Action Report: October/November 2001

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • Phyllis McIntosh
  • Aug 01, 2001
NWF Goes to Court to Protect Northwest Salmon

The National Wildlife Federation is leading a coalition of environmental groups, including two of its affiliates, the Idaho Wildlife Federation and the Washington Wildlife Federation, in suing the federal government for failing to come up with an adequate plan to restore salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon, charges that a plan issued last December for operation of dams in the two rivers is so flawed that it would keep salmon on the path to extinction. Furthermore, even this weak plan is being tossed aside by the Bush administration, which has already suspended major portions of it and has not provided the necessary funding in the 2002 budget to implement the plan.

The lawsuit contends that the government has ignored the consensus of many scientists that the surest route to salmon recovery in the Snake is to remove four dams on the lower section of the river. The plaintiffs argue that the plan also gives the states and power authorities too much leeway to make decisions without federal oversight and contains significant loopholes, such as vague "emergency" clauses.

For example, the plan calls for more water in the Snake and Columbia for young salmon migrating to the ocean and requires spilling water over dams so that fewer fish are caught in deadly turbines and bypass systems. But already the Bonneville Power Authority is evading these rules, citing the "emergency" caused by high energy demands, low rainfall and financial problems. Biologists predict that this action could result in losses of as much as 95 percent of young salmon.

"The continuing salmon emergency is hurting people, communities and economies," says Tim Stearns, NWF's Northwest regional director. "Federal agencies managing the Columbia and Snake Rivers should be steering us out of this mess. Instead they are making it worse."

Learn more about this salmon issue and what you can do to help.

Program Profile: Species Recovery Fund Awards Grants

NWF's Keep the Wild Alive™ program has awarded ten new grants to local organizations for innovative, community-based projects that will directly improve conditions for imperiled species. The winners, selected from dozens of applicants, will receive between $4,000 and $7,000 each from the program´s Species Recovery Fund.

Most of the projects funded this year fall into the categories of rescue and restore. West Virginians, for example, are moving a portion of a population of imperiled butterflies known as two-spotted skippers to protected habitat in a state park. In Cape Cod, a local group is rescuing sea turtles that begin migration too late and become stunned by cold waters.

Grant recipients in California, meanwhile, are dip-netting juvenile coho salmon from small streams that dry up in the summer and transporting them to larger creeks where they can continue their migration to the sea. Mississippi garden clubs are working with middle school students to plant endangered pondberry in protected sites, including two wildlife refuges and a state park.

Other projects that are receiving the NWF grants aim to restore the salmon spawning ponds in Washington´s Washougal River, the largest prairie chicken lek (breeding ground) in Missouri and a traditional nesting area for Kentucky warblers in Pennsylvania. Still other groups are working to protect habitat for desert tortoises, and southwestern willow flycatchers, arroyo toads and the endangered Fender´s blue butterfly.

Learn more about the Species Recovery Fund or about the species featured in the Keep the Wild Alive campaign.

Public Opinion: Alaskans Want Wilderness

The Public overwhelmingly supports wilderness protection for Alaska's pristine Copper River Delta. A massive campaign by NWF and its allies generated a record 30,000 comments to the U.S. Forest Service, more than 99 percent in favor of wilderness protection. Of Alaskans commenting, more than 93 percent support the wilderness designation.

"This is as close to a consensus on a wilderness proposal as we´re ever likely to see," says Tony Turrini, director of NWF's Alaska Project Office in Anchorage. "The Forest Service has a golden opportunity to permanently protect what may be the most spectacular and biologically rich area in the entire national forest system."

Former Clinton Administration Officials Join NWF

Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service during the Clinton administration, and Michael Dombeck, ex-chief of the U.S. Forest Service, have joined NWF in senior leadership positions.

As senior vice president for conservation programs, Clark will lead NWF and its grass-roots partners in working toward tangible progress on conservation issues. In his new role as senior fellow, Dombeck will promote NWF's common-sense approach to new audiences.

Clark includes the spectacular recoveries of the gray wolf, bald eagle and peregrine falcon and the passage of the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act among the highlights of her tenure at the Fish and Wildlife Service. At the Forest Service, Dombeck presided over development of the Roadless Area Conservation Policy, reform of the agency's 386,000-mile road system and development of a national fire plan based on protecting communities and restoring the health of fire-dependent public lands.

"Conservation is not a partisan issue," says NWF President Mark Van Putten. "I'm hopeful that Mike and Jamie can help the National Wildlife Federation work with the Bush administration to build on the conservation progress achieved under its predecessor."

Pritchett Elected Chair of NWF's Board of Directors

Delegates to NWF's 65th annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., elected Colorado conservationist Bryan Pritchett to chair the organization´s Board of Directors for the next two years.

Pritchett, a coordinator for the City of Boulder´s Open Space Program, has been a member of NWF's board since 1993 and previously served on the board of NWF's affiliate, the Colorado Wildlife Federation.

The annual meeting also saw the addition of two new members to NWF's board of directors: Steve Allinger, the New York City Board of Education's executive director of intergovernmental relations; and Lyvier Conss, an Arizona conservationist who is executive director for the Campus Compact National Center for Community Colleges.

NWF Uses Hybrid Car to Promote Conservation

NWF is touring dozens of education and conservation events this summer with a new breed of car to spread the message about the need to conserve energy resources and reduce emissions that contribute to air pollution and global climate change.

