Action Report: April/May 2009
How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference
Protecting the Amazon: Solutions to Deforestation
Worldwide, nearly a fifth of the carbon dioxide primarily responsible for global warming comes from razing forests, particularly tropical forests. In Brazil—the planet’s fourth largest greenhouse gas producer—more than three quarters of all land clearing in the Amazon, and 44 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions, are caused by cattle ranching. To help solve this problem, last summer NWF organized the International Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Caused by Cattle Expansion in São Paulo, Brazil.
“The workshop brought together for the first time stakeholders from every link in Brazil’s meat and leather supply chain, from ranchers and retailers to representatives of government, academia and nongovernmental organizations,” says Nathalie Walker, manager of NWF’s Climate Change, Deforestation & Agriculture Project. Another first, says Walker, was a consensus among the workshop’s participants on “essential building blocks towards an environmentally and socially responsible cattle industry.”
The workshop was preceded by a field trip to the state of Acre where attendees interviewed Amazonian ranchers who, by growing alternative grasses and rotating cattle among small plots, have decreased the amount of pasture needed without sacrificing profits. “We used to assume that cattle ranches in the Amazon were doomed to constantly clear new land due to the poor quality of rain forest soils,” says Barbara Bramble, NWF’s senior program advisor for international affairs who has worked on deforestation issues for more than two decades. “The good news is this turns out to be untrue.”
Costly Project to Deepen Delaware River Halted
After a nearly decade-long campaign, the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), an NWF affiliate, finally has reason to celebrate. Last July, the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control denied a key permit that would have allowed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dredge 106 miles of the Delaware River, deepening it by five feet. According to NWF Senior Resource Specialist David Conrad, the decision “at least temporarily halts this boondoggle project, which would threaten fish and wildlife across a wide spectrum—from blue crabs and horseshoe crabs to endangered short-nosed sturgeon to many species of migratory waterfowl.”
Conrad cites DNS board member Dick Fleming, in particular, “for a tremendous effort on behalf of his beloved Delaware Bay and River.” Fleming, noting important contributions from other groups opposing the project—including NWF and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network—says the department “made the right call. Simply put, the project inadequately protected important environmental assets of the State of Delaware.”
Fleming won NWF’s Charlie Shaw Conservation Partnership Award for his work on the controversy in 2004. He says that “with that honor came a personally felt obligation to redouble my efforts in subsequent years.” To learn more, go to www.delawarenaturesociety.org.
Prime Habitat Protected
The Bureau of Land Management recently withdrew 24,000 acres in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest from energy development. The move was praised by NWF and other groups that have been fighting to preserve high-quality fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities in the Rocky Mountain West. See www.sportsmen4responsibleenergy.org.
Webinars Help Pros Safeguard Species
NWF, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has developed a series of web conferences to help wildlife managers and other natural resource professionals safeguard wildlife from the impacts of climate change. Launched earlier this year and led by leading scientists from universities, government agencies and other organizations, the approximately hour-long webinars are similar to graduate school seminars and assume participants have at least some technical background.
“From coast to coast, global warming is causing habitats to change and wildlife already is responding,” explains Naomi Edelson, NWF’s senior manager of state wildlife programs and one of the series’ founders. “We’re hoping the webinars will help conservation professionals safeguard as many of these species as possible.” Because participants need not travel to attend them, the conferences also are climate friendly, she adds. “They are a relatively inexpensive way to get a lot of information out to a large audience that needs it the most.” To watch and listen to previous webinars, go to http://training.fws.gov/CSP/Resources/climate_change_webinars/archives.html.
Building Support for Conservation
In the past several years, NWF has implemented a wide range of programs and projects to educate and engage Native Americans, inner-city schoolchildren and other diverse groups across the country in crucial issues such as climate change. In recent months, the Federation significantly increased those efforts to build its base of support. “Our work has been particularly productive this year in our expanded outreach to African-American leaders and civil rights organizations for help in developing global warming solutions and education programs,” says Marc Littlejohn, NWF manager of diversity partnerships.
Finding solutions to global warming is especially important to communities of color, Littlejohn says, because the impacts of climate change “are disproportionately severe among them.” As warming brings more frequent and severe heat waves, such populations in cities will be especially at risk, observes Amanda Staudt, an NWF climate scientist. “Air pollution in urban areas could get worse, bringing increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and asthma attacks,” she says.
