Action Report: December/January 2005

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • Heidi Ridgley
  • Dec 01, 2004
Below the Surface, the Great Lakes Are Suffering 
A new study documents the havoc nonnative species are wreaking throughout the food web

A new nonnative species is introduced to the Great Lakes every eight months, reports the National Wildlife Federation in a study released in October. Ecosystem Shock: The Devastating Impacts of Invasive Species on the Great Lakes Food Web explains how invasive species, from fish to mollusks, are wreaking havoc at both ends of the food chain. They are out-competing predatory fish at the top end for food and habitat while at the same time depleting lower organisms, including shrimplike diporeia, a small but high-energy food source that has almost disappeared from the region. Carried into the Great Lakes primarily in the ballast water of ships, invasive species often have no natural enemies to limit their reproduction. Of the 162 aquatic exotics that have entered the Great Lakes, the most infamous include:

The predatory sea lamprey: an eel-like fish that attaches to other fish and drains them of blood and bodily fluids. An adult lamprey can kill as much as 40 pounds of fish in a 12- to 20-month period.

The round goby: an aggressive fish that decimates the nests of smallmouth bass, consuming the eggs. To offset the population decline of bass, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources restricted anglers from catching the fish in Lake Erie during May and June.

Zebra and quagga mussels: opportunistic filter-feeding mollusks that reproduce rapidly and consume incredible amounts of microscopic plants and animals, depriving native species of food. Researchers also blame these mussels for toxic algal blooms that foul drinking-water supplies.

"Invasive species are devastating the Great Lakes ecosystem from top to bottom, depleting well-known species such as bass and whitefish while leaving large stretches of the lakes as underwater deserts," says Andy Buchsbaum, director of NWF's Great Lakes Natural Resource Center. "We need to keep the Great Lakes open to global commerce but closed to invasive species. To do that, we need to respond to this threat with aggressive, innovative and immediate action."

To this end, NWF is pushing for passage of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, which would establish a national, mandatory ballast-water management program and create a screening process for planned importations of live aquatic organisms. NWF is also working to get funding for research, monitoring tools and restoration efforts."Our options for recovery once an invasive species has entered the Great Lakes are limited," says Buchsbaum, "which is why we need to inoculate them from further introductions. When it comes to shutting the door on invasive species, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

To read the full report, visit

Adopt a Wildlife Acre
NWF's Adopt-a-Wildlife-Acre initiative helps alleviate conflicts between ranchers, who graze livestock on public lands, and wildlife, such as grizzly bears. To participate, visit

Get Green
Discover the perfect present this holiday season by shopping on NWF's green consumer website. Visit to find a variety of environmentally friendly gift ideas.

Money For Wildlife
Now you can help wildlife when you buy your next home. NWF has teamed up with GreenPoint Mortgage to offer NWF members $100 off their closing costs. Find out more at

Historic Great Lakes Effort Underway
The health of the Great Lakes is declining not only because of the spread of invasive species, but also because of mounting pollution, habitat destruction and other problems. Now, a historic coordinated effort is underway to build public support for restoring America's greatest freshwater resource.

Supported by a five-year, $5 million grant from Peter M. Wege and the Wege Foundation, NWF is joining forces with the National Parks Conservation Association to form a broad-based Great Lakes Coalition, and with it, launch a national campaign to restore the Great Lakes. The goal: to implement a comprehensive plan for the region, based on recommendations developed by scientists, conservationists and educators at the Healing Our Waters conference in Michigan last May.

"The Healing Our Waters agenda is the Magna Carta for Great Lakes restoration," says Peter Wege. "No single foundation, no single organization, no single person can do it working alone. It will take close partnerships among all who care for the Great Lakes." To read more, see

Big Win for Big Cat
Federal judge sides with NWF in Florida panther lawsuit to protect critical habitat

In a major victory for the critically endangered Florida panther, a federal judge recently revoked a permit that would have allowed the construction of a 5,200-acre limestone mine on habitat deemed essential for the big cat's survival.

Judge James Robertson ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to consider the collective impact of the mine and other projects on panther habitat and invalidated a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to Florida Rock Industry.

"The Corps and FWS have been acting in concert for years by basically rubber stamping development permits in critical panther habitat," says John Kostyack, the NWF attorney who filed the suit on behalf of the federation, the Florida Wildlife Federation (an affiliate) and the Florida Panther Society. "The court has sent a clear message to these agencies, telling them they must take off the blinders and look honestly at what their cumulative decisions mean for panther survival."

For more about NWF's efforts to protect panthers and other endangered species, see

Turning the Tide in Texas
Study forecasts uncertain future for estuaries and bays

A new NWF report, Bays in Peril, examines what the future might hold for each of Texas's major seven bays and estuaries given the state's growing population and increasing demands for fresh water.

"Fresh water from our rivers is vital for Texas's commercial and recreational fisheries as well as for birds such as the endangered whooping crane," says Norman Jones, a water resource scientist in NWF's Gulf States Natural Resource Center. "Unfortunately, we have little protection in place." With the state currently developing plans to meet future water demands, NWF is working to protect wildlife by encouraging state officials to change the way they grant water rights while also finding new ways to use water more efficiently.

To read the report and find out what you can do, visit, e-mail or call 1-800-919-9151.

