NWF Members at Work: June/July 1998
Green Investment Yields Green Returns for Many College Campuses
Faced with a serious parking-space shortage, Cornell University devised a carpooling and bus-pass system to get students and staff out of their cars rather than build new parking lots. Savings: $3.1 million.
With one truck and a crew of six, the University of Wisconsin last year collected 1,000 tons of surplus equipment, from chairs to computers, and put them up for sale instead of sending them to the landfill. Savings and sales revenue totaled nearly $242,000.
These and dozens of other schools across the nation are discovering that conservation on campus pays off in a healthy bottom line as well as a healthier environment, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation´s Campus Ecology® program.
"Green Investment, Green Return: How Practical Conservation Projects Save Millions on America´s Campuses" highlights 23 cost-saving conservation initiatives at 15 public and private colleges. Annual savings per project range from just over $1,000 for composting of landscape waste at the University of Colorado to $9 million for a massive retrofitting of lights, motors, weather stripping and heating and air conditioning at the University of Buffalo. Together, the 23 projects saved $16.8 million.
"The implications of this study are incredible," says NWF President Mark Van Putten. "When the average annual campus savings are multiplied across the remaining 3,685 campuses nationwide, the potential for savings tops $2.6 billion."
Since 1989, NWF´s Campus Ecology organizers have worked with students, faculty and administrators to promote environmental awareness and action at more than a third of the nation´s colleges.
NWF Aids Natives to Safeguard Lake Ecosystem
It is sometimes described as the "Everglades of the North"--an area of the North Woods of Wisconsin where the Kakogan Sloughs/Bad River watershed ends in a wild rice and wetlands area on the shore of Lake Superior.
The future of this region, home to imperiled wood turtles (right), northern goshawks, wolves and trumpeter swans, is closely linked to forest-management decisions made by many landowners and managers.
NWF has joined the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa tribe to promote forestry practices that will restore and protect this valuable ecosystem. They are developing a handbook to urge land-owners, forestry companies and regulatory agencies to adopt practices that will protect important wildlife habitat, including den sites for wolves, travel corridors for wildlife and stable riverbanks that control sedimentation.
"Even in the Lake Superior Basin, which is relatively undeveloped, land ownership is fragmented," says Laura Rose-Day, Lake Superior project manager in NWF´s Great Lakes Field Office. "Many landowners must work together to protect the natural heritage of the region."
Metal-Finishing Industry Pledges to Cut Pollution
In the first such agreement worked out between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a single industry, metal-finishing companies across the country have voluntarily pledged to cut pollution beyond required levels.
The agreement is part of EPA´s Common Sense Initiative, which seeks to find new ways to cut pollution in six major industries that account for about 12 percent of toxics released in this country. Guy Williams, pollution prevention specialist in NWF´s Great Lakes Field Office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was part of the committee that worked out the agreement.
The industry, which applies finishes to everything from jewelry to military aircraft, releases substantial amounts of solvents and cancer-causing metals, such as chromium and cadmium, into the air and water, Williams says.
Under the new agreement, the industry plans to reduce emissions of toxic chemicals into the air and water by 90 percent. It further plans to cut releases of metals by 50 percent and disposal of hazardous sludge by 50 percent--all by the year 2002.
Federation Asks Members for Help to Protect Wolves
In a special appeal bound into the center of this issue, NWF is asking its members to help support a campaign to allow wolves to continue to live in Yellowstone.
Donations from members will help fund NWF´s efforts to reverse a federal judge´s decision which was based on a legal technicality. The judge ordered removal of more than 150 reintroduced gray wolves and their offspring from Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. NWF was a leader in the 20-year struggle to return the animals to their native habitat in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
"The wolf reintroduction campaign reversed decades of wrong-headed thinking about predators and represents a real victory for commonsense conservation," says Tom France, an attorney in NWF´s Northern Rockies Field Office in Missoula, Montana. "To undo it would be a tragedy of the first order."
Returning wolves to the park is not an exercise based on a romantic yearning to return to yesteryear. Without wolves, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is badly out of balance. The elk populations have grown far too large, and they are destroying the park´s plant life. This upsets the dynamic balance of various predator and prey animals and most of the plant life as well.
Clearly, the public agrees with wolf restoration. In a poll commissioned by NWF, 63 percent of those surveyed said they oppose the judge´s order. If "removal" means killing the wolves, opposition soars to 84 percent. And if higher courts fail to overturn the judge´s order, 68 percent say Congress should act to keep the wolves where they are.
