NWF Members at Work

News on NWF's works and actions

  • NWF Staff
  • Oct 01, 1996
NWF, Other Groups Sue EPA for Failing To Protect Nation's Great Water 
It's a simple fact of nature: What goes up must come down. So, it's not surprising that pollutants spewed into the air eventually end up in our water.

Now, six years after Congress directed the Environmental Protection Agency to take any necessary action to prevent this toxic fallout, NWF and two other groups are suing EPA for failing to do the job.

In 1990, Congress passed the Great Waters Program as part of the Clean Air Act, specifying 60 bodies of water in 28 states and Puerto Rico that needed attention. These precious natural resources include the Great Lakes, the Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain, the Hudson River and Boston Harbor.

"The EPA continues to miss deadlines for research and for action ordered by Congress," says NWF President Mark Van Putten. "Meanwhile, more and more waterways are so polluted that eating local fish is hazardous to human health. This is intolerable."

NWF, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund are asking a federal judge to declare that EPA has violated its duty by failing to meet three deadlines specified by Congress and also to order the agency to fulfill the requirements of the Great Waters Program as soon as possible.

"There is no excuse for bureaucratic inaction when human lives are at stake," Van Putten says.

The pollutants that contaminate our waters include some of the substances most harmful to people and wildlife, such as mercury, lead, PCBs and dioxin. They also include nitrogen and other nutrients that throw aquatic ecosystems out of balance by causing noxious algae blooms that deplete water of oxygen and block penetration of light. These air pollutants may be blown thousands of miles before falling from the sky as rain, snow and dust to contaminate watersheds.

The groups also released a report, "Dirty Air, Dirty Water: Air Pollution Spoils America's Great Waters," which uses EPA's own data to show the urgency of the problem. For example: Air pollution contributes 95 percent of the lead that contaminates Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron each year, 90 percent of the mercury that poisons Lake Superior and up to 40 percent of the nitrogen that taints Chesapeake Bay.

Toxic pollutants are linked to a frightening array of health effects, including increased rates of cancer, reproductive failures, impaired immune systems and learning and developmental disorders.

Because of the danger, the number of advisories warning people not to eat fish and shellfish from certain waters increased 14 percent from 1994 to 1995. In the Great Lakes, for example, recent studies have shown that many species of wildlife that feed on contaminated fish suffer birth defects, reproductive failures and premature death. Thyroid glands in some Great Lakes salmon are so large that they burst, and high PCB and DDT concentrations in Great Lakes bald eagles have resulted in young born with twisted beaks and mangled feet.

"NWF members use and enjoy the Great Waters for swimming, boating, kayaking, canoeing, sport fishing, beach walking, snorkeling, scuba diving and a host of other recreational pursuits," according to the lawsuit. "Their use and enjoyment of the Great Waters...is adversely affected by the unlawful activities and omissions of EPA."

Briefing Focuses On Rare Species' Value to Medicine 
NWF recently cohosted a briefing to educate members of Congress and their staffs about the role that the Endangered Species Act plays in modern medical advances. A variety of speakers explained how wild species have proved to be valuable sources of new medicines as well as medical models that help scientists understand how the human body works.

The Arizona endangered desert pupfish, for example, which has a remarkable ability to adapt to high-salt concentrations, is proving useful for research into human kidney disease.

Fifty-five percent of the top 150 medicines prescribed last year were derived from natural sources, Francesco Grifo, a scientist from the American Museum of Natural History, told the group. Other speakers offered personal testimony about the value of drugs derived from the rosy periwinkle plant in treating childhood leukemia and of taxol, obtained from the Pacific yew tree, in combating ovarian cancer.

"Hearing from a doctor and a patient about the medicines derived from endangered species gave the Congressional staffs a unique perspective on the importance of maintaining a strong Endangered Species Act," says NWF Vice President Mary Marra, who moderated the panel discussion.

Did Ranger Rick Magazine Influence Your Life? 
Again and again, readers of NWF's award-winning children's publication have said, "Yes!" So to help mark Ranger Rick's upcoming 30th anniversary, NWF would like to share some stories from the magazine's alumni.

Did Ranger Rick influence your career choice, broaden your horizons or even help make you an environmental activist? Or did it change the life of a friend? Let us know. Perhaps your story can become part of our story of Ranger Rick and NWF making a difference for people and nature.

