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Action Report: February/March 2002

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • Phyllis McIntosh
  • Feb 01, 2002
Chief U.S. Land Agency Fails To Protect Treasured Landscapes 
Despite a 25-year mandate to prevent "undue and necessary degradation" of public lands, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) still fails to safeguard the health of millions of acres and the natural resources they support. That is the conclusion of a new report by NWF and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Responsible for more than 264 million acres, BLM manages more public land than the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service combined. Under its stewardship are some of the nation’s most treasured landscapes and valuable wildlife habitats.

The report finds that the agency is still heavily geared toward serving its historical constituencies, such as the energy, mining and livestock industries. "The result has been continuing ecological degradation of the public lands, including damaged watersheds, habitat destruction and species declines," states the report.

"Our study further suggests that BLM is unprepared to deal with expected new demands for increased energy production from the public lands," says Catherine Johnson, director of NWF’s Rocky Mountain Natural Resource Center.

Over the years, NWF has opposed such BLM actions as proposing to allow extensive energy development in Wyoming’s Red Desert—winter range for the nation’s largest herd of migratory pronghorn—and repeatedly trying to allow livestock grazing at a rare desert spring in Arizona’s Arrastra Mountain Wilderness Area.

The report recommends several ways that BLM can strengthen its conservation management, including:

Showcasing the conservation values of newly established national monuments and national conservation areas.
Updating land use plans for at least 60 areas; some plans are more than 20 years old.
Making the long-term health of public lands an integral part of all management decisions.

NWF Helps Revitalize Urban Communities 
As the greater Detroit area launches a major initiative to create more natural areas within the city, NWF’s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center® is playing a key role in encouraging the use of natural plantings to provide wildlife habitat and in finding ways to link green areas with walkways, bike paths and schoolyard habitats.

It’s all part of NWF’s Building Bridges for Sustainable Communities Program, which helps revitalize inner-city neighborhoods in several cities of the upper Midwest.

"There’s a direct link between the health of our urban neighborhoods and preservation of natural habitat in undeveloped areas," says Guy Williams, NWF’s Urban Ecosystem Program manager. "Revitalizing our cities is essential to controlling urban sprawl."

The chief focus for the past seven years has been Detroit’s east side, where NWF has organized community workshops, helped develop community beautification programs and encouraged creation of backyard and schoolyard habitats.


In other actions, NWF:

Worked with community groups in Detroit and Milwaukee to reclaim abandoned industrial sites or parcels of land referred to as "brownfields."
Expanded Earth Tomorrow, its popular environmental club program for high school students, from Detroit to Milwaukee.
Issued a report, Health, Habitat and Hope: NWF in the City, and a video, Eastside Story, about NWF’s efforts to improve the urban landscapes of Detroit.
Produced a report, Linking Brownfields Redevelopment and Greenfields Protection for Sustainable Development, with two other organizations.

Public Wants Grizzly Recovery To Proceed 
An overwhelming majority of people who commented on Interior Secretary Gale Norton’s proposal to abandon grizzly bear recovery in the Bitterroot wilderness of Idaho and Montana reject her plan and want reintroduction to go forward. Of more than 28,000 comments received last summer by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), nearly 98 percent disagreed with Secretary Norton’s "no action" plan.

NWF was a key architect of the citizen management plan for grizzly recovery in the Bitterroot that was originally adopted by FWS in November 2000.

Opposition is strong even in the states that would be most affected by grizzly reintroduction. Some 98 percent of comments from Idaho and 93 percent from Montana disapproved of Secretary Norton’s plan.


NWF Urges Congress To Pass Clean Power Act 
NWF is strongly supporting legislation before Congress that would significantly reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. Bills introduced in both the Senate and the House would require power plants by 2007 to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions 75 percent below levels currently required by the Clean Air Act, nitrogen oxides to 75 percent below 1997 standards, mercury 90 percent below 1999 levels and carbon dioxide to 1990 levels.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest single unregulated source of mercury pollution in the United States and emit one-third of the nation’s carbon dioxide, the gas chiefly responsible for global warming. They also account for more than 60 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions and 23 percent of nitrogen oxides, which together contribute to smog, soot, acid rain and nitrogen deposition in coastal waters.

To learn what you can do to help, check NWF’s Climate Change and Wildlife Web page.


Lawsuit Filed Over Ohio’s Polluted Waters 
A coalition of organizations led by NWF has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to require the state of Ohio to clean up its waterways.

More than 880 Ohio waterways, including Lake Erie and all the state’s major rivers, are officially classified as "impaired." Pollutants include mercury from power plants, runoff from construction sites and fields, and industrial discharges.

In more than 20 years, the state has submitted only two cleanup plans to EPA, and only one of those has been approved. The state legislature recently rejected a request from Ohio EPA for funds to complete cleanup plans for all waterways.

"Since the state won’t act, the U.S. EPA needs to step in and protect Ohio’s people and wildlife from water pollution," says Neil Kagan, the NWF attorney who filed the lawsuit. NWF was joined in the suit by its state affiliate, the League of Ohio Sportsmen, and the Ohio Environmental Council.


Rare Mussel Victim Of Arkansas’s White River Projects 
Recent listing of the scale-shell mussel under the Endangered Species Act is another sign that Arkansas’s White River has suffered sufficient damage from poorly planned Army Corps of Engineers projects, NWF warns.

