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Sep 092013
 

When you think of mercury pollution, you probably think of fish. But songbirds can also provide important data to studying air quality. The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the Biodiversity Research Institute to monitor mercury levels in songbirds throughout the state of New York.


May 052011
 

Full moon rising over the gypsum dunes in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas. (Photo: PRNewsFoto/The Nature Conservancy in Texas, NPS/Doug Buehler)

From Green Right Now Reports

The Nature Conservancy today announced it has donated its 177-acre Gypsum Dunes Preserve in the famed Texas panhandle to the National Park Service. The preserve, which is part of the second largest dune field in the continental United States and possibly in all of North America, will be incorporated into the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

“There is literally no other place like this in Texas and very few places on Earth that compare. These dunes not only provide some of the most enchanting views you’ll ever set eyes on, they are incredibly important from an ecological perspective as well,” Laura Huffman, state director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, said in a statement. “We are delighted this extraordinary place will remain in the public trust for the people of Texas and visitors from all over to enjoy for generations to come.”

Projecting into the northeastern corner of the arid Chihuahuan Desert, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is often described as one of America’s best-kept natural secrets. Filled with magic and majesty, the park ranges more than 5,000 feet in elevation from the desert floor to Guadalupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas. The landscapes within the park span from starkly beautiful gypsum dunes and salt flats to lush streamside woodlands, rocky canyons and mountain forests, where more than 400 species of animals and 1,000 species of trees and other plants can be found.

The gypsum dunes were donated to The Nature Conservancy in the early 1980s by the estate of Dorothy Croom. More recently, the Conservancy managed the property in cooperation with the National Park Service, which owns the Salt Basin Dunes surrounding the preserve, and the Hudspeth Directive for Conservation (HDC).

The dunes are located approximately nine miles outside of Dell City, Texas, just west of the historic Butterfield Stagecoach Trail. The public can access the dunes by hiking in through the western park boundary or by contacting the Pine Springs visitor center.

“Places where the public can explore and enjoy the rugged beauty of wilderness are so revered in Texas because there is very little public land. Severe cuts to vital conservation programs make collaboration between private, public and non-profit agencies all the more important,” said John V. Lujan, former superintendent of the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