Action Report: How NWF is Making a Difference

How NWF is Making a Difference

  • NWF Staff
  • Conservation
  • Nov 25, 2013

Inspiring a Lifelong Love of Nature

Getting 10 million kids outdoors to take on the indoor-child trend

Weekly experiences in nature can inspire a lifelong desire to protect wildlife as well as a healthier lifestyle, yet excluding time participating in organized sports, the average U.S. child spends fewer than 30 minutes a day outside. To reverse this indoor-child trend and get 10 million more kids to spend at least 90 more minutes outdoors each week by the end of 2015, the Federation provides a multitude of youth programs and events and is supporting legislation that funds environmental education and outdoor activities. With contributions from NWF supporters, the following Federation programs and initiatives provided enriching outdoor experiences for more than 3 million kids in 2012 and 2013 and will help grow that number to 10 million.

• NWF’s Be Out There® movement offers various activities that encourage families to experience the outdoors together, including Hike & Seek™ scavenger hunts and annual Great American Backyard Campouts. More than 600,000 kids and their family members have participated in these events in the past two years.

• Nearly 2 million students help create and tend NWFSchoolyard Habitats®, Community Wildlife Habitats® and Eco-School USA outdoor classrooms each year. Working in these gardens teaches students about native plants and the animals that depend upon them.

• The Trees for Wildlife™ program has enabled youth to plant and care for more than 65,000 trees since NWF began managing the program in 2009.

• A partnership between NWF and the National Recreation and Park Association has led to more than 700 park departments setting goals to get hundreds of thousands more kids outdoors annually.

• NWF is leading an effort to encourage outdoor play at schools, parks, museums and more through its guidelines to create nature-based playgrounds.

• For the past six years, NWF has pushed the U.S. Congress to fund environmental and outdoor education programs at federal entities such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These programs have received more than $400 million.

• The Federation is promoting the passage of the national No Child Left Inside Act, which would ensure that every state has an environmental literacy plan that promotes more environmental and outdoor education in schools. Fourteen states now have such a plan.

“Giving kids the opportunity to experience nature firsthand gives them the passion to protect it,” says Patrick Fitzgerald, NWF’s senior director of Education Management. “NWF’s initiatives give parents, teachers and others the tools they need to inspire a wonder of wildlife in youth for a lifetime.”

Your Dollars at Work: Reaching 10 Million

In the past two years, NWF members donated more than $1 million toward reaching our goal of getting 10 million kids outside. Help NWF reach this goal by contributing to this initiative or participating in its programs or online activities. Go to

A Win for Alaska’s Bristol Bay

Pebble Mine company withdraws, initiative proposed to restrict mining in area

British mining giant Anglo American withdrew from its partnership with Canada’s Northern Dynasty Minerals on the proposed copper and gold Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay this past September because the investment was “too risky.” A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assessment says the mine and its pollution could destroy almost 100 miles of salmon streams and thousands of wetland acres, impacting Alaska’s $1.5 billion annual salmon fishery.

Led by Alaska affiliate Renewable Resources Coalition (RRC), NWF and other partners have fought the Pebble Mine for more than seven years and submitted more than 50,000 public comments, including those from anglers and Native Alaskans, telling EPA to stop the mine under the authority of the U.S. Clean Water Act. RRC also is educating Alaskans about the “Bristol Bay Forever” initiative on the statewide primary election ballot in August 2014. This initiative requires legislative approval for any proposed large-scale mining in the Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve and proof that any metallic sulfide mines would not endanger the fishery.

“This added layer of approval will allow Alaskans to protect Bristol Bay and its wild salmon, an important renewable resource and part of the state economy,” says RRC Executive Director Anders Gustafson. Go to

Toxic Algal Bloom Takeover

Excessive nutrient runoff of fertilizers and waste from farms and failing septic systems is feeding toxic algal blooms across the United States, reveals Toxic Algae: Coming Soon to a Lake Near You?  NWF and Resource Media coauthored this report and its accompanying interactive online map that documents toxic

This explosion of toxic algae is choking our waters, closing our beaches and posing a threat to people, pets and wildlife, says Andy Buchsbaum, head of NWF’s America’s Waters program. “This is a national problem that needs national solutions.”

The report points out that while every state could have algal outbreaks, not all states monitor their lakes, rivers and ponds for algae-related toxins and no federal agency tracks lake closures or algal health warnings nationwide. Further, no studies have assessed the national cost of such infestations. The report also makes recommendations such as limiting the amount of these nutrients allowed into U.S. waters and passing a strong federal Farm Bill that pays farmers to take measures to help protect soil and water quality.

Download the report and try the interactive map to see affected waters near you at

Helping Winged Wild in Hawai‘i

Rehabilitation center serves as beacon for students and native animals

Linda Elliott opened the Hawai‘i Wildlife Center in Kapa‘au, Hawai‘i, in 2011 to help the islands’ native species by not only caring for the sick, injured, contaminated and orphaned inside but also by providing them habitat outside. More than 100 volunteers, including students from the nearby Kohala Middle School, landscaped its NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® site with native plants.