The so-called hybrid car, a Prius model on loan from Toyota, is an ultra-low emission vehicle that runs on a combination of gasoline and electricity and gets about 48 miles per gallon of fuel.

NWF expects to introduce the car at events ranging from teacher workshops to NWF's Family Summit in West Virginia.

"If we can replace conventional vehicles with more efficient ones like these hybrid cars, we will significantly reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases and save far and away more oil than we could ever get from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge," says Patty Glick of NWF's Climate Change and Wildlife Program.

Sage Grouse Wins Protection in California

In a victory for NWF and its California affiliate, the Planning and Conservation League, the U.S. Forest Service has designated sage grouse a sensitive species in northern California.

This designation requires the Forest Service to maintain viable populations of sage grouse in the Modoc and Inyo National Forests. The agency also must assess the effects on the grouse of such activities as fire management, livestock grazing, road building, mining, energy development and reservoir construction.

A key grassland species, sage grouse have declined throughout their range in the western states because of dwindling habitat.

Conservation Heroes: Louisiana Couple Champions Cause of Turtles

When Martha Ann Messinger and her husband George Patton found a box turtle in the yard of their Bastrop, Louisiana, home in 1989, little did they realize that they were about to embark on a mission that would consume much of their time and energy for many years to come.

Shortly after finding the reptile, the two retirees discovered that all three species of Louisiana box turtles were declining because of habitat loss, low reproduction rates and--most horrifying of all to them--the international pet trade.

When they learned that Louisiana had no restrictions on the collecting and selling of box turtles as pets, "We were infuriated and knew we had to do something," Messinger says.

She got her chance in 1995 when she was appointed as the Louisiana Wildlife Federation's representative to a state Reptile and Amphibian Task Force looking into the pet trade. To gain expertise, she enrolled in several university courses in herpetology, ecology and conservation biology. Soon afterward, she and Patton began conducting their own research into the nesting habits of box turtles and published a scientific paper in Herpetological Review.

In 1999, working together with the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the couple launched a campaign to generate public interest in box turtles and to press the state for protective legislation. Their efforts paid off when the legislature unanimously passed a law prohibiting the sale of any of the three native species of Louisiana box turtles.

In 1999, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation presented Messinger and Patton with its Governor's Award, which honors conservationists who have made the most outstanding contribution toward the protection and wise use of the state's resources.

Working with the turtles "has changed my life," Messinger says. "I was raised to think that man has dominion over all living things, but I've come to realize that we all share this Earth together."

Affiliate Spotlight: Alabama's Roads to Reefs Aids Anglers

The Alabama Wildlife Federation is working with the state, Mobile County and local conservation groups in funding a program called Roads to Reefs, which uses old concrete from a road-improvement project to construct artificial reefs in Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound.

The goal is to improve inshore fishing for recreational anglers who have small boats or who prefer to fish in protected waters. An added advantage of the project is that the old concrete will be put to beneficial use instead of taking up landfill space.

So far, four of ten planned reefs have been completed. The remaining six will be finished in late summer 2002.

Grass-Roots Activists: Taking a Stand: Atlantans Learn to Speak Up for Clean Water

Louversia Wiggins has been active in her Atlanta, Georgia, neighborhood for 20 years. But after participating in NWF's Leadership Development Workshops, the 49-year-old mother of two learned to make her voice heard on more distant turf.

Wiggins joined other workshop participants in meetings with the governor and state legislators to seek greater citizen input into state water policy. She also visited Washington, D.C., to lobby lawmakers.

As part of its campaign to improve wildlife habitat and water quality in Atlanta's Chattahoochee River watershed, NWF's Southeastern Natural Resource Center is training inner-city residents who live along the most polluted creeks to speak out on problems such as city sewers that connect to rain overflow systems, allowing untreated sewage to travel directly to local streams.

The next workshops will begin this fall. For information, call Na'Taki Osborne at 404-876-8733 or e-mail

Young Poet, Parrot Lover, Donates Proceeds

Second Grader Jack Baer of Alexandria, Virginia, became so enthralled with parrots after reading about them in school that he decided to write a book of poems about jungle animals and sell it to raise money for an organization that works to protect his favorite species.

Jack and his parents searched the Internet and were impressed with NWF's Web site section for kids and with its work to save species such as the Lear's macaw, a spectacular blue parrot. As a result, Jack vowed to donate his earnings--about $1,000 so far--to NWF's Species Recovery Fund.

Anyone interested in Jack's Jungle Poems can e-mail him and his parents at .

Zoo Vet Crusades Against Population Growth

Since attending an NWF workshop on population and the environment several years ago, Toledo Zoo veterinarian Tim Rei-chard has become increasingly outspoken about the impact of population growth and human activities on species ranging from tropical songbirds to polar bears.

He has participated in two NWF Population Activist Weekends in Washington, lobbied his congresswoman and has worked with NWF to organize a population panel discussion and activist training sessions at a national meeting of zoo vets.

At the Toledo Zoo, Reichard has recruited other staff members to the cause and is developing a permanent exhibit on population growth and wildlife.

"As vets, we have the opportunity to spread the message to zoo visitors, students and people in the community that the choices we make directly affect the animals that zoos are trying to save," Reichard says.

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