Action Report: August/September 2008

How National Wildlife Federation is making a difference

  • NWF Staff
  • Aug 01, 2008
NWF calls on caregivers and public leaders to promote outdoor play

"Go outside and play" is a familiar phrase to many of us, but the simple truth is that most kids today aren't heeding this call. Studies show that U.S. children spend half as much time in nature as kids did 20 years ago. Outdoor recreation and exploration have been replaced by time spent indoors, tuned to electronic media.

"When watching animal shows on TV becomes the closest many of today's kids get to the great outdoors, we risk the health of our children and endanger the prospect of developing future stewards of the natural world," says Larry Schweiger, NWF president and CEO. "That's why NWF will use its resources to encourage parents and caregivers to get kids to go outside and play and to ask policy makers to take action."

In May, NWF published Connecting Today's Kids with Nature: A Policy Action Plan. The report offers information on so-called "nature deficit" and what causes it, as well as a list of solutions. Some of these include connecting kids to nature through environmental education, promoting outdoor play through public health systems and encouraging parents to build in regular time outdoors. NWF's Green Hour® website offers ideas for family fun.

To further address nature deficit, NWF is partnering with Maryland, Colorado and other states to help draft policy reforms that encourage more effective environmental education. It's also part of a national coalition working to ensure that such education is included in the reauthorization of the federal No Child Left Behind law. To learn more, see Be Out There.

Protecting public lands, connecting people with nature and helping wildlife survive global warming were the key issues discussed by representatives of NWF and its affiliate organizations at the Federation's 72nd annual meeting in May. These concerns were also reflected in the actions taken at the Keystone, Colorado, gathering. More than 200 attendees engaged in hands-on habitat restoration work. Volunteers planted hundreds of trees and removed a fence that blocked a key corridor for wildlife migration. The carbon emissions generated by participants' involvement in the meeting were also offset by sponsor NativeEnergy, a company that helps build renewable energy projects.

Six new members were elected to the NWF board of directors: Shelley Cohen, senior project developer at Ameresco; John Grant, chief executive officer of 100 Black Men of Atlanta; Lois Quam, senior executive at Piper Jaffray; Jess Sixkiller, chairman of Native First Capital Markets Group; Gregory Smith, director of the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wetlands Research Center; and Mark Winland, science educator and former Wyoming Wildlife Federation president. The board also welcomed NWF's newest affiliate, the Earth Conservation Corps of Washington, D.C., which offers environmental education and community service programs to people of all ages.

CORRECTION: In the June/July issue, one of the butterflies shown in the article "Restoring Rare Beauties" was identified incorrectly as a West Coast lady (Vanessa annabella). The species pictured was a painted lady (Vanessa cardui).

NWF recently cofounded Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, a group committed to safeguarding habitat and wildlife on public lands in the West. See

To check out the innovative new features of NWF's Climate Classroom, a website designed to help students and teachers better understand global warming's causes and remedies, go to

According to NWF's survey of major outdoor furniture retailers, consumers can expect to find a wider variety of sustainable wood garden products in the marketplace. Visit our Green Purchasing section.

Program offers Tennessee youth a chance to experience nature

"I got it! I can really see it!" exclaims a little boy after his lengthy attempt to locate a bird through binoculars proves successful. This expression of joy, uttered by a participant in Tennessee Wildlife Federation's Great Outdoors University (GOU), exemplifies what the program is all about: providing children with positive experiences in the outdoors.

"It's more than just taking kids out in the woods or to the lake for a day," says program director Martha Lyle Ford. "GOU seeks to go deeper, to help kids develop a connection to and an understanding of the natural world that will last far into the future."

One of the strengths of GOU is its network of partnerships, adds Ford. Nonprofits, businesses, volunteers and others work with NWF's Tennessee affiliate to ensure that youth who would not otherwise have access to remote and wild areas can enjoy activities such as hiking and fishing. More than 1,000 children have participated in GOU's day camps and overnight trips since the program was launched in 2005. Visit

Project helps to foster peaceful coexistence between carnivores and people

For the past several years, NWF has been placing bear-proof dumpsters into western Montana's Selway-Bitterroot region and the corridors that link it to neighboring ecosystems. A goal of this project, which receives funding from the National Forest Foundation, is to reduce habituation of black bears to garbage, leading to a decrease in bear mortality and an increase in the number of bears that eat natural foods and display wild behaviors instead of human-habituated ones. NWF wildlife biologist Sterling Miller says the initiative will also benefit the eventual colonization of the Selway-Bitterroot area by grizzly bears dispersing naturally from adjacent areas where they already exist, regardless of whether the federal plan to reintroduce the carnivores, stalled for seven years, is adopted by the next administration. Grizzlies were eliminated from the Selway-Bitterroot roughly 75 years ago, but because huge swaths of acceptable habitat remain there, it is designated a recovery area. "Providing safe passage between the Bitterroot and other ecosystems is important for reasons beyond re-establishing extinct populations," says Miller. "Connectivity is also vital to avoiding genetic and other problems associated with isolation and small population size."

