Action Report: How NWF is Making a Difference

How NWF is Making a Difference

  • NWF Staff
  • Jul 19, 2012
Reducing the Threat of Mercury

NWF’s long fight to stem emissions of the dangerous pollutant is paying off

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last December finalized the first-ever national limits on mercury released from coal-fired power plants, which will cut emissions by 90 percent and significantly reduce exposure that can harm wildlife habitat and impair brain development in children, affecting their ability to walk, talk, read and learn. Moreover, says Joe Mendelson, director of NWF‘s Policy, Climate and Energy Program, “Updating older power plants with modern air pollution-control technology will support 46,000 new short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.”

The rules also will make fish safer for human consumption. EPA reports that about half of U.S. lakes and reservoirs (10.2 million acres) and 415,000 miles of rivers, streams and coasts have unsafe levels of mercury, and nearly all fish and shellfish contain traces of the element, leading every state to issue warnings against eating certain fish. Half of all mercury generated by human activity comes from coal-fired power plants.

The new limits represent the culmination of a long battle for NWF, which has been fighting to reduce mercury pollution for more than two decades. “We’ve made a tremendous investment in seeing this process through, and we’ll continue to make sure that no backsliding occurs,” says Felice Stadler, NWF director of Programs and Operations. Among the Federation’s efforts:

• The 1999 Clean the Rain, Clean the Lakes report warned that cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Duluth were subject to rainfall containing as much as 65 times the level of mercury deemed safe by EPA.

• In conjunction with 21 local and state organizations, early in 2000 NWF launched the Clean the Rain campaign, which catapulted the issue of mercury pollution in lakes and streams into national consciousness and started the process for placing controls on coal-burning power plants.

• In 2004, the Federation fought a Bush administration move to relax federal controls on mercury emissions from power plants, only days after the federal Food and Drug Administration issued revised warnings that urged women of childbearing age and young children to limit their weekly fish consumption because of concerns about mercury.

• Released last year, the NWF report Game Changers: Air Pollution, a Warming Climate, and the Troubled Future for America’s Hunting and Fishing Heritage outlined threats posed by mercury and other pollutants to important game species. Mercury jeopardizes fish such as walleye and largemouth bass as well as loons and other wildlife.

“Progress on mercury reduction would not have occurred without the many NWF members who took action to help move this issue through some very stormy political waters and who mobilized last year against congressional attacks designed to stop the new rules,” says Jeremy Symons, NWF senior vice president for Conservation and Education Programs. “Some 900,000 people spoke up to demand that this wrong be corrected, and it was.”

Your Dollars at Work

NWF’s efforts to reduce the harmful effects of mercury pollution on people and wildlife could not succeed without your help. In 2011 alone, NWF members contributed $225,000 to these efforts. 

Gulf Disaster “Far From Over”

Scientists still finding degraded habitats and dead wildlife

Two years after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded, killing 11 men and initiating a nearly three-month eruption of more than 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, a new NWF report reveals, “This oil spill is far from over.”

A Degraded Gulf of Mexico: Wildlife and Wetlands Two Years into the Gulf Oil Disaster, written by NWF Senior Scientist Doug Inkley, grades the region’s coastal wetlands’ health as “poor.” At least 609 sea turtles, 577 brown pelicans and unknown numbers of deep-sea corals were found dead in the aftermath. Continued habitat degradation could reduce sea turtle and bird nesting areas, harm fish nurseries and make marine wildlife more vulnerable to disease. As of March 2012, most of the 523 dolphins found stranded in the area since the oil spill began were dead, many of them juveniles. Others suffered from anemia, low blood sugar and other ailments. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls the magnitude of these strandings “unprecedented.”

Inkley says, “The disaster response focused on removing oil, with little action taken to reverse the region’s long-term wetlands degradation.” The report calls for the U.S. Congress to pass the RESTORE Act, which would dedicate fines from the spill to Gulf Coast recovery and stresses the need for comprehensive Gulf Coast restoration strategies. Download the report and read more at

State Plan Takes on Climate Change

NWF worked closely with Washington State authorities to develop and acquire legislative support for a crucial long-range plan to help citizens and wildlife cope with the effects of climate change.

Released earlier this year, Preparing for a Changing Climate: Washington State’s Integrated Climate Change Response Strategy outlines a series of important actions the state must take in the years to come to safeguard human health, vulnerable species, property and local economies. If those actions are not undertaken, the report warns, “the long-term costs of climate-related impacts are projected to reach nearly $10 billion a year [in Washington] by 2020 from increased health costs, storm damage, coastal destruction, rising energy costs, increased wildfires, drought and other impacts.”

