Working for Wildlife

Building a clean economy, spotlight on Conservation Northwest, support for migration corridors and more

  • Delaney McPherson
  • Conservation
  • Oct 09, 2021


Building an inclusive clean economy

In May, the National Wildlife Federation launched its Clean Economy Coalition of Color, an alliance of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander leaders and advocates of color who are committed to uplifting the priorities and economic interests of historically marginalized communities.

Jesus Lopez-Barcenas helps build the 1.2 megawatt community solar array on Ute Mountain Ute land.

The coalition meets regularly to share resources, build capacity, discuss legislation and share best practices to support leaders of color who want to enter the clean-economy sector. Efforts include guidance from Black-owned businesses—such as Walker-Miller Energy Services, LLC—about equitable practices and policies that can guide federal investments as the nation transitions to cleaner forms of energy (such as solar power facilities on Ute Mountain Ute Tribe land in Colorado, pictured). At meetings, experts have shared information about grants, loans and training opportunities, including the Justice40 Accelerator, which provides tools to support frontline organizations applying for funds tied to the clean economy. The coalition also encourages participation from the younger generation to learn and voice its own perspectives as the future stewards of these lands. As the clean economy continues to grow, the coalition will adapt to new challenges. “Bringing together these insightful voices from the clean-power economy is an opportunity to center the voices and priorities of communities of color and build a future where economic opportunities in clean energy benefit those who have been most harmed by fossil fuels, pollution and disinvestment,” says Mustafa Santiago Ali, NWF’s vice president of environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization.


Fishers being released in Washington's North Cascade mountains.


A long-term plan for wildlife

Conservation Northwest (CNW), NWF’s Washington state affiliate, is dedicated to protecting, restoring and connecting wild lands across the state. That commitment to connectivity has led to great strides in wildlife recovery and reintroduction. Fishers (being released, above), for example, went extinct in Washington in the mid-1900s, but thanks to two decades of reintroduction work by CNW, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service and other partners, more than 250 of these mammals now roam the state. In May, for the first time in decades, wild fishers were born in the North Cascade mountains.

Communications Director Chase Gunnell emphasizes that none of the group’s reintroduction and other wildlife wins would have been possible without the emphasis on connectivity. “We never would have restored fishers if we thought they’d be restored into a dead end,” he says. “We want to put them into a healthy, well-connected ecosystem.” To help create that ecosystem, CNW has worked for years with a broad coalition of private landowners, government organizations and even trucking groups to reconnect large landscapes by constructing wildlife crossings, removing fences and other strategies. Through its Forest Field Program, CNW also has staff across the state working on conservation and land management issues at the local level. “The thing that really sets us apart is our focus on a long-term strategy for habitat connectivity,” says Gunnell. “We try to be very thoughtful in putting out proactive five-year plans, setting big goals and bringing people together.”


Campsite reflected in water at Boston Charlie's Camp in Olympic National Park, Washington.


Summer of fun

The 17th annual Great American Campout™ began in June, encouraging people to experience camping any way they can, whether it’s staying outdoors in a tent (above), “glamping” or holding an at-home campout. The goal is to show that one does not have to be a seasoned outdoorsperson to have a great experience. To meet that goal, the Great American Campout website provides recipes, tips and activities such as stargazing games to supplement the camping experience. This year’s campout partnered with NWF’s Green Hour program, which encourages kids to spend an hour outside every day and provides additional activities. Throughout the summer, the Great American Campout ran giveaways of NWF apparel and gear along with L.L.Bean gift cards to encourage people to camp. The campout ran through the summer, but the resources and activities will be available year-round.


Elks crossing the Snake River during the Autumn Rut, Grand Teton National Park.


A show of support for wildlife connectivity

In May, NWF and all 11 of its western affiliates submitted a letter to the Secretary of the Interior in support of U.S. Department of Interior efforts to maintain, conserve and enhance big-game migration corridors. The letter urges expansion of the 2018 Secretarial Order 3362, which encourages federal agencies to improve the winter ranges of species such as mule deer, pronghorn and elk (above).

The letter shows broad support for work done under S.O. 3362 and proposes that it include more species—such as moose, caribou and bighorn sheep—and also work to improve summer ranges to increase habitat connectivity. In addition, the letter requests federal investment in migration corridor work, the establishment of a permanent big-game migration conservation program and explicit inclusion of Native American Tribes in public land and migration corridor management. “The West is a very diverse mosaic,” explains Craig Benjamin, NWF’s director of conservation partnerships for the Rocky Mountain region. “We have a moral obligation to address the inequities of the past and focus on elevating tribal voices, and we’re committed to doing that.”

All 11 affiliates gave valuable feedback and advice on the letter based on their state perspectives and resources. Their unified support is significant as it shows a willingness to work together across state lines to create and maintain comprehensive migration routes across the West.


The GE-Alstom Block Island Wind Farm stands in this aerial photograph taken above the water off Block Island, Rhode Island.


A win for wind

In April, over 100 nonprofits, labor unions, environmental justice groups and other organizations—including NWF and affiliates Environmental League of Massachusetts and New Jersey Audubon—signed a unity statement supporting the Biden administration’s commitment to offshore wind. Currently, there are two small offshore wind farms in U.S. waters (inset near Block Island, Rhode Island). And in May the president greenlit the first large-scale project: Vineyard Wind 1 in Massachusetts.

The statement advocates for offshore wind development that protects and benefits both people and wildlife. NWF’s Offshore Wind team partners with our Environmental Justice team on strategies to advance equity and justice in our offshore wind work.

“As we advance this critical climate solution, we want to make sure we maximize job creation, benefits for underserved communities and opportunities to advance environmental justice in the offshore wind sector,” says Offshore Wind Energy Program Director Catherine Bowes. With the administration’s goal of powering 15 million homes with offshore wind energy by 2030, this show of commitment to creating safe, clean and beneficial power is especially timely, she adds.


More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Blog: A New Coalition Advances Equitable Climate Policy »
Green Light for America's First Major Offshore Wind Energy Project a Historic Win for Climate »
Running the Gauntlet »

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