Send your anecdote, along with your name, address and phone number, to: Phil Kavits, National Wildlife Federation, 11100 Wildlife Center Drive, Reston, Virginia 20190-5362; or e-mail it to: kavits@nwf.org.

Dam To Be Removed To Aid Salmon River Restoration 
The owners of a Vermont dam that was about to make history as the first dam ever ordered removed to protect wildlife habitat and a river's recreational value, have agreed to remove the concrete structure in time for this fall's salmon spawning season.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was on the verge of ordering Citizens Utilities Company to remove the dam on the Clyde River in northeastern Vermont. It is one of hundreds built prior to enactment of environmental laws that are receiving close scrutiny as they come up for federal relicensing.

A study by NWF's Northeast Natural Resource Center and the University of Vermont has shown that removing the dam and powerhouse, and restoring a salmon fishery, would be worth nine times more to the local economy than the value of electricity generated at the dam. The study was conducted for NWF's affiliate, the Vermont Natural Resource Council, which has been fighting the relicensing of the dam.

After high water washed away much of the dam in 1994 and restored natural water flows to more than 3,000 feet of the Clyde, landlocked Atlantic salmon and other fish have been able to migrate into traditional spawning waters for the first time in decades. The utility that owns the dam sought to rebuild the structure and resume generating electricity. NWF's study showed that 70 percent of nearby households favored removing the dam altogether.

"Certainly, dam removal is not an option in every dam relicensing procedure," says Kari Dolan, water resources project manager at NWF's Northeast center. "But in cases where the benefits of recreation and wildlife clearly exceed power generation, we now have a decision that makes dam removal a likely option."

Michael Lipske Wins Magazine Writing Award 
Watergate and animals of all kinds: These are the two things that most shaped the career of writer Michael Lipske, this year's winner of the Trudy Farrand and John Strohm Magazine Writing Award, a $1,000 prize that honors the best writing in National Wildlife and International Wildlife.

Lipske, a 44-year-old native of Washington, D.C., grew up with a love of the animals he saw during childhood walks in local woodlands, but it took the Nixon era to give direction to Lipske's interest in wildlife. Watching the press topple a president, Lipske began to see journalism as a means for social change, and he wanted to be a part of it. This goal combined with his wildlife enthusiasms to make him into a conservation journalist.

Now a freelance writer, Lipske won the writing award for his October/November 1995 National Wildlife story "Getting to Know You," which investigated a 90 percent decline in catch levels in the multi-million-dollar Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery. His nearly 40 stories for NWF magazines have included such diverse topics as pigeons and rattlesnakes, whales and forests.

Virginia Ball of Muncie, Indiana, established the annual Trudy Farrand and John Strohm Magazine Writing Award in 1993 to honor Farrand as the founding editor of Ranger Rick and Strohm as founding editor of both National Wildlife and International Wildlife.

Plan Aims To Boost Banks' Interest In Environment 
NWF's International Office has launched a Banking and the Environment Initiative to encourage banks around the world to adopt more environmentally friendly lending practices.

For most banks, environmental considerations are limited to investigating whether there are any toxic waste dumps on land they may have to repossess during a bankruptcy, says Barbara Bramble, director of NWF's International Office.

Currently, the Federation is surveying 200 banks to determine how many look at other kinds of environmental risks, or require environmental agreements from borrowers, and how many would be interested in learning more about the role they can play in environmental protection.

NWF plans to offer such education through a series of conferences and seminars. The goal, says Bramble, is to persuade more banks to follow the lead of the Bank of America, which has studied the economic and environmental consequences of suburban sprawl and is working with local authorities in California to promote sensible regional planning.

NWF Poll Finds High Voter Concern About Environment 
Few Americans are satisfied with the job being done in the nation's capital when it comes to the environment, according to a recent NWF poll of U.S. voters. Three of four voters believe the environment should be a high priority for policy-makers: more than half say the environment will help determine their November vote.

Conducted for NWF in July by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., and Research Strategy Management, Inc., the survey queried 1,006 respondents. Both Republican and Democratic pollsters were used to develop the nonpartisan survey instrument. And the poll results show Republicans are not satisfied with Congress' record on environmental protection and Democrats are dissatisfied with White House efforts.

