Action Report: How National Wildlife Federation Is Making a Difference
Giving Wildlife Room to Roam
Adopt a Wildlife Acre program reduces conflicts with livestock
Grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife have been able to thrive within Yellowstone National Park in recent years. However, once outside the park’s boundaries, conflicts with domestic livestock, primarily on public lands, have often led to landowners with grazing permits or federal agents killing these wild animals to protect livestock.
Through its Adopt a Wildlife Acre program, created in 2002, NWF contributions from members and partners have allowed the Federation to reduce such conflicts by providing ranchers with fair payment in exchange for their agreement to retire grazing permits on about 685,000 acres in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. Following are some of those critical retirements and how they helped provide wildlife more room to roam.
• NWF has retired 15 domestic sheep-grazing allotments on more than 150,000 acres next to Yellowstone in what U.S. conservation agencies designated as a Primary Conservation Area for grizzly bears (above). Domestic sheep are the most significant source of conflict for grizzlies.
• NWF has retired 10 cattle allotments adjacent to the park, creating about 250,000 acres of conflict-free habitat, much of which is used by gray wolves.
• Today, less than 4,500 genetically pure wild bison (right) exist in the United States, almost all of which live within Yellowstone National Park. Bison that wander outside the park are sometimes held in confinement or killed, as ranchers fear they may transmit the bovine disease brucellosis to cattle. NWF has retired cattle allotments on more than 30,000 acres west and north of Yellowstone in Montana, providing critical wintering habitat for bison.
• Beginning in 2009, NWF also worked to reach agreements to retire grazing allotments on nearly 60,000 acres of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana, relieving longstanding wildlife-livestock conflicts on several areas of the refuge.
• In partnership with the Wild Sheep Foundation, NWF has been able to eliminate conflicts between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep on thousands of acres in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. In June 2013, NWF retired two domestic sheep allotments of about 12,000 acres on Montana’s Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest northwest of Yellowstone. These retirements eliminated the domestic sheep that were suspected of infecting wild bighorn sheep with pneumonia, causing 75 percent mortality in one herd. The retirements also will help restore riparian vegetation the sheep eat and help improve water quality for the region’s trout and other fish.
“Giving wolves, bears, bison and bighorn sheep more safe habitat is one of the most important things we can do for these iconic American species,” says Hank Fischer, coordinator of NWF’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program. “This market-based approach is an important new way to resolve wildlife-livestock conflicts. The most amazing result is that we’ve changed the face of land management around Yellowstone with very little controversy.”
Your Dollars at Work
During the past decade, NWF has received more than $3.5 million in donations and has secured more than 620,000 acres through its Adopt a Wildlife Acre program, which has expanded habitat for wildlife significantly. To find out more go to www.nwf.org/wildlifeacre.
Join NWF at Vermont’s Fall Foliage Fandango
NWF is hosting fall outdoor activities to celebrate Vermont’s Worcester Range, an important wildlife corridor in the Northern Appalachians. A local expert is available to lead groups on hiking, mountain biking, paddling and other wildlife adventures and to talk about the relationship between healthy landscapes and local communities. For a schedule, visit www.nwf.org/northeastevents.
Lawn Law Saves Texans Water
Texas lawmakers passed legislation that prevents homeowner associations from forbidding residents from landscaping with water-conserving and drought-tolerant plants. The Texas Water Development Board reports that, on average, about 30 percent of the water that Texas homeowners consume is for outdoor use, mostly for landscaping. Therefore, this law could save a significant amount of water as well as encourage the planting of native, drought-resistant species that are good for wildlife.
Texas has suffered from an intense drought during the past three years. NWF’s Texas Living Waters Project staff worked with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Clean Water Action and other partners to inform lawmakers of the urgent need to pass this legislation. Myron Hess, NWF’s Texas Water Programs manager and counsel says, “One of the easiest ways to protect Texas’ limited water supply is to reduce outdoor watering. This legislation allows Texans to do their part to conserve at home if they choose to do so.”
NWF and its partners now will work with homeowner associations, water departments and municipalities to inform residents of this new law and native landscaping options. See www.TexasLivingWaters.org for more information.
Migratory Birds in Hot Seat
Climate change predicted to be greatest threat to birds in this century
“From waterfowl to songbirds to shorebirds, the climate crisis is the most serious threat this century facing America’s migratory birds,” said NWF President Larry Schweiger upon the release this past June of Shifting Skies: Confronting the Climate Crisis.