While people argue over their future, the wolves continue to thrive, France reports.
At least 8 breeding pairs in Yellowstone and 13 pairs in Idaho should lead to significant increases in wolf numbers this spring. Elk and deer herds--the wolves´ principal prey--also have done well as a result of the mild winter in the Northern Rockies.
HCP Promise May Widen Risk for Rare Species
A controversial rule guaranteeing landowners no future surprises under the Endangered Species Act is drawing fire from NWF and other conservation groups.
Despite strong opposition from environmentalists, the Clinton administration has issued a final policy promising landowners who enter into a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that their obligations to protect endangered species will not go beyond those stated in the plan--even if the plan fails and jeopardizes a species´ survival. An HCP is essentially a deal cut between a federal agency and a landowner to allow development to go forward in exchange for conservation measures undertaken by the property owner.
"Giving landowners assurances about their future obligations would make sense if we were securing good conservation plans in return," says NWF Counsel John Kostyack. "Unfortunately, the administration´s policy effectively locks in management strategies that many believe will prove harmful to endangered wildlife. Before we give long-term assurances to landowners, we should ensure that plans contain basic scientific safeguards, including provisions for taking corrective actions if the plans fail to achieve their goals."
NWF Promotes Habitat Plans to Churches
With guidance from NWF´s Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ program, more and more church congregations are working as stewards of the land and its creatures.
At least 30 churches in 19 states already have backyard habitats certified by NWF. Community Lutheran Church in Sterling, Virginia, for example, has installed a two-acre Hedgerow Habitat Trail with native plants, bat houses, bird-feeding stations and butterfly hibernation boxes.
To persuade more churches and faith organizations to get involved, NWF recently cosponsored a national conference called "Keeping the Garden," which focused in part on wildlife conservation and outdoor-education programs.
"Churches represent huge groups of people who already have strong links to each other," says Heather Carskaddan, manager of NWF´s Backyard Wildlife Habitat program. "If we can mobilize them for the environment, they can accomplish a great deal."
Year of Ocean Focuses on Threats to Coastal Areas
NWF is commemorating 1998 as the International Year of the Ocean and June 8 as Oceans Day by publicizing the growing threats to marine life and habitats.
At its annual meeting, NWF passed a resolution endorsing the United Nations´ designation of 1998 as International Year of the Ocean. NWF pledged to educate the public about such perils as polluted runoff which causes fish kills, creates oxygen-depleted "dead zones" and sickens people who live or play near contaminated beaches.
To help schools and other organizations celebrate Oceans Day on June 8, NWF and the Canadian Wildlife Federation have produced a special poster featuring an endangered baby leatherback sea turtle. The poster includes activities for children and tips about what people can do at home and in their communities to help protect coastlines and oceans.
For more information about NWF´s oceans initiative and a free poster, contact NWF´s Northeast Field Office.
Bison Ad Campaign Appeals for Help to Stop Slaughter
Through radio and airport ads, NWF and the InterTribal Bison Cooperative (ITBC) are appealing directly to the people of Montana for help in ending the state-sanctioned slaughter of wild bison that wander outside Yellowstone National Park. Last year, more than 1,000 bison were killed. The ITBC is an organization of 45 tribes founded by Native Americans in 1990 to assist and coordinate efforts to bring bison back to Indian lands.
The ads explain an NWF-ITBC plan to disease-test bison that cross the park border and to move healthy animals to tribal lands. They urge Montanans to call on state officials to end their current practice of killing bison that move onto public land outside Yellowstone.
The state´s rationale for this modern-day slaughter is that a small percentage of wild bison have been exposed to brucellosis, which can cause abortions in cattle. "There is no evidence that Yellowstone bison are as severely affected by brucellosis as cattle and there has never been a documented case of a park bison having passed the microbe to cattle," says Steve Torbit, senior scientist at NWF´s Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center in Boulder, Colorado.
Yellowstone elk, which come into contact with livestock far more frequently than bison do, also show signs of brucellosis exposure. Yet no one has suggested killing the many thousands of elk that migrate out of Yellowstone every year. The bison killing, notes Torbit, "seems even less justified in light of the ITBC´s standing offer to take the roaming wild bison, quarantine them, remove any that test positive for brucellosis and use the remainder to restock reservations."
