includes interpretive maps and exhibits to educate visitors about the state’s diverse ecosystems, ranging from coastal plains to mountains. Email mihillsj@nwf.org for more information.

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