Action Report: October/November 2006
How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference
Grazing Rules Threaten Wildlife
Legal action aims to protect species and habitat
A decade ago, the federal government reformed its regulations to better manage public lands livestock grazing that too often destroyed wildlife habitat, polluted watersheds and damaged soils. In July the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released new grazing rules that reversed those reforms, forcing NWF and other conservation groups to take legal action against the agency.
"Almost nothing in these rules benefits public lands, wildlife or the millions of Americans who use these lands for recreation," says Tom Lustig, senior counsel for NWF, which joined the Idaho Wildlife Federation, Idaho Conservation League, Natural Resources Defense Council and a conservationist in filing a lawsuit. The groups charge that BLM's new regulations, which govern livestock grazing on more than 160 million acres, "would limit public participation in decision-making, create private property interests in the midst of public lands and undermine the agency's authority to protect rangeland resources."
In August, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the BLM from implementing portions of its new rules that exclude public input, having found that these provisions are likely illegal. At this writing, the court was expected to rule soon on the rest of NWF's claims.
Judge Orders Corps to Halt
The ivory-billed woodpecker--perhaps the nation's most endangered bird--depends on the bottomland hardwood forests of Arkansas for survival. When construction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Grand Prairie Irrigation Project threatened to divert water from the species' habitat for agricultural use, NWF and the Arkansas Wildlife Federation took legal action to halt the controversial endeavor. Last July, a federal judge ruled in their favor, agreeing that the Corps failed to fully consider the project's potential damage.
"The law is very clear on this issue," says David Carruth, an NWF board member and president of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation. "If you are going to build a project that pumps 158 billion gallons of water from an endangered species' habitat each year, you have to do the proper scientific research to ensure it will not harm that species."
The judge said the Corps "put the cart before the horse" when it found Grand Prairie would have "no adverse impact" on the ivory-bill without first conducting on-site reviews. He ordered the agency to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--as required by the Endangered Species Act--to determine if the project poses a threat to the bird or its habitat.
Thought extinct for more than half a century, the ivory-bill was rediscovered in 2004 in Arkansas's Cache River refuge. Biologists kept their sightings secret for a year to prevent a birder stampede into the area. Word broke in the news media in spring 2005.
New State Affiliate
NWF's newest affiliate is Oregon's Association of Northwest Steelheaders. To learn more about the group, visit www.nwsteelheaders.org.
Garden for Wildlife
Callawassie Island, South Carolina, and Sonoma County, California, were certified as the nation's 15th and 16th Community Wildlife Habitats. Get your community growing too at www.nwf.org/community.
Resource Use Outpacing Growth
Population and consumption impacts Michigan's environment
Michigan is eating up natural resources at rates exceeding the state's population growth, says a report produced jointly by NWF and the Center for Environment and Population (CEP). The study reveals how individual lifestyle choices and socioeconomic factors contribute to ecological damage.
"The science is in and the trends are clear," says Marisa Rinkus, Great Lakes population and environment outreach coordinator for NWF. "The question is: 'What are Michigan leaders going to do about it?'"
Over the last three decades, the state's human population grew by 12 percent while its number of households rose by 43 percent. Because every household occupies space, consumes energy, contains possessions and emits pollution, says the report, "an increase in the number of households can significantly increase environmental impacts even when the population as a whole is not growing at a fast rate."
The development of land throughout the state for residential, commercial and industrial use is placing wildlife and wildlife habitat increasingly at risk, says Rinkus. "Land is being converted eight times faster than the population grows."
As communities expand, so does the need for travel. Road usage increased nearly 50 percent from 1984 to 2001, according to the report. And consumption of motor fuel has risen by 88 percent since 1960.
"Michigan is not alone in grappling with these issues," says Victoria Markham, CEP's director. Though the United States represents only about 5 percent of the world's population, it consumes higher amounts of nearly every resource than any other country.
Exxon Valdez Revisited
Additional cleanup funds sought for Alaska
It's been nearly two decades since the Exxon Valdez ran aground and dumped at least 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound. In that time, less than a third of the species harmed by the spill (including the sea otter, below) have recovered, and 100 to 200 tons of toxic crude remains in tidal habitats scattered throughout the region.