Working Toward an Environmental Energy Policy
In its efforts to protect wildlife resources, NWF is working with the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan group of top energy experts who are developing a long-term U.S. energy strategy to promote national security, economic prosperity and environmental health. View NWF's comments to the commission at and tell us what you think by e-mailing

Increase Your Wildlife IQ
NWF makes learning about wildlife easy:

For parents: Teach children ages 6 months to 4 years an appreciation for wildlife with a new 30-minute video from the producers of Wild Animal Baby™. To order, call 1-800-900-2656 or visit Wild Animal Baby at

For teachers: Take your students on a wild learning adventure with NWF's newest online education course, Happenin' Habitats, designed for grades 3 through 6. Find activities and resources, a videotaped program about habitat and an electronic field trip. The course is designed to help educators and students nationwide create accessible Schoolyard Habitats® sites on their school grounds. Visit

For continuing education students: Sign up for NWF's Wildlife University online classes to learn about wildlife and wild places, issues that affect wildlife and people, and ways you can make a difference. The program offers interactive courses and presentations from wildlife experts and, best of all, it's free. Visit

Cleanup Time
NWF lawsuit leads to Ohio's promise to address polluted waterways

Water bodies in Ohio that fail federal clean-water standards are expected to improve in the coming years following a settlement reached by federal and state agencies as a result of a lawsuit filed by NWF, the League of Ohio Sportsmen--its Ohio affiliate--and another local environmental group.

The settlement requires the state to establish clean-up plans by the end of 2007 for 50 of the state's 331 watersheds. They include areas around the Cuyahoga, Grand and Sandusky rivers, which have been polluted by farm field runoff, factory pipes and faulty septic tanks, among other sources.

"This is a landmark settlement that will go a long way toward restoring Ohio's precious lakes, streams and rivers," says Neil Kagan, NWF senior counsel. "Like most states, Ohio had failed to uphold its obligations under the Clean Water Act, but this settlement shows that the state is committed to restore its water bodies."

Certified Forests: Growing Greener Markets
NWF encourages sustainably grown paper products

To support a market for wood and paper products harvested from sustainably managed forests, NWF and its Northeast affiliates are continuing to work with the International Forest Stewardship Council. NWF also has recently joined the Environmental Paper Network in an effort to conserve the habitat of forest dwellers. "Here in the Northeast, we know of at least 85 species of bird [such as the red-bellied woodpecker, right] and mammal, on top of myriad plants that are dependent on the forest," says Eric Palola, director of NWF's Northeast Natural Resource Center in Vermont.

Fish and Wildlife Service's Big Bad Wolf Proposal
Wolf recovery in the Great Lakes region is a tremendous success story, yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to remove endangered species protections from wolves in areas where they have yet to recover. For information, and to get involved in NWF's efforts to safeguard wolves, visit

Help Wildlife: Become an NWF Volunteer
Monitoring frogs, watching whoopers and looking for mating sage grouse might sound like weird science, but all three involve crucial work with thousands of volunteers participating in NWF's efforts to protect species. Become a volunteer yourself by joining one of these NWF programs this spring:

Frogwatch USA™ volunteers monitor more than 3,800 wetlands across the nation, recording the names of frog species singing for mates. The count allows scientists to see how frogs are faring in the face of mysterious deformities and population declines. Visit or e-mail

Whooper Watch volunteers look for whooping cranes at roosting sites along Nebraska's Platte River. Their data will be used to help determine what habitat the birds prefer. To volunteer, e-mail

Adopt-a-Lek volunteers venture out in Montana and Wyoming to count male sage grouse on communal courtship grounds known as leks. Their work helps wildlife managers with conservation measures. To volunteer, e-mail

Community Habitats: Where People And Wildlife Flourish
Led by a groundskeeper, a Northern Virginia community receives NWF certification

With homes and bustling ball fields lining its quiet streets, South Riding, Virginia, may not seem different from any other suburban development. But the native plants, bird feeders and ponds decorating its landscapes give it a distinction few others possess: Boasting 111 backyard, schoolyard and workplace wildlife habitats, it's the sixth community in the nation to be designated a Community Wildlife Habitat by NWF.

Residents have Rick Stone to thank. Assistant general manager for the South Riding homeowners' association, he recruited other community members to enhance existing wildlife habitats, create new ones and educate other residents about the benefits of eco-friendly landscaping. The group coordinated stream cleanups, planting days and gardening for wildlife workshops. They also worked with Boy Scouts to build bluebird nesting boxes.

"Rick's not your typical suburban property manager," says David Mizejewski, NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat® program manager. "While his counterparts in other neighborhoods are busy mowing and watering lawns and spraying chemicals, he's planting drought-tolerant meadows, preserving tree snags for nesting birds and establishing buffer zones around wetlands to filter toxic runoff." To find out how your community can achieve Community Wildlife Habitat certification, visit

Getting Over the Dam
NWF lawsuit helps salmon migrate downstream to the Pacific

Salmon swimming toward the sea would have been forced to run a gauntlet of turbines at up to eight federal dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers last August if a federal appeals court had not upheld a lower-court ruling. That ruling forced the Bonneville Power Administration to follow a federal requirement to "spill" water over dams, which helps salmon avoid hydroelectric turbines. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had planned to eliminate spilling to generate more power. "In all the years we have been fighting for salmon, this is the first time a court has actually stepped in to prevent harm to the fish," says NWF attorney Jan Hasselman.

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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