This NWF report details how a warming climate is affecting avian habitats, potentially decreasing some bird populations and leading to other species’ extinction. Migratory birds (such as these sandhill cranes) are particularly vulnerable because they breed, migrate and overwinter in different environments—all of which are changing. Sea level rise and violent storms are swallowing coastal nesting areas. Warming temperatures could alter when horseshoe crabs lay their eggs and therefore when migrating shorebirds such as red knots can find this essential food (see "Shorebirds' Fate Hinges on Horseshoe Crabs"). Increased pests and wildfires already have damaged songbirds’ forests, and changing rain patterns are expected to dry prairie wetlands essential for waterfowl. In response to these warming trends, says the report, 177 of 305 North American bird species have moved an average of 35 miles northward in the past four decades.
Shifting Skies recommends cutting carbon pollution by investing in clean energy, restoring carbon sinks such as forests and applying proactive, climate-smart strategies to bolster areas most at risk. Download the report from www.nwf.org/BirdsandClimate.
Leaf Pack Reveals Hidden World of Streams
NWF now offers Leaf Pack Experiment Kits that allow kids to count and identify insects and other invertebrates in streams to determine water quality. Developed by the Stroud Water Research Center, the experiments range from a simple aquatic-insect analysis to a deluxe stream-ecology study. Purchase kits at www.shopnwf.org/leafpack and post your results at www.stroudcenter.org/lpn.
Proposed Levee Threatens Wetlands
NWF urges Obama administration to stop project, protect wildlife and homes
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its seventh environmental impact statement in July on a 60-year-old proposal to build a levee that would close a quarter-mile gap and sever the Mississippi River from Missouri’s New Madrid floodway.
The project would cut off 80,000 acres of floodplain habitat from the river. This area filters river pollution, provides a natural release valve that protects towns from flooding and provides vital habitat for millions of migratory birds, 91 fish species and rare animals such as the swamp rabbit (right).
A federal district court rejected the Corps’ last environmental impact statement in 2007 because it did not comply with the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The latest statement recommends essentially the same plan, so the coalition has called on the Obama administration to stop the project. NWF’s Water Campaign Manager George Sorvalis says, “This project would sever the last remaining connection the Mississippi River has to its floodplain in Missouri, devastating fish and wildlife populations. The Obama administration needs to put this boondoggle to rest once and for all.” Visit www.nwf.org/newmadrid for more.
Getting Youth to “Go U”
Some kids are growing up never having experienced nature. NWF and two of its affiliates are changing that through Great Outdoors University adventures.
This past June, North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) held its first “Go U” classes that allow some of Charlotte’s most disadvantaged 6 to 18 year olds to take nature hikes, explore streams, plant trees or even meet rehabilitated raptors. During these day trips, youth are given tasks to increase their problem-solving, math and science skills, sense of responsibility and ability to work in a team. Studies show experiences in nature can help kids cope with stress. Beyond this, says NCWF’s Go U program manager Mary Bures, “These fun experiences allow them to discover the many wonders of nature.”
This NWF and NCWF program is based on the Great Outdoors University program that the Tennessee Wildlife Federation (TWF) launched in 2005. By partnering with schools, youth groups and local organizations, each affiliate can reach hundreds of kids each year. TWF has hosted more than 13,000 outdoor immersion experiences, from one-day adventures to overnight caving and camping trips.
Go to www.ncwf.org/GoU and www.tnwf.org/great-outdoors-university to learn more.
Helping California Cities Bloom
NWF strives to certify 50,000 yards and create wildlife corridors by 2015
This past spring, NWF launched the Wildlife and the City and the 50,000 Yards for Wildlife campaigns to inspire Californians to help urban wildlife and transform backyards, schoolyards, businesses and places of worship into wildlife-friendly spaces. California already has 10,000 NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat® sites. However, these initiatives are designed to create additional habitat to help connect urban green spaces and provide safe corridors in which a great variety of wildlife can live, travel and breed, from California’s threatened red-legged frogs to its burrowing owls.
To reach this goal, NWF is working with nonprofits, government agencies and businesses, including Facebook, which recently became a certified habitat site inhabited by gray foxes (above). “Connecting with wildlife through certified habitats not only contributes to conservation but improves the health of urban communities,” says Beth Pratt, NWF’s California program director. Go to www.nwfcalifornia.org/wildlife-and-the-city/ to find out more.