Hoping to restore the affected wildlife and activities such as subsistence fishing that depend on them, the State of Alaska and the federal government recently requested an additional $92 million from Exxon to address lingering pollution. The claim, authorized by the governments' original 1991 settlement with the company, was supported by NWF. The Federation helped convince decision-makers to take action by securing the backing of communities in the spill region, testifying at public hearings on the issue and working with scientists to gather evidence for the claim, among other activities.
Endangered Cat's Removal Thwarted
When a Florida panther and her kittens were threatened with eviction from their home in Big Cypress National Preserve earlier this year, NWF and its South Florida members took action. Their outreach to key decision-makers and local press helped prompt the National Park Service to acknowledge--despite political pressure from nearby residents--that the feline mother, called FP124, did not pose a danger that necessitated removal.
One of an estimated 14 to 17 reproducing females left in a population of only 80 cats, FP124 has birthed litters each of the past two years (the first is held by a biologist, above), making her "one of the most significant panthers out there," according to Laura Hartt, an environmental policy specialist at NWF. Hartt says the decision not to relocate FP124 is consistent with the recently revised Florida Panther Recovery Plan. The multi-agency blueprint, which she helped to draft on behalf of the Federation, emphasizes using sound science to determine how panthers are managed. See www.nwf.org/floridapanther.
Change the Forecast for Wildlife
Every day we make choices that impact the Earth's climate--and the future health of the world we all share. Our actions will determine whether we succeed in the fight against global warming. To help people "be part of the solution," NWF recently published a fact sheet full of practical how-to tips and resources. See "In-Depth Resources" at www.nwf.org/globalwarming.
NWF Art For Your Collection
Wildlife art has played an important role in the National Wildlife Federation's conservation efforts, almost from the day the organization was founded in 1936. For decades, NWF enlisted the aid of dozens of the country's finest animal artists, whose original stamp art helped educate millions of Americans about endangered species and other native wildlife.
Now, high-quality reproductions of many of those original paintings from the Federation's historical art collection are available for your own collection through ArteHouse, an NWF partner and supporter. Many of these wildlife portraits have never before been offered to the public.
The affordable art prints are available in a variety of sizes, framed or unframed. Items such as note cards and magnets can also be purchased. To see the collection and learn more about it, visit www.artehousenwf.com or call 1-866-965-1767.
Here She Is, Miss Greener America
NWF member brings global warming message to pageant stage
Allison Rogers has tried many ways to get people involved in working to take better care of the Earth, from heading up her Harvard University dormitory's conservation efforts to starting a program--as an NWF Campus Ecology® fellow--that refurbishes and redistributes the university's used computers. This year, Rogers tried something different. In April she was named Miss Rhode Island--one of 52 women who will go on to compete in January for the title of Miss America. Her platform: "Go Green! Global Warming Awareness."
As she became more involved with environmental activism through the NWF fellowship and other work at Harvard, Rogers started to wonder how to reach out to a wider audience. She decided that the Miss America organization, the largest scholarship group for women in the world, would be a perfect stage to get the word out on her chosen issue of climate change.
"I really felt the environmental movement needed to make fighting global warming a patriotic issue," says Rogers. "And what is a more American symbol than Miss America?"
Since last spring, Rogers has brought her conservation message to events small and large, from summer parades in her home state to Boston's Earth Fest, which draws more than 100,000 people. Her dream, she says, is "that one day we will live in a society that runs on renewable and non-fossil fuels, with low-impact vehicles, where 'sustainable' lifestyle choices are second nature for all of us."
Rogers' decision to seek the crown for the sake of the Earth was "a smart thing to do," says Julian Keniry, director of NWF's Campus Ecology program. "It gives her a platform; that was her motivation. And she's a really, really outstanding voice for the environment--someone who gives you hope for the world."
Uniting for Energy Independence
Groups call for job creation and freedom from foreign oil
Sharing the belief that a major initiative to develop renewable energy, homegrown biofuels and advanced automotive technologies is needed to end Michigan's dependence on imported energy, NWF recently joined fellow conservation groups and labor organizations in forming the Michigan Apollo Alliance. "Michigan spends $20 billion a year buying energy from outside the state and outside the country," says Andy Buchsbaum, director of NWF's Great Lakes Natural Resource Center in Ann Arbor. "Why not spend as much of that money as we can here, putting Michigan workers on the job creating clean and efficient energy sources that protect our environment?"