Action Report: February/March 2008

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • NWF Staff
  • Feb 01, 2008
Campus leaders from across the country take steps to combat warming

Late last year, 6,000 college and high school students from throughout the United States converged on Washington, D.C., to demand legislation that would reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. As part of the Power Shift youth conference, the students rallied on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, lobbied Congress and attended seminars on "greening" campuses, pursuing environmental careers and putting the pressure on political leaders to tackle global warming.

NWF's Campus Ecology® program helped plan the conference as part of the Energy Action Coalition, an alliance of more than 30 organizations that aims to strengthen the clean energy movement among young people. NWF helped fund the event and organized a lobbying day, during which 1,500 students met with more than 300 senators and representatives--including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who pledged her support for legislative action on global warming.

"Our aim is to work with campus leaders to model for their wider communities how carbon emissions can be reduced by as much as 80 percent, which is what scientists say is necessary," says Julian Keniry, NWF's senior director of campus and community leadership. "Events like Power Shift help us motivate and mobilize students, as well as our own organizations, to try to achieve this ambitious goal."

Power Shift is just one of the most recent, and most public, successes of the Campus Ecology program, which works with schools in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprints.

The two primary goals of Campus Ecology--to reduce campus emissions by 2 percent each year, and to engage a million students in the effort--are dauntingly large, but the program is making steady progress both through national events such as its annual Chill Out™ competition (see below) and through a wide range of smaller-scale projects. In the last seven years NWF has provided grants to more than 100 students, whose campus projects have ranged from developing a vermicomposting system for cafeteria food waste to ensuring that university buses run on biodiesel.

Campus Ecology also hosts a series of teleconferences each year, which allow participants to hear from leading practitioners in the field on conservation and sustainability topics--including habitat restoration, renewable energy and greener transportation. Students then take those lessons and put them into practice at their own schools. "When campus leaders are mobilized, they begin to model what a carbon-zero economy will look like," says Keniry.

NWF's annual Chill Out competition recognizes institutions of higher learning across the country for their positive efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Last year's winning schools saved approximately $5 million in annual energy costs while removing 20,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The achievements of this year's honorees will be featured in a live, national broadcast on April 16. For more information, visit our Campus Ecology page.

Reduce toxic waste by participating in NWF's electronics recycling program. Cell phones, MP3 players and computers are among the items accepted. To learn more, visit our Electronics page.

The editors of National Wildlife invite amateur and professional photographers to enter the magazine's annual photography competition. For guidelines and prize details, visit the Photozone.

You don't have to travel far from home to enjoy the wonders of the natural world. For a list of nearby parks, trails and other destinations to explore, visit Be Out There.

A new online service helps consumers eliminate unwanted catalogs

Busy consumers, tired of sifting through overflowing mailboxes, take heart: A new, free online service gives you the power to decline catalogs you don't want to receive. Developed by NWF, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ecology Center, Catalog Choice aims to improve the efficiency of catalog distribution by reducing the number of repeat and unsolicited mailings--benefiting the environment in the process.

"Every day, millions of unwanted catalogs clog consumers' mailboxes and are immediately tossed in the trash. More than just an annoyance, they are overflowing municipal waste systems, using up precious natural resources and contributing to pollution and global warming," says Laura Hickey, NWF's senior director for global warming education. The groups behind Catalog Choice estimate that some 53 million trees are harvested annually to produce the 19 billion catalogs currently mailed to Americans. The process of making and shipping the catalogs, they add, contributes 5.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

At this writing, just two months after the site's launch, Catalog Choice had signed up more than 280,000 consumers who have declined nearly 3.5 million catalogs. To learn more, visit

Sea turtle habitat protected in Puerto Rico

When hotel operators proposed the construction of sprawling resorts in the heart of Puerto Rico's Northeastern Ecological Corridor (NEC) in fall 2003, NWF took action to protect the wildlife-rich area. The following spring, the Federation and Puerto Rican conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to adequately assess the impact of the proposed development on endangered sea turtle habitat (the NEC is home to one of the most important nesting sites for leatherbacks). The legal challenge prompted the federal agency to withdraw its biological opinion. While that slowed down the development approval process, letters from NWF member activists over the years helped to convince the Puerto Rican government to officially declare the NEC a nature reserve. The designation was announced last fall and permanently protects what NWF counsel Randy Sargent Neppl calls "a natural treasure."

The Great Plains Tribal Chairman's Association (GPTCA)--representing 18 tribal councils from South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska--recently passed the lower 48 states' first intertribal council resolution addressing climate change. The resolution calls for responsible solutions to global warming on Native American lands that integrate economic development, natural resource sustainability and cultural preservation.

Because their lands account for more total area than all National Park Service lands in the continental United States, "Native Americans can play a significant role in shaping how America addresses and generates active responses to global warming," says Garrit Voggesser, manager of NWF's tribal lands program, which worked with GPTCA to craft the historic document. He says the partnership "opens doors to working with additional tribes and intertribal groups to pass their own resolutions," which is key to building a united front for tribes to combat climate change. For more, contact Voggesser at 303-786-8001.

NWF's 72nd annual meeting will be held May 14-17 at the Keystone Resort and Conference Center in Keystone, Colorado. For details and registration information, email or call 703-438-6299.

With support from charitable foundations and nonprofits, NWF has been building on its efforts to promote environmentally and economically sound management of U.S. water resources. Its Texas Living Waters Project, for example, got a boost recently from the Meadows Foundation of Dallas, which awarded NWF $650,000 to encourage increased conservation. See

Kettle Foods, a company committed to producing all-natural snacks, is also committed to helping the environment. That's why it has joined forces with NWF to encourage consumers to create spaces for wildlife in their backyards.