The organization’s outreach efforts received a boost in July, when delegates at the NAACP’s Centennial Convention approved a resolution to work with NWF for legislation that curbs global warming pollution and helps build a new energy economy. “The NAACP has opened a new front in the fight for clean energy,” says Jerome Ringo, former NWF board chairman and president of Apollo Alliance, a business and environmental partnership that seeks green innovations in energy and transportation.
Other recent NWF efforts include:
Inviting African American leaders from the business, faith, academic and scientific communities to Washington, D.C., to learn about climate change and to meet with federal decision makers;
Launching the www.fairclimateproject.org website to help build, mobilize, and support the network of leaders to whom NWF is reaching out;
Conducting its 8th annual Summer Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, in which area teens received training from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to become certified Climate Ambassadors and leaders in local action projects;
Working with historically black colleges and universities to provide scholarships for students from seven campuses to participate in Power Shift 2009, an effort to create clean-energy jobs and reduce fossil-fuel use; and
Signing on as a partner of Green the Block, a new national campaign designed to ensure that low-income communities and communities of color can benefit from a growing clean-energy economy.
“It is critical that we continue to cultivate these new relationships while expanding this network,” says Littlejohn. “Through collaborative projects and initiatives, we will broaden the movement calling for climate action and raise new voices to communicate the public demand for national leadership on this issue.”
Time Spent Outdoors Linked to Success
The time children spend outside is linked to increased academic success, according to a new NWF report for teachers and parents. TIME OUT: Using the Outdoors to Enhance Classroom Performance includes tips on how to provide fun and valuable outdoor experiences for students, even with their busy school-year schedules. For the full report, go to Be Out There.
Students Lead Way to Sustainability
This fall NWF’s Campus Ecology program released a new guide, Students Leading for Sustainability: 35 Great Ways Students Are Advancing Climate Action on Campus. Based on interviews with students and faculty, published accounts, and reports from Campus Ecology field staff, the guide features examples of actions being taken at more than 160 schools—ranging from public to private and urban to rural—in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Featured student-led efforts include major changes in campus policies on energy sources and conservation, green building, green purchasing, food systems, habitat restoration, recycling and waste reduction.
“We wrote the guide to showcase the wide variety of ways students are leading the way and making real progress toward campus and community sustainability,” says coauthor David Eagan of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “More importantly, we hope the stories in the guide will spark action by thousands more students on other campuses across the country.”
Subaru Shares the Love with NWF
Subaru of America, Inc. has once again stepped up to help conservation efforts as part of its second annual “Share the Love” campaign. During the company’s winter sales event, which runs from November 21, 2009, to January 4, 2010, Subaru will donate up to $250 for every new vehicle sold or leased to the customer’s choice of five nonprofits, including NWF.
“We created the Share the Love program to help charities and give back to the community,” says Tim Mahoney, senior vice president and CMO at Subaru. “We are continuing the program not only because it is the right thing to do, but also because it is part of our culture as an organization to support causes important to our customers.”
Last year Subaru donated $4.6 million to its designated charities, including nearly $800,000 to NWF. The Federation used the funds to support its efforts to confront global warming, safeguard places for wildlife and connect people with nature. To learn more about the “Share the Love” campaign, visit www.subaru.com.
Volunteers Honored for Contributions
Each year, NWF honors outstanding individuals who have volunteered their time and talents to support our mission. The 2009 recipients of our “Volunteer of the Year” awards are united by their strong commitment to create and foster wildlife-friendly habitats:
Rich Bergner, Community Volunteer of the Year: As leader of Washington state’s Fidalgo Island/Anacortes Community Wildlife Habitat project, Bergner and his team worked for and won NWF Community Wildlife Habitat certification in fewer than three years. NWF and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife certified a total of 572 sites in the community, including 219 homes, 4 schools, 6 places of worship, 17 businesses, 6 parks and one senior center.
Peg Baseden, Affiliate Volunteer of the Year: Volunteering with NWF since the early 1990s and with our affiliate Delaware Nature Society since 2001, Baseden has helped numerous homeowners, businesses and others create wildlife-friendly gardens. She spurs action through collaboration with conservationists, government agencies and schools. Baseden also helps people connect to nature through NWF’s Green Hour and other education programs.