Americans are very concerned with how their quality of life is affected by the environment, according to the survey. Forty-nine percent of voters feel current laws and regulations do not go far enough to protect the environment, while 24 percent believe such laws strike the right balance; only 15 percent feel the laws go too far.

The poll also found that three of four voters support programs to maintain parks and wildlife refuges. About one in two are in favor of programs to reintroduce endangered species to the wild, and to raise user fees on the nation's public lands.

NWF Advises Postal Service on Species Stamps Campaign 
The black-footed ferret, California condor and Florida manatee are among the 15 endangered American animals featured in a set of postage stamps to be released by the Postal Service on October 3.

The National Wildlife Federation, a leader in endangered species education and protection, has been chosen to advise the Postal Service on the stamps campaign and on materials for education kits that will be sent to 100,000 teachers nationwide.

NWF also has been invited to participate in a ceremony premiering the stamps, to be held at the San Diego Zoo in conjunction with the zoo's 80th anniversary.

"We're excited about this opportunity to help the Postal Service educate the public about the importance of protecting the diversity of species found in the United States," says Jeff Flocken, NWF's national endangered species grassroots coordinator.

Wisconsin Takings Decision Major Win for Wetlands 
In a major victory for NWF and one of its affiliates, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has overturned a lower court takings ruling that threatened wetlands throughout the state and the nation.

In deciding whether the city of Waukesha had to pay farmer Alfred Zealy for a loss in value of his land, a state appeals court had focused only on the part of the property that was rezoned to protect wetlands. NWF, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and other conservation groups filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of the city in the state Supreme Court.

The high court found that taxpayers need not pay landowners when laws allow reasonable use of an overall piece of property while limiting the use of an environmentally sensitive portion. In Zealy's case, the non-wetland section of the parcel still could be developed, and even the wetland portion could continue to be farmed for peat. Therefore, no taking of property occurred, the court held.

NWF Offers Animal Tracks Teacher Workshop in Detroit 
NWF is hosting a special workshop to acquaint 100 Detroit elementary and middle school teachers with Animal Tracks, its conservation-education program.

Scheduled for October 9-10, the program will educate the teachers about environmental concepts and give them tips on how to incorporate environmental action projects into their curricula. Participants will also receive subscriptions to Ranger Rick and packets of Animal Tracks materials to use in the classroom.

The teachers will have an opportunity to learn how they can start a schoolyard wildlife habitat by attending the dedcation of a habitat created at Belle Island Nature Center by Detroit high school students participating in Earth Tomorrow, NWF's urban conservation-education program. The habitat was a pilot project under NWF's new Schoolyard Habitats program.

NWF Joins Lawsuit Against Ohio Water Quality Standards 
NWF has joined a lawsuit challenging an Ohio water pollution law that would weaken protection for 97 percent of the state's waterways.

The suit was brought by a half-dozen state and local environmental organizations, including NWF's affiliate, the League of Ohio Sportsmen. It asks the court to declare the law unconstitutional because it was approved without proper public comment and in violation of the Clean Water Act.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, NWF notes that the law, which would make it easier to increase the amount of pollutants dumped into state waterways, jeopardizes the progress that has been made under the Clean Water Act.

NWF Around the Nation

The State of Maryland has announced it will purchase and preserve Belt Woods Home Farm, an old-growth forest just outside Washington, D.C. The forest, owned by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, includes some of the most valuable bird habitat on the East Coast. The purchase is made possible in part by a bond bill passed with the help of NWF's Mid-Atlantic office and NWF members in Maryland.
NWF's Northeast Natural Resource Center is studying the economic significance of Connecticut River recreational activities on a group of New Hampshire towns. Survey results will be incorporated into the river basin management and protection plan.
One of NWF's affiliates, the West Virginia Wildlife Federation, helped get two state constitutional amendments on the November ballot. One would prohibit the state from spending money from sales of hunting and fishing licenses on anything other than wildlife programs; the other would authorize sale of a special state license plate to support nongame programs.
Through its "Wild Seed" Fund, NWF's Western Natural Resource Center has awarded mini-grants to 12 Oregon schools to help them launch schoolyard habitat programs. One school in Wasco plans a three-year study of bird populations; another in rural Toledo plans to start a student-run business selling bat houses to the community.

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