NWF also has sent a newsletter to 7,300 families who visited its bison information kiosk at Yellowstone last summer to update them on the bison situation and ask for their continued help in appealing to Montana officials. At the time of this writing, the Federation plans to reopen the Yellowstone kiosk on Memorial Day weekend.
NWF´s 62nd Annual Meeting
The protection of wildlife habitat was the focus of NWF´s annual meeting held along the banks of the Potomoc River in March, just before cherry blossom time.
NWF´s volunteer Chairman Gerald R. Barber reported that NWF´s affiliates have combined innovative strategies with time-honored grass-roots political action to make big strides in the protection of vital wildlife habitats across the nation.
At the meeting, delegates from 45 states and territories passed 19 conservation-policy resolutions.
Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt delivered a ringing endorsement for the continued presence of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, in spite of a federal judge´s order that they be removed. Babbitt declared, "Having put those wolves in Yellowstone, there is no way they´re leaving on my watch."
Two new NWF regional directors were elected: Dan Deeb of Indiana and Harmon Shade of South Carolina.
Resource Panels Explore Methods for Effective Action
Delegates and members attended Conservation Round Tables on how climate change will affect wildlife habitat; how Habitat Conservation Plans are helping--and also threatening--endangered species; how the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to issue new wetlands destruction permits; and how backyard habitats provide opportunities for cooperation between NWF affiliates and other like-minded organizations.
Other Conservation Round Tables explored how NWF and the InterTribal Bison Cooperative made conservation history when they formalized their partnership in January 1997; dangers posed by runoff pollution, including the toxic microbe Pfiesteria; and innovative approaches to floodplain management.
Mark Van Putten Cites High Value of Name-Dropping
NWF President Mark Van Putten told a large Saturday morning audience how he has become a name-dropper in the best Washington, D.C., tradition. However, Van Putten pointed out he had not begun to drop the names of people whose first names were Senator, or Representative, or Secretary or even Vice President or President. "The names I drop," Van Putten said, "are the names of volunteer grass-roots activists who work 12 months a year to protect the natural resources upon which all our lives and wildlife depend."
Addressing the assembled delegates and other volunteer conservationists, Van Putten continued, "I have become a shameless name-dropper because I have seen in tangible ways the credibility and clout that comes from the work that you do day in and day out.
"When I saw Senator Graham from Florida," Van Putten said, "I did let the words Florida Wildlife Federation slip from my lips and maybe Manley Fuller [FWF president]." Van Putten mentioned a half-dozen examples of dropping NWF volunteers´ names in meetings with federal officials, including President Clinton.
"It´s the genuineness of your lifelong dedication to conservation that makes the National Wildlife Federation a player in the nation´s capital," he said.
NWF Awards Honor Conservation Achievements
The National Conservation Achievement Awards are presented annually to individuals and organizations that have been leaders in spreading conservation messages. This year´s winners included:
Virgin Islands Conservation Society was named NWF Affiliate of the Year for effectively promoting conservation of vital habitat.
Martin and Chris Kratt for their award-winning PBS television show, Kratts´ Creatures.
Valdas Adamkus for his 29 years of service at EPA during which he repeatedly stood up to politically motivated efforts to cut off community input.
Rep. Elizabeth Furse for her role as a leading voice for the environment in the U.S. Congress.
North Carolina State University researcher JoAnn Burkholder for her role as co-discoverer and subsequent research into the nature of the deadly microbe Pfiesteria.
Activist Alden Lind for 42 years of effort to safeguard the waters of Lake Superior.
Naturalist Lorrie Otto, an effective advocate for natural landscaping for 30 years.
Rep. Furse: Listen, Work Together to Save Resources
Congresswoman Elizabeth Furse, completing her third and final term as U.S. Representative from Oregon´s First District, spoke about her life as an activist. Furse is renowned for a valiant attempt in her first term to repeal the Salvage Timber Rider, a measure that allowed irresponsible logging of the Northwest´s old-growth timber. Rep. Furse told annual meeting attendees how the only consitutionally guaranteed protection of the environment is a treaty signed by Indian tribes and the U.S. government.
"And I would say that for us who care so much about the environment, we must partner with every powerful consitutency," she said. "And in my belief, there is no more powerful constituency than the tribes across this great land."
Rep. Furse continued, "In working with native communities, the most important thing we must do is listen, to understand, to work together, to realize that we, too, have the great honor of being cosigners of those treaties, and that we have those treaties´ guarantees behind us as we fight ... for the right for our grandchildren to have those resources."