Kathy Lewis, Volunteer of the Year: A dedicated educator and an advocate for backyard wildlife habitats and getting kids outside, Lewis has led 34 programs for more than 1,200 adults and children. “When outdoors, you are in the homes of plants and animals,” says the president of the Beaver Creek Wildlife Education Center in East Liverpool, Ohio. “You do not need to fear, but you do need to respect.”
To volunteer, go to NWF Volunteer site.Undoing Damage to Imperiled Species
Bush administration officials dealt a severe blow to the nation's imperiled wildlife on their way out the door by issuing rules that weakened critical Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. In response, NWF, 13 of its affiliates and Golden Gate Audubon filed a lawsuit in mid-December challenging the move, saying it was in direct violation of the federal government's duties under the law.
"Top political appointees were intent on cutting a gaping hole in the Endangered Species Act, and opening up sensitive habitats for development activities, before leaving office," says John Kostyack, NWF's executive director of wildlife conservation and global warming. The new regulations virtually eliminate independent scientific review under the ESA. Until now, federal agencies were required to consult with biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Fisheries Service to determine whether projects pose any harm to at-risk wildlife.
Under the new rules, these agencies will be able to unilaterally determine if actions, such as building a highway or filling in a wetland, will adversely affect endangered species. The latest regulations also prohibit scientists from addressing the impacts of global warming on imperiled wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend. Kostyack says NWF will work "through the courts and with Congress and the Obama administration to undo the damage done."
UPDATE: "Obama Takes Bold Action to Restore Strength to the Endangered Species Act"
Great Strides Made to Protect Wildlife
Thanks to the support of our members, NWF achieved dozens of major conservation victories in 2008. Among them:
Winning an Endangered Species Act ruling from the U.S. court of appeals in Miami that prohibits federally subsidized development in the habitats of Key deer and seven other imperiled species in Florida. (This ruling could force the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reform the National Flood Insurance Program to address sea-level rise and other environmental realities on the nation's coasts and floodplains.)
Successfully advocating for the country's first-ever set of comprehensive state rules designed to minimize adverse impacts on wildlife from oil and gas drilling, which was adopted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Certifying 20,000 new backyard habitats--homeowner-created havens for native plants and animals.
To read about our other accomplishments, see 2008 victories.
Minnesota "Vote Yes" Campaign Succeeds
The Minnesota Conservation Federation's decade-long effort to secure dedicated funding for wildlife and habitat protection in the North Star State culminated in the passage of a constitutional amendment in November. "This is the biggest conservation proposal to ever pass a state ballot test," says Gary Botzek, executive director of the NWF affiliate, which worked with more than 300 other groups to promote the amendment. It guarantees a projected annual investment of $250 million for the next 25 years.
Go Green, Save Green
No one can ignore the economic crisis our world faces today. In fact, you've probably already begun altering your behavior in response, whether by driving less, adjusting your thermostat or cutting back on your purchases. Each of these solutions can have a positive effect on one's pocketbook--and the environment. For other ways to save money while being green, visit NWF personal solutions.
Offsetting Your Travel Impact
When members go on wildlife-viewing tours selected by NWF's Expeditions program, they can enjoy nature's wonders rather than worry about the greenhouse gas emissions their travel generates. That's because the Federation has partnered with NativeEnergy, Inc. to ensure that the global warming impact created by trip-related activities is neutralized through the purchase of carbon offsets--a free benefit to NWF members who travel on an Expedition. NativeEnergy's offsets help fund renewable energy projects that create sustainable economic benefits for Native Americans, family farmers and rural communities in need. See NWF expeditions.
Annual Meeting Set for Spring
Workshops, restoration projects and guest-speaker presentations are among the events scheduled for NWF's 73rd annual meeting, which will be held April 30–May 2 at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. For details and registration information, visit annual meeting or call 703-438-6299.
Affordable Power for the People
Average energy prices in the U.S. Virgin Islands are among the highest in the nation due to the territory's reliance on oil that must be shipped in from other locations. Promoting the use of renewable power sources to lower costs and help the Virgin Islands achieve long-term energy independence is a key conservation priority of the Virgin Islands Conservation Society.