Narrated by Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, The Great Warming is a dramatic film that uses footage from around the world to reveal how climate change is affecting the lives of ordinary people. A special NWF version of the film includes additional content produced by the Federation about global warming's impact on wildlife. See

New studies analyze the latest science to detail global warming's likely impacts As part of ongoing efforts to present the latest research about the impacts of global warming, NWF and its affiliates recently released three new reports:

Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Habitats of the Chesapeake Bay maps the effects of projected sea-level rise on the nation's largest estuary, which sustains fisheries worth billions of dollars annually and thousands of species of plants and animals, including great blue herons. "We face the prospect of losing much of what we treasure about the bay--its beaches, wildlife and prized fishing--unless we prepare for sea-level rise by making it a major consideration in the region's coastal management and ecological restoration plans," says Patty Glick, NWF senior global warming specialist and lead author of the NWF study. See our Chesapeake section.

Spring-run chinook salmon in the Golden State's Central Valley, already occupying less than 5 percent of their former range, could disappear entirely if waters used for spawning and rearing grow increasingly warm, says a report from NWF and the Planning and Conservation League Foundation, sister organization of NWF's California affiliate. On The Edge: Protecting California's Fish and Waterfowl from Global Warming presents a detailed analysis of peer-reviewed scientific data on the current impacts of rising temperatures and other climatic changes on habitat, fish and wildlife; the projected future impacts on the outdoor recreation industry; and the critical steps required to protect at-risk resources and traditions.

Great Lakes Restoration and the Threat of Global Warming presents the likely impacts warming temperatures will have on the ecosystem--the world's largest source of surface freshwater--including lower lake levels, more sewage overflows and increased pressure to divert Great Lakes water. The report from the Healing Our Waters–Great Lakes Coalition (which is led by NWF and includes affiliates in the region) also provides recommendations for curbing global warming while at the same time preserving the resilience and adaptive capacity of the aquatic ecosystem. Chief among them is restoring the lakes through full funding and implementation of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a comprehensive plan backed by the region's mayors, governors and congressional delegation. See

In the seven decades since it was founded, the National Wildlife Federation could not have achieved so much conservation success without the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers, members, state affiliate leaders and supporters from all across the country--people like those discussed below. To learn about how you can get involved, and to find links to state affiliates, visit

Federation recognizes individuals for advancing conservation through exceptional service

Maine attorney Peter Brann has donated more than 1,000 pro bono hours--his own and his associates'--to represent the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), an NWF affiliate, in an ongoing legal effort to force paper companies to reduce harmful runoff to the state's Androscoggin River. For that extraordinary contribution, Brann was honored as the 2008 Affiliate Volunteer of the Year.

"In our 48-year history, NRCM has never had another person volunteer as much pro bono service to the organization," says Brownie Carson, executive director of the affiliate. "Over the past five years, Peter has devoted countless hours of daily work time, weekends, time away from his firm and family, and diligent energy to fight for protection of Maine's environment." Even now, after the paper companies were ordered by government authorities to release fewer pollutants into the river, Brann is not satisfied. "It was a good start, but it doesn't get us all the way down the line," he says.

Each year, NWF receives dozens of nominations for Volunteer of the Year awards, and selects honorees in three categories: Affiliate Volunteer, Community Volunteer and NWF Volunteer. Along with Brann, two couples--both of whom have invested hundreds of hours in creating and promoting wildlife-friendly habitat in their regions--were honored this year.

Habitat Stewards Dale and Pat Bulla of Austin, Texas, were named Community Volunteers of the Year. The retired educators urged the city to register as the state's first Community Wildlife Habitat. Their own yard boasts more than 220 plant species, 95 percent of which are native to the region. The Bullas "continue to acquire expertise in those areas that they are committed to, whether it be propagating native plants or promoting responsible development in their watershed," says Lacey McCormick, NWF communications manager for the Gulf States office.

Since 2003, when Toni Stahl and Marc Apfelstadt first certified their Dublin, Ohio, yard as an NWF Backyard Wildlife Habitat™ site, the couple has regularly hosted public tours of their garden. They also make presentations in the community on a host of subjects, including the impacts of global warming on wildlife and habitat. In addition, Stahl posts region-specific wildlife habitat materials on the couple's website, The two were named NWF Volunteers of the Year. "I have heard them described as super-activists, superstars of volunteering and just generally wonderful people," says NWF Great Lakes education program manager Rebecca Nielson.

Whether it's creating habitat, working for environmental improvements or restoring landscapes (see "Restoring Louisiana's Broken Ecosystems" in this issue), the volunteer actions individuals take on behalf of NWF and its affiliates make a difference for wildlife. For opportunities, visit our Volunteer section.

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