The partnership will be promoted on every bag of Backyard Barbeque, the latest addition to Kettle Foods' potato chip lineup. "It feels great to give the fans what they're asking for, while supporting a cause we believe in, and are actively involved with," says Michelle Peterman, vice president for marketing at Kettle Foods. The company's dedication to habitat restoration starts with its own two NWF-certified "backyards." Kettle Foods has restored a 2-acre wetland adjacent to its Oregon headquarters and is revitalizing a 5-acre prairie at its new LEED® Gold-certified factory in Wisconsin.

Kettle Foods is donating $1 to NWF for every yard certified by August 31. Consumers who earn Certified Wildlife Habitat™ recognition will receive a coupon for a free bag of Kettle™ brand potato chips.

NWF reaches out to meteorologists to boost public awareness

The acorns that oak trees produce provide nourishment to more than 150 U.S. wildlife species--from mice to woodpeckers to bears. But animals in the South that depend on the nuts as a primary food source may be hungry this winter. That's because the fall acorn crop that helps sustain them was smaller than average. The reason: Last April's sudden freeze destroyed many oak blossoms before they could be pollinated.

Seeking to increase public awareness of the connection between weather events such as the spring freeze and wildlife health, NWF is reaching out to TV and radio weathercasters for help. "Meteorologists are the most commonly encountered scientists that the public has access to," says NWF naturalist David Mizejewski, author of the NWF Wildlife & Weather Report, a resource distributed twice a month to weathercasters and station managers across the country. "Their audience is huge and actively tuned in to their forecasts."

When meteorologists incorporate information from the NWF weather reports into their broadcasts, they help NWF connect people with nature, says Mizejewski--alerting them to seasonal events worth viewing, for instance, such as animal migrations and plant blooms. "They also play an important role," he adds, "in informing Americans about the impact of global warming on wildlife."

Guide to legislation helps residents protect natural resources

Since the late 1960s, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), NWF's California affiliate, has been heavily involved in the establishment and defense of the California Environmental Quality Act--the Golden State's premier environmental law. CEQA, as the legislation is known, protects species and special habitat areas from adverse development by requiring environmental impact reports, public input and mitigation measures to offset ecological degradation.

This past fall, PCL's sister organization, the Planning and Conservation League Foundation (PCLF), debuted an updated version of its popular Community Guide to CEQA. The resource is filled with tips to help citizens challenge activities that could degrade public health and damage the environment. The guide also serves as the centerpiece of a PCLF workshop series designed to help participants promote smarter land use decisions in their communities. For more information, visit


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 our Affiliates section.

"Nest keepers" help NWF monitor raptor recovery in the Green Mountain State Three years ago, Vermonters Russ Ford and Brook Martenis and their two young sons were paddling a canoe in the far northern reaches of Lake Champlain when a sudden noise disturbed the peaceful scene. "A gorgeous bird came streaking out of the cliffs, raising a great defensive ruckus," says Ford. The family suspected that they had stumbled upon a pair of the lake's most elusive residents: peregrine falcons.

Soon after, wildlife biologist Margaret Fowle, the manager of NWF's raptor conservation programs, visited the spot and confirmed the sighting. The family became official "nest keepers" in the Vermont Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project, a joint effort between NWF and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department to monitor and protect the species' breeding sites. Every two weeks between April and August, Ford's family paddles out to the remote cliffs to watch from a distance as the falcons mate, lay eggs, and hatch and raise their chicks.

The peregrine falcon, the world's fastest bird, had vanished from the eastern United States by the 1960s due to widespread use of DDT. Following a ban on the pesticide, protection under the Endangered Species Act and a successful decades-long program of captive breeding and reintroduction, the peregrine population rebounded. The bird was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 1999 and the Vermont state list in 2005. Since then, the species has continued to recover under the watchful eyes of people such as the Fords. In 2007, volunteer monitors logged more than 600 hours and 6,800 miles, reporting back about nesting progress.

"Volunteers are essential to ensuring that peregrines continue to thrive in Vermont," says Fowle. Of the 34 breeding pairs in 2007, 31 nested and 23 were successful, resulting in a total of 56 fledglings--just below the 2005 record of 61.

As for the Fords' falcons, their success seems to be improving each year. The first year, says Ford, "It was a subadult female and male playing house; they didn't nest." In 2006, the pair fledged two chicks, followed by four this past summer. "It is our hope that our long-term peregrine recovery efforts will help prevent another precipitous decline for this awe-inspiring species," says Fowle. "Peregrines are indicators of ecosystem health, and the fact that they are doing so well in Vermont is inspiring."

At the heart of A Forest for Every Classroom (FFEC)--a year-long professional development program for Vermont-based educators--is the belief that students who are immersed in the study of their own "place" are more eager to learn and to be involved in the stewardship of their community. In this case, the place is the Northern Forest. And NWF and fellow program organizers aim to provide FFEC participants with the skills and knowledge they need to go back to their classrooms and inspire their pupils.

"What's great about the program is that it's accessible to every level of teacher," says FFEC graduate Cindy Mowry. "Whether you teach high school or kindergarten, the program planners figure out ways to make lessons relevant. They want you to succeed."

In the last seven years, more than 80 teachers have participated in the program, extending its reach to some 7,000 students. The FFEC model is currently being replicated in New Hampshire, New York and Texas.

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