The center is the Pacific’s only rehabilitation facility dedicated to caring for Hawai‘i’s hoary bat and its 70 native bird species and subspecies, more than 90 percent of which are endangered, threatened or species of concern. Its building has environmentally friendly features such as solar-powered lights and tanks that catch rainwater for the garden. It also serves as an education center: Kohala’s students use the its laboratory and care for its certified habitat.

“Ultimately it comes down to the footprint that we have,” says Elliott, the center’s director. “We need to be better neighbors and be more aware of our impact on the environment, both positive and negative.” Visit

Disney Donates Thousands of Trees

This fall, Disney Junior donated 5,000 trees to NWF’s Trees for Wildlife™ program so that youth throughout the United States could plant trees and learn about their care. To find out how you can help NWF plant trees, visit or

Land Swap Plan Aides Thrushes

New Hampshire affiliate keeping an eye on state’s vulnerable bird

New Hampshire Audubon (NHA), an NWF affiliate, helped develop a novel plan to keep both skiers and Bicknell’s thrushes on the slopes of the White Mountains: The state of New Hampshire gave the U.S. Forest Service 244 acres in exchange for 100 acres of uplands for its Cannon Mountain Ski area. The agreement allows the state’s Fish and Game Department to help manage the land, prevents the expansion of the resort’s ski trails and funds an annual NHA Bicknell’s thrush survey.

Loss of wintering habitat in the Caribbean is the main threat to this neotropical migrant. However, climate change, mercury pollution, acid rain and development of ski areas and wind power also have impacted the high-elevation, spruce forests in the Northeast where Bicknell’s thrushes breed. For now, the Cannon Mountain population seems to be “doing well,” says biologist Laura Deming, who completed NHA’s fifth annual survey this summer. “The ski area has managed the habitat with birds in mind, and the partners have really made this strategy work.” Visit

Freshwater Fish Feeling the Heat

Climate change could destroy half of U.S. cold-water fish habitat by the end of the century, according to a new NWF report Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World. “More extreme heat and drought are already causing big problems for fish that rely on cold, clean water,” says Doug Inkley, NWF senior scientist and a coauthor of the report. “And the warming we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Climate change is fueling an expanding number of extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts and wildfires that can increase fish mortality and kill streamside vegetation that helps cool streams. Climate change also has economic consequences, such as jeopardizing a multibillion-dollar sport-fishing industry.

“Sportsmen are on the frontlines of conservation,” says Larry Schweiger, NWF president and CEO. “They’re already seeing changes where they fish, and they know we can’t leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to deal with. We need action on the local, state and federal levels to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”  Download the report from

San Clemente Dam Removal Begins

Carmel River to flow again, helping threatened trout and red-legged frogs

After years of planning and fundraising, work finally began this past summer on a three-year, $84 million project to dismantle California’s San Clemente Dam and restore flow on its Carmel River.

Since 2004, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), an NWF affiliate, has worked with the dam’s owner, the California American Water Company, as well as the California State Coastal Conservancy, NOAA Fisheries and others to invest in the dam’s removal. The dam stopped being used as a water reservoir in the 1980s. Silt built up behind the 106-foot-tall dam, making it seismically unsound and a potential flood risk. Further, the fish ladder intended to help threatened steelhead trout swim over the dam was not effective, and the dam’s retaining pool became a breeding ground for invasive bullfrogs that compete with threatened red-legged frogs.

Engineers will reroute the river and then dismantle the dam while leaving the sediment in place. Restoring the river’s flow will provide 25 miles of additional trout habitat. “The Carmel River is one of the most important watersheds for steelhead in California,” says Jonas Minton, PCL’s water policy advisor. Go to for more.

Two New Studies Tout Use of Cover Crops

Growing cover crops during winter in fallow fields is a simple agricultural technique that can save farmers money, produce better harvests, help maintain water quality in rivers and estuaries, and address climate change. Yet according to Counting Cover Crops, an NWF study released in October, the potential for using such crops in the Midwest remains largely untapped.

“Cover crops are a win-win-win for our nation’s wildlife, waterways and farmers,” says NWF Agriculture Program Coordinator Lara Bryant, a coauthor of the report. “We’re providing a baseline for cover-crop planting to demonstrate what we believe will be an exponential increase in the coming decade.” If cultivated on a large scale in the Mississippi River Basin, NWF reports, cover crops could greatly improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico by keeping nutrients and sediments on farms and out of waterways. Unfortunately, the report found, less than 2 percent of this region uses cover crops in winter.

A second NWF report released simultaneously provides six examples of water-quality groups and farmers using cover crops to help clean up rivers and streams. The report, Clean Water Grows, profiles groups and individuals in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Maryland that are working cooperatively to increase cover crops in their watersheds. In the Miami River Watershed of Ohio, for example, water treatment facilities are investing in a nutrient-trading program that pays farmers to install cover crops and other beneficial practices to reduce the amount of phosphorus running off of agricultural land into waterways. The program has resulted in measurably cleaner streams and lower costs for downstream utilities and consumers.

“We hope these reports provide examples that many other local water quality groups will follow,” says Bryant. To learn more, visit and

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