Restoring Our Waters
Fighting for clean, healthy aquatic ecosystems in a changing world
From Gulf of Mexico dolphins to Great Lakes trout, many of our nation’s iconic aquatic animals require stronger habitat protection or restoration. To help them, NWF and its partners are involved in a wide range of efforts from coast to coast. Following are some of the ways that, with the support of NWF members, the Federation is working to ensure enough clean water is available for people and for wildlife.
• NWF’s Texas Living Waters Project has focused since 2001 on improving the quality and quantity of water for wildlife and people in its drought-ravaged state. In 2011, the initiative helped ensure freshwater flow from Houston to Galveston Bay, home to many bird species, including the roseate spoonbill (above). It also helped develop a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-approved plan to protect Comal and San Marcos Springs, vital for eight threatened and endangered species, including the Texas blind salamander (see page 18).
• As co-chair of the 125-organization Healing Our Waters–Great Lakes Coalition, NWF works to protect and restore the region’s lakes and wetlands, clean up toxic sediments, reduce agriculture and wastewater runoff that feeds algal blooms and halt invasive species such as Asian carp. In the past four years, the coalition has helped obtain $1.3 billion in federal funding for more than 1,700 restoration projects, such as cleaning up PCBs and other contaminants from the Oswego River and rebuilding Detroit River wetlands, which enabled the return of yellow perch and lake sturgeon.
• Since 2009, NWF has co-chaired the Choose Clean Water Coalition, 230 organizations combating the agricultural and urban runoff that has severely degraded the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality. In 2013, NWF and its partners won a critical lawsuit to preserve U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state water pollution limits that protect the bay.
• Since the first days of the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster, the Federation has been committed to revitalizing the region’s environment and monitoring the health of bottlenose dolphins, pelicans and other affected wildlife that live there. In 2012, NWF helped win passage of the RESTORE Act, which dedicates 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines and penalties—potentially billions of dollars—to ecosystem-based, habitat-restoration efforts.
• Recent Supreme Court decisions suggest some streams, lakes and wetlands no longer qualify for the protection of the 1972 Clean Water Act. As part of an effort to restore the full mandates of the law, NWF and its partners generated more than 170,000 comments from conservationists, hunters and anglers to federal officials. “We all depend on clean water, and protecting our aquatic ecosystems is important not only for fish and other wildlife but for our own quality of life, “ says Jan Goldman-Carter, NWF’s water resources counsel.
Your Dollars At Work
Improving the health of our nation’s waters would not be possible without the support of NWF members, who have contributed more than $1.6 million to these efforts in the past five years alone. To learn more, visit www.nwf.org/water.
Dive Into Learning About Aquatic Animals During Wildlife Week
Learn about the amazing lives of aquatic animals during National Wildlife Week, celebrating “Wildlife and Water: From the Mountains to the Rivers to the Oceans” from March 17 to 23. Go to www.nwf.org/wildlifeweek to download posters, trading cards and lesson plans and to find out about fun activities like stream studies that encourage the exploration of our watery world.
BLM Slows Down Drilling
Revised plan cuts amount of public land open to dirty energy development
Five years after NWF and other organizations filed a lawsuit against a federal plan to open 2 million acres of public land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to oil shale and tar sands development, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finally announced it will reduce the acreage available for drilling in half. The new plan takes a significant amount of wildlife habitat out of the equation, including areas critical to greater sage grouse, elk and particularly mule deer (left), which have been declining in these states in recent years.
The plan also requires companies seeking leases for research and development projects on these lands to first prove that their technology is commercially viable and environmentally responsible. “We told the BLM to ‘go slow’ on oil shale, and now they are doing just that,” said Kate Zimmerman, NWF’s public lands policy director.
Go to www.nwf.org/oilshale for more information about the impacts of oil shale drilling.
Wood Energy's Impacts on Wildlife
The urgent need for alternative energy sources has spurred an increased demand for wood for electricity and heating. U.S. wood pellet production is estimated to reach nearly 14 million tons in 2014.
In December, NWF and the Southern Environmental Law Center released Forestry Bioenergy in the Southeast United States: Implications for Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity, one of the first detailed studies examining the potential effects of logging for this fuel in one of the nation’s most biodiverse regions. The study, conducted by the University of Georgia, University of Florida and Virginia Tech, looks at representative mammal, bird and amphibian species near six wood-energy plants.
Although the severity of the plants’ impacts varied greatly depending on local habitat and harvesting practices, conservation concerns include natural forest being converted into planted pines and degradation of critical wetland and riparian habitats.
Julie Sibbing, NWF senior director of agriculture and forestry programs, says, “The brown-headed nuthatch and eastern spotted skunk are at risk from this rapidly growing industry if policies are not put in place to ensure more sustainable sourcing solutions.” Go to www.nwf.org/southeast-bioharvesting to download the full report.
Supporting Solar Warriors
Northern Cheyenne Tribe members turn from coal to green energy
NWF provided funding and other support to 30 members of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe that allowed them to attend training sessions at Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Participants learned how to build and install solar air heaters and irrigation systems, use straw bales and cellulose insulation in construction and design small-scale wind turbines.
Three attendees, Jeff King, Landon Means and Kale Means (second from left), have since installed solar air heaters in homes on their own reservation in Montana’s Powder River Basin and created a solar garden to help power the city of Lafayette, Colorado. These “solar warriors,” as instructor Henry Red Cloud calls them, had worked in the coal industry but now speak out against the negative impacts coal mining can have on wildlife habitat and reservation lands.
Alexis Bonogofsky, manager of NWF’s Tribal Partnerships, says, “Their success story is a great example of how we can plant the seeds to grow a green economy while protecting a region’s culture, wildlife and habitat from the effects of dirty fuels.” Visit www.nwf.org/triballands for more information about NWF’s tribal partnerships.
The Best of the Virtual and Natural Worlds
NWF’s new report Friending Fresh Air: Connecting Kids to Nature in a Digital Age provides parents ways to balance screen time with green time. It offers fun tools that combine the best of both the virtual and natural worlds to inspire children to get outside and enjoy exploring nature. Go to www.nwf.org/techreport to download this free guide.
More Green Space for Wildlife
NWF launches certification program for landscaping professionals
Professional landscapers across the nation have been joining NWF’s new Certified Wildlife Landscaping Professional™ program since its launch in November. The program certifies landscaping businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to supporting ecologically sound methods of gardening. Certified landscaping professionals are then promoted through NWF’s 4-million-member wildlife gardening network and profiled on a searchable Certified Wildlife Landscaping Professionals database.
Program participant Emily Bishton of Green Light Gardening in Washington says, “I wanted to be part of it to encourage other landscape designers to do so and motivate my clients in getting their backyards certified.” She has been creating natural gardens (above) for wildlife and children since 1997 because, as she says, “A wildlife-friendly garden is a child-friendly garden.”
As a complement to NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitat® and Schoolyard Habitats® programs, the initiative also provides homeowners with resources to help them create more connected yet less-resource-dependent habitat in frequently fragmented cityscapes. For more information and to sign up, go to www.nwf.org/landscapers.
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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 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.