"It is our responsibility to reduce our contribution of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and to sensibly use our natural resources," says Paul Chakroff, a board member of the NWF affiliate. In 2008, the society helped form a coalition known as the Virgin Islands Renewable Energy Organization (VIREO) to advocate for viable alternatives that don't produce carbon dioxide, such as solar, wind, geothermal and ocean thermal energy. The coalition, which includes NWF, has been reaching out to both citizens and government officials--and making progress.
Last fall, VIREO proposed a territory-wide initiative that would allow homeowners to purchase solar-powered water heaters by making payments over time on their monthly electric bills. (As much as 30 percent of household energy use may be attributed to water heating.) Both the governor and the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority gave the project a green light. "Details are being worked out with the hopes of launching the program within the next few months," says Chakroff.
"This is a tremendous conservation success," says Geralyn Hoey, an NWF regional representative. Because of it, the director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office has asked VIREO members to provide input on an energy policy plan--an invitation, says Hoey, that is unprecedented. See www.virenewableenergy.org.
Planning Guide Helps Colleges
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions without a plan is like constructing a building without a blueprint, says NWF's Campus Ecology® team: The outcome is unlikely to meet the original goals in a timely manner. In order to help campuses working to reduce their carbon footprint, the team recently published the Guide to Climate Action Planning: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Campus. Drawing upon the experiences and expertise of leading colleges and universities across the country, the new report provides a comprehensive review of the strategies and steps to reduce emissions, highlighting best practices. To access the full report, go to Campus Ecology and click on "Resources."
NWF Conservation Hall of Fame®
The Conservation Hall of Fame® was established by the National Wildlife Federation in 1963 to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to the country's conservation and environmental movements. Over the years, the NWF board of directors has voted nearly three dozen luminaries posthumously into the hall of fame, including the two most recent inductees described below.
Celebrating People Who Made a Difference
The National Wildlife Federation honors two of America's conservation heroes
LADY BIRD JOHNSON (1912–2007)
Photo: © TODD TREADWAY
Few American names are as synonymous with efforts to beautify the United States with native plants as that of the former first lady, whose lifelong love of nature translated into national policy during her husband Lyndon Johnson's presidential years. The Beautification Act, enacted into law by Congress in 1965, was the direct result of her campaign for nationwide scenic enhancement, particularly in regard to roadside development. Known as "Lady Bird's Bill," the legislation mandated control of outdoor advertising, including removal of certain types of signs along many of the nation's highways. She also led an effort to beautify Washington, D.C., creating a "garden city" that became a model for other U.S. metropolitan areas.
Returning home to Texas after her husband's term of office ended, Johnson focused much of her efforts on educating the public about the ecological advantages of gardening with native plants--an interest that led her in 1982 to cofound the National Wildflower Research Center on 60 acres near Austin that she donated to the project. In 1997, the center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Now covering 279 acres and displaying more than 700 plant species, the center demonstrates how native plants conserve water and minimize the use of polluting fertilizers and insecticides.
In inducting her last year into the Conservation Hall of Fame, NWF's board of directors noted that "Lady Bird's support of native plants was a major part of her efforts to make America not only more beautiful but also more ecologically sound." The wildflowers gracing many of the nation's roadways are living monuments to her foresight and commitment.
LUNA LEOPOLD (1915–2006)
Photo: © TODD TREADWAY
A pioneer in the field of river studies, Leopold had a profound influence on efforts to restore and protect America's waterways, both large and small. The son of famed ecologist Aldo Leopold, he served for 22 years as chief hydrologist of the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Resources Division, where he made major contributions to our scientific understanding of riparian systems.
Among his assignments during that period was an assessment of plans to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. Leopold's study predicted disaster if oil companies laid pipe on frozen ground and across rivers. His vehement complaints compelled the pipeline consortium to initiate safeguards. He also consulted on plans for a South Florida jetport that threatened a portion of the Everglades.
"In 1969, he practically invented the Environmental Impact Statement through its design and early application to problems such as the proposed Trans-Alaska Pipeline and Everglades Jetport," wrote one of his colleagues, Thomas Dunne, a professor of environmental science and management at the University of California–Santa Barbara.
Leopold launched a second career in 1972 as a hydrology professor at the University of California–Berkeley. Throughout his life, he published nearly 200 scholarly papers and numerous books. He retired from the university in 1986 but persisted in his research and writing. "His work played a major role in the way our nation approaches environmental issues today," observed the NWF board during Leopold's installment into the hall of fame a year ago.