Working with the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, NWF staff participated in a year-long stakeholder group that developed the strategy for protecting species, habitats and ecosystems. “This report underscores how important it is to act now if we hope to safeguard people and wildlife in the face of accelerating climate impacts,” says Dan Siemann, NWF senior policy specialist. For more about NWF’s efforts in the Northwest, visit

Angling to Bring Soldiers Home

River Ambassador Program teaches veterans conservation and coping skills

The Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS), NWF’s Oregon affiliate, is offering a new River Ambassador Program to show veterans how fishing and conservation can help them cope with the challenges of returning to civilian life.

Russell Bassett, the executive director of ANWS, created the program in partnership with the Wounded Veterans Fishing Program, Soul River and Bitter Brush Ranch. He served as a public affairs supervisor for the U.S. Army for eight years before coming home. “Just getting outside and enjoying nature was healing,” he says. “This program gives returning war vets a coping mechanism that they can go back to many times.”

Each veteran will be given fishing gear so he or she can continue healing and being environmental stewards. To donate fishing gear, please contact Bassett at

Download Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder™ and Vote for NWF Now!

The new Oh, Ranger! ParkFinder™ app is your free virtual guidebook to every U.S. federal and state park as well as more than 50,000 local parks. Go to to download the app. Once on the site, vote for NWF, and Ford Motor Company will make a donation to help NWF conserve wildlife.

Millions of Pounds of CO2 Saved

Students teach how to conserve resources through Campus Conservation Nationals

Nearly a quarter-million students from 1,300 residence halls at 100 colleges and universities competed in the Campus Conservation Nationals this spring. Together, they saved more than 1.5 million gallons of water and 1.7 million kilowatt-hours of energy—equivalent to cutting more than 2.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) and taking 151 U.S. homes off the grid for a year.

NWF’s Campus Ecology Program, the Alliance to Save Energy, Lucid and the U.S. Green Building Council hosted the nationwide competition. Student teams used tactics such as “dorm storming” to exchange LED light bulbs for others and t-shirts and stickers to remind students to turn off unused lights and electrical devices, use stairs instead of elevators and cut shower times. Students could track their campus’s progress in real time through an online dashboard. Indiana University–Bloomington made some of the most drastic cuts: 822,174 gallons of water and 243,174 kilowatt hours of electricity.

“It’s great to see college students take the lead and show that actions to save resources that may seem small can make a big difference,” says Kevin Coyle, NWF vice president of Education and Training. To find out more about the competition and the top resource-saving schools, go to 

Take a Journey To the Arctic

IMAX® film and NWF curriculum depict struggles and solutions for polar bears

NWF is offering an educational curriculum to accompany the Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX Filmed Entertainment presentation of the MacGillivray Freeman Film To The Arctic. Expanding into additional IMAX and IMAX 3D theaters in August, the film takes viewers on a spectacular journey with a mother polar bear and her two 7-month-old cubs as they navigate the changing Arctic wilderness. This magnificent footage gives viewers an intimate, up-close look into this polar bear family’s struggle to thrive in a challenging environment of melting ice, immense glaciers and majestic snow-bound peaks.

Three-time Academy Award®–winner Meryl Streep narrates the film, which educates audiences on the reality of climate change and its effects on polar bears and their habitat. NWF’s curriculum offers activities that explore these issues as well as ways to talk to kids about climate change and how they can help.

Download NWF's Polar Bears and the Arctic curriculum.

The Benefits of Getting Dirty

For many parents and grandparents, “dirt” is a four-letter word. But according to a recent NWF report, overprotecting kids from dirt and germs may actually inhibit their fitness and resilience to disease.

“The things small children want to do outside, like building mud castles, splashing around in puddles and rolling down hills, may, in fact, be a grubby little prescription for health and happiness,” observe the authors of Why Dirt is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends.

The report cites the results of several peer-reviewed, scientific studies, including:

• When kids’ exposure to parasites, bacteria and viruses is limited early in life, they face a greater chance of having allergies, asthma and other autoimmune diseases.

• Children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces.

• Youngsters exposed to germs and pathogens during infancy have reduced risk of cardiovascular inflammation in adulthood.

• A “friendly” bacterium found in soil helps produce serotonin, which enhances feelings of well-being.

For details and related activities, see

Partnership Brings Eco-Schools Total to More than 1,800

The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education and NWF’s Eco-Schools USA program have partnered to provide curricula and other resources to nearly 500 Maryland schools to help them achieve both Maryland Green Schools Program and Eco-Schools USA awards. More than 1,800 schools are now in the Eco-Schools USA program. 

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