Maryland aquarium spotlight, murals of iconic wildlife, teaching tomorrow’s conservation leaders and more
National Aquarium makes wildlife accessible
The National Wildlife Federation’s Maryland affiliate—the National Aquarium—is a hub for science and conservation in the state and beyond. In addition to housing, caring for and rehabilitating thousands of animals representing hundreds of species, the aquarium also provides numerous opportunities for habitat restoration (above) and community engagement and education, including the Terrapins in the Classroom program that brings students face to face with the state reptile: the diamondback terrapin.
One major project is Masonville Cove, the nation’s first Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership. About 10 years ago, the aquarium, local communities, Port of Baltimore and other organizations came together to turn the formerly industrial area into wildlife habitat, removing debris and planting more than 11,000 trees and native grasses (pictured). Today, the aquarium hosts events to engage community members in learning about and protecting local wildlife at the refuge through community science activities, bird walks, scavenger hunts and more.
The aquarium’s location in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (pictured) allows it to showcase wildlife and conservation in the heart of the city. For example, its floating wetland, which can be seen from the aquarium’s entrance, improves water quality and provides wildlife habitat for numerous species—including snapping turtles, blue crabs and great blue herons—allowing visitors to see firsthand how nature and humans can coexist in a city setting.
Says Laura Bankey, the aquarium’s vice president of conservation programs, “Our job is to connect people to the wildlife around them and inspire them to conserve and protect it.”
Secretary of the Interior Appointment
Deb Haaland confirmed
On March 15, Congress confirmed Deb Haaland (above) as secretary of the interior, making her the first Native American cabinet secretary—a historic event that NWF and most of its 53 affiliates strongly supported.
The Natural Resources Council of Maine, the West Virginia Rivers Coalition and many other NWF affiliates worked to urge their senators to confirm Haaland, citing her record of bipartisanship and wildlife advocacy during her tenure representing New Mexico in the U.S. House of Representatives. In addition, the Montana Wildlife Fund, a sister organization of the Montana Wildlife Federation, took out ads in state newspapers featuring the names of more than 2,500 Montanans who signed a petition urging Sen. Daines to drop his opposition to her nomination.
Haaland’s confirmation to a stewardship role over historically native lands is especially meaningful as she is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. “I will honor the sovereignty of tribal nations and recognize their part in America’s story, and I’ll be a fierce advocate for our public lands,” Haaland said in her nomination hearing. “I believe we all have a stake in the future of our country, and I believe that every one of us—Republicans, Democrats and Independents—shares a common bond: our love for the outdoors and a desire and obligation to keep our nation livable for future generations.”
Art for Awareness
Los Angeles wildlife murals
Artist Jonathan Martinez (pictured) has partnered with NWF to raise conservation awareness and add beauty to the Los Angeles area. In 2020, NWF commissioned Martinez to create a series of murals, including one near a Certified Wildlife Habitat® at Esperanza Elementary School (above) featuring a red-tailed hawk, a burrowing owl and famous LA mountain lion P-22. “We’re connecting people with conservation,” says NWF California Regional Executive Director Beth Pratt. “The kids at the school would never have a mountain lion in their garden, but now they do.” Martinez is centering his art on North American species for these projects but had previously focused mostly on international species. “It’s been a dream of mine to work with organizations that deal with local wildlife,” says Martinez. He has already finished two murals, with another planned for later this year in P-22’s home of Griffith Park, which will feature more iconic California wildlife.
New NWF Website
In February, the NWF sustainable agriculture team launched a new website as a hub for its Grow More and Cover Crop Champion programs. The programs are designed to provide farmers and outreach professionals with communication tools to effectively articulate the benefits of sustainable farming practices such as cover crops like daikon radishes (above), conservation tillage, rotational grazing and field buffers. These practices benefit both the environment and farmers as they improve air, water and soil quality, provide wildlife habitat and build farm productivity and resiliency. Working with NWF, local proponents of sustainable agriculture can increase the uptake of these practices in their communities.
People who want to learn more can visit the website and sign up for these programs—which have adapted well to a virtual format during the pandemic—as well as access articles, videos and other resources to improve farmer engagement.
In January, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation began training students in its third class of the Edgar Veillon Conservation Leadership Corps—named in memory of former LWF president and wildlife advocate Edgar Veillon. The program provides leadership development opportunities and conservation policy education to students interested in conservation advocacy.
The students meet once a month for four months to receive training from conservation experts, go on field trips (such as to the Louisiana State University Center for River Studies, above) and learn about Louisiana’s ecosystems and the problems they face. “We attract a lot of students with a biology or science background,” says LWF Executive Director Rebecca Triche. “But we like to say that every person needs to understand the role of policy and advocacy and needs to be more conscious of conservation. They will always be able to use the information they gain.”
The 2021 program, which was virtual, was the first to have a theme: “Trash Pollution in Louisiana Waterways.” Through Zoom, the 21 students connected with each other and experts in areas such as estuary management. “Learning about environmental issues can be draining, and it’s sometimes hard to feel like your individual conservation efforts are actually worth something,” says 2021 participant Marisa Terry. “So it brings me so much hope to see all of the things other people are doing to make a difference.”
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