The listing is significant because the mussel’s presence in the river historically has been an indicator of high water quality, say NWF water resources experts. They caution that the river basin stands to lose still more habitat and wildlife if additional irrigation and navigation projects are allowed to proceed.

NWF has joined local conservationists, sportsmen and town officials in opposing the massive Grand Prairie irrigation project, which would pump billions of gallons of water from the river, and the Lower White River Navigation Expansion Project, which would create an artificial navigation channel through the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Both are among the 25 most damaging and wasteful Corps water projects featured in the report Troubled Waters by NWF and Taxpayers for Common Sense.


Eagle Soars To Lift Nation’s Wounded Spirit 
NWF recently helped release a rehabilitated bald eagle into the skies over Virginia as a symbol of the nation’s resiliency in the wake of the September terrorist attacks. The eagle, named Spirit, was returned to the wild by NWF Eastern Region Vice Chair Ed Clark, president of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, the wildlife rescue and rehabilitation hospital that nursed the bird back to health following an injury.

Clark was joined by NWF President Mark Van Putten, Virginia Senator John Warner and Virginia wildlife agency officials. "Our spirit still soars and our nation remains majestic--just like our high-flying national symbol," Van Putten remarked.


Restored Prairie a Landmark Habitat Site 
Mary and Jim Norton’s 30-year commitment to restoring the tallgrass prairie that once thrived on their New Hartford, Iowa, land paid off recently when NWF certified their farm as its 30,000th Backyard Wildlife Habitat site. Find out how you can turn your garden into a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

Appropriately named Prairie Hill Farm, the Nortons’ property has been in Mary’s family since 1893, when her great-grandparents moved from Missouri and homesteaded there. At that time, Iowa was a sea of grasses and wildflowers that supported a great diversity of wildlife. Today, less than one percent of the state’s original prairie remains.

Intent on restoring the plant life as accurately as possible, the Nortons spent considerable time learning about the prairie species indigenous to New Hartford. Their stands of native bluestem grass, yellow prairie coneflower, purple prairie clover and other plants are now so bountiful that they can share seed with schools and neighbors who want to establish their own prairies.

The 200-acre farm also includes ponds, woodlands and riparian buffer strips that, along with the prairie, attract a wide variety of wildlife.

A retired educator, Mary is busy spreading the word about prairie restoration, helping area schools create habitat sites and coordinating an after-school nature club for local children. Jim, also retired, spends much of his time working on the prairie.

"We are in awe of what is happening on our island of restored native habitat," says Mary. "None of this has ever seemed like work; it’s just happened in a beautiful and natural way."


Delaware Landowners Learn Stewardship 
Encouraging landowners to protect wildlife habitat and stream corridors on their property and take steps to permanently preserve natural areas is the goal of the Delaware Nature Society’s Landowner Stewardship Program.

Since the mid-1980s, the program has enrolled some 575 Delaware landowners who together represent 25,000 acres, including 5,000 acres of state-designated natural areas and 80 miles of stream corridors. As participants in the program, they agree to protect the natural features of their property and to inform the nature society of threats to the land or plans to sell it. Twice a year, they can attend "Walk and Talks," where they visit a natural area and hear from a volunteer attorney about preservation techniques such as soliciting donations and conservation easements.

The society also trains conservancy advocates who meet with landowners to acquaint them with the Landowner Stewardship Program and discuss proper management and options for permanent preservation.


Native Alaskans Speak Out About Refuge 
With NWF’s help, some of the people who would be most affected by oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge are learning to make their voices heard in favor of protecting the refuge and their way of life.

Several dozen members of the Alaska Native Gwich’in Nation participated in a recent activist training session held by NWF’s Alaska Project Office at the remote arctic village of Fort Yukon. One of the instructors was NWF board member and Gwich’in native, Faith Gemmill.

Adults and schoolchildren learned such skills as how to address congressional decision-makers, write letters to the editor and give TV and radio interviews. Many Gwich’ins already have written letters to their senators, and at least six are planning to travel to Washington in February for NWF’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Lobby Day.


Habitat Stewards Release Butterflies at Fair 
All was aflutter at a Frederick County, Maryland, fair last fall when the traditional pumpkin display moved aside for hundreds of monarch butterflies.

The butterfly house, a creation of NWF Habitat Stewards Jim and Teresa Gallion of Walkersville, Maryland, attracted some 10,000 visitors during the week-long fair. Twice a day, visitors helped the Gallions tag and release butterflies that could then be tracked through the Monarch Watch Program during their migration to Mexico. The Gallions grew their own milkweed, the monarch’s favorite host plant, harvested eggs and raised the caterpillars indoors to ensure a steady supply of chrysalises from which butterflies would emerge during the fair. The Gallions also helped design a special fair Web page with links to NWF’s Web site and its Ranger Rick’s Kids Zone.


Student Designs Portable Treatment System 
An NWF Campus Ecology  Fellowship winner has condensed a natural wastewater treatment system into portable models that can educate schoolchildren and the public about this new technology.

As an engineering student at Penn State, Erin English used her fellowship to construct a mobile, solar-powered wastewater treatment system that uses a series of tanks populated with aquatic plants and microorganisms to remove pollutants. Full-scale versions, created by Ocean Arks International of Burlington, Vermont, are in use at a number of colleges, industries and residential areas. Some are as large as a house and capable of treating up to 80,000 gallons of wastewater a day.

English also worked with local schoolchildren to build desktop versions from recycled items such as home aquariums and five-gallon water containers, using pond muck to provide the systems with the necessary microorganisms.

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