Action Report: August/September 2007

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • NWF Staff
  • Aug 01, 2007
Habitat Program Still Growing Strong 
Milestone is reached with the certification of Martha Stewart's property

This spring, NWF certified its 80,000th wildlife habitat, and it's a big one: Martha Stewart's 150-acre estate in Westchester County, New York. The property, a mix of woods and open fields, is prime habitat for many native species. Stewart hosted NWF naturalist Dave Mizejewski on an April episode of her television program, where he certified her property and demonstrated how to build nesting boxes for eastern screech owls and barn owls. "One of the reasons I bought this property was because I really love to observe wildlife--especially birds," says Stewart. She also appreciates the way that owls keep down the populations of garden pests such as voles.

"The biggest threat to wildlife is habitat loss," says Mizejewski, who also cohosts the Backyard Habitat show on Animal Planet. In order to combat that threat, in 1973 the Federation developed a program that encourages people to equip their yards with the four elements essential to wildlife survival: food, water, shelter and places to raise young. Formerly known as the Backyard Wildlife Habitat program, NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program has expanded to include schools, businesses, places of worship and even entire communities, among others. Certified gardens can be found at Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and the governors' residences in Ohio and Indiana.

Like those habitats and thousands more across the country, Stewart's property offers local wildlife a refuge from disappearing green space. Native plants on her land provide food in the form of seeds, nectar, fruit, nuts, sap and pollen. A stream runs through the property, which also has a pond and seasonal wetlands called vernal pools. For cover, animals have access to the naturally wooded areas, meadow grasses, evergreens and brush piles. Mature trees, dense shrubs, nesting boxes and butterfly host plants provide places for wildlife to raise their young.

NWF is aiming to certify 100,000 habitats by the end of this year. You don't have to own 150 acres to create one. The Certified Wildlife Habitat program shows people how to develop wildlife-friendly landscapes in average-size backyards and then how to have them recognized by NWF. To learn more, visit

Nature Video 
NWF's Wild Animal Baby® DVD, which combines colorful animation with live-action footage, was recently recognized as an iParenting Media Award winner. Check out the Wild Animal Baby website.

Free Lessons 
Online classes about wildlife and wild places are offered for free at NWF's Wildlife University™. For information about course subjects and registration, go to the Wildlife University page.

Helping Hand 
Whether you're creating habitat, monitoring toads or restoring hurricane-damaged landscapes, the volunteer actions you take on NWF's behalf make a difference. Learn how to Volunteer today!

Historic Protections Sought 
Great Lakes advocates call on legislators to support multistate compact

In the face of growing national and international demand for access to Great Lakes water, NWF is leading a campaign to secure passage and implementation of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, an agreement that would allow states in the Great Lakes region to maintain control over Great Lakes water. For it to become binding, the compact must be approved by all eight Great Lakes state legislatures and consented to by Congress.

NWF is working closely with its affiliates and other partners in the area to secure the support of lawmakers. In February, Minnesota became the first state to adopt the compact. While it won't really change how Minnesota governs water from Lake Superior, it will dramatically improve how water is protected throughout the entire Great Lakes region. "This will also ensure that the water of the Great Lakes stays where it belongs--in the Great Lakes Basin," says Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation, an NWF affiliate that advocated for passage of the legislation.

At this writing, Illinois was poised to become the second state to adopt the compact (after unanimously approving the agreement, Illinois Senate and House members forwarded it to Governor Rod Blagojevich for signature).

Water Saving Matters 
Conservation could help Texans satisfy resource needs

Increased municipal water conservation could provide Texas with one million acre-feet of water--roughly the same amount as the state's 16 proposed new reservoirs--according to a recently released NWF report.

"It's the commonsense and cost-effective solution our cities are looking for," says NWF scientist Norman Johns, the lead author of Save Water, Save Rivers, Save Money. "It would be far better to make efficient use of the water that is right under our nose than to spend billions damming rivers and destroying valuable wildlife areas." Bottomland hardwood forests, habitat for mallards and other species, are among the ecosystems under threat.

The report shows that the water savings is readily achievable, based on the success of conservation efforts in San Antonio and the progress being made in other Texas towns. "Using water efficiently makes sense today and it will make even more sense in a hotter, drier Texas," says Johns, noting that recent studies on global warming predict the Lone Star State will experience severe droughts more often. "Dams don't make new water. They only capture what nature provides." To read the full report, go to

NWF Field Guides Now Available 
"A field guide is not a coffee table book," writes NWF Chief Naturalist Craig Tufts in the foreword of the new National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. "Its job is to take you outside, enthusiastically."

Indeed, the Federation hopes its bug book, along with the newly released NWF Field Guide to Birds of North America, will inspire nature exploration. Each title is filled with more than 1,500 color photographs, depicting hundreds of species. While the insect guide hosts special sections on topics such as gardening for arthropods and macro photography, the bird guide includes comprehensive information on flight, migration and avian natural history. The books, which are produced by Sterling Publishing Company and sell for $19.95, are available at Barnes and Noble retail stores,

Change the Forecast for Wildlife 
Every day we make choices that impact the Earth's climate--and the future health of the world we all share. Our actions will determine whether we succeed in the fight against global warming. To help people "be part of the solution," NWF recently published a fact sheet full of practical how-to tips and resources. See "In-Depth Resources" at the Global Warming site.

Chill Out! It's a Good Thing 
If every U.S. school campus, business and organization followed the lead set by the winners of the NWF Campus Ecology® program's first-ever nationwide Chill Out competition, global warming pollution could be significantly reduced in this country, say the contest's organizers. The eight winning colleges saved approximately $5 million in annual energy costs while removing 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This is equivalent to planting 6,900 acres of trees.

"Chill Out was designed to identify and reward the cool things institutions of higher learning are doing to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions," says Julian Keniry, NWF's director of campus and community leadership. Solutions ranged from covering rooftops with electricity-generating solar panels to hosting competitions among students to see who could most reduce their energy consumption.

To view a list of winners and a webcast that documents their achievements, visit the Chill Out page. This site also includes details on next year's contest, which kicks off in September.

Furniture Choices Benefit Wildlife 
New scorecard helps consumers make purchasing decisions

Six billion acres of tropical rain forest once covered the Earth. Today, less than half that amount remains. As deforestation continues, it triggers a loss of an estimated 140 plant and animal species each day and the release of tons of greenhouse gases. Unsustainable forestry practices are partly to blame for this destruction.

"Since the United States is one of the largest consumers of outdoor furniture made from tropical wood sources, we have both a responsibility and an opportunity to use our purchases to demand the move to more sustainable supplies," says Stacy Brown, NWF's forest certification coordinator.

To aid in this effort, the Federation recently launched a campaign to help U.S. furniture manufacturers and retailers ensure the timber they use is legally harvested and procured. "Ideally it will come from forests certified under the internationally recognized Forest Stewardship Council system," says Brown, "which guarantees that landscapes are managed to protect water, soil and wildlife habitat in addition to providing wood products." For the next several years, a scorecard rating the performance of these businesses--a list that includes Crate & Barrel, Sears, Pottery Barn, The Home Depot and others--will be available online to inform consumers' buying decisions. To access the 2007 edition, go to

Appeals Court Sides with Salmon 
Conservationists win an important legal challenge

In May 2005, a U.S. district court judge rejected the federal government's $6 billion proposal to improve the Columbia Basin's hydroelectric dam system, saying it violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to protect imperiled salmon. This past April the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld his decision, noting that "ESA compliance is not optional."

"This ruling is a victory not just for salmon, but for the economy and people of the Pacific Northwest," says James Schroeder, senior environmental policy specialist for NWF, which organized conservation groups to challenge the federal plan in court. "The decision clears the way for development of viable solutions that will benefit the entire region--solutions that will ensure stable jobs, healthy fisheries and reliable energy."

In the seven decades since it was founded, the National Wildlife Federation could not have achieved so much conservation success without the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers, members, state affiliate leaders and supporters from all across the country--people like those discussed below. To learn about how you can get involved, and to find links to state affiliates, visit the NWF homepage.

Alaskans Make Pledge to Save 
Participants in NWF's Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA) program recently started a campaign to get Alaskans to reduce their global warming pollution with the 3-2-1 Pledge. Signers of the pledge commit to:

Change three incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent ones (saves about 300 lbs. of carbon dioxide [CO2] per year and roughly $90 over the bulbs' lifetimes).

Turn thermostats down two degrees in winter (saves about 2,000 lbs. of CO2 annually and reduces heating costs by up to 10 percent).

Unplug one appliance when it is not being used (saves about 1,000 lbs. of CO2--and $20--per year).

Having leaders such as Senator Lisa Murkowski participate has helped the project gain momentum, says AYEA member Megan Waggoner. At this writing, more than 2,000 Alaska residents had signed the pledge. To learn more, visit

Writer Sees the Poems in Nature 
NWF supporter describes the "nurturing and healing qualities" of wilderness

As a child growing up in suburban Pennsylvania, poet and professor Sydney Lea could hardly wait to spend school breaks on his uncle's wooded farm. "Honest to God, I think of that place as home more than the suburb where I grew up," says Lea. While there, he spent whole days outdoors, freely exploring the woods, fields and ponds that made up the property.

Decades later, Lea, the author of more than a dozen books--eight of them poetry--is a part-time professor at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College and an avid outdoors enthusiast. In 2001, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his collection Pursuit of a Wound. He is also a member of the J.N. "Ding" Darling Circle, a group of NWF supporters who make generous annual contributions to the Federation. "What drew me to NWF as opposed to other big name organizations is that the Federation is committed to a working landscape," he says, with humans and nature coexisting amicably. "It's not about nature as a great big playground--it's about a sustainable place where people can still live and work."

That interconnectedness between humans and the natural world carries over into Lea's poetry and other writings. His latest book, the memoir A Little Wildness: Some Notes on Rambling, details a life spent outdoors. Susan Delgado, an NWF prospect manager who works with Lea, says that his writing manages to capture the "nurturing and healing qualities of nature" in a particularly compelling way: "I had hardly managed to get through the first 50 pages of A Little Wildness before I felt the 'itch,' as Syd describes it, to throw on a backpack and find some woods to wander in."

As a lifelong hunter and angler, Lea has a specific interest in restoring the rivers of the Northeast, most notably Vermont's White River. "I would like those portions of upper New England that are particularly dear to me," he says, "to be both unviolated and sustainable."

J. N. "Ding" Darling Circle 
Named for NWF's first president, the J. N. "Ding" Darling Circle is made up of supporters who each provide an annual tax-deductible gift of $1,000 or more to help the Federation confront threats to wildlife. In exchange, circle members receive regular updates on the organization's work, advance invitations to upcoming events and several other benefits. To learn more, including how you can become a member, call 1-800-332-4949, ext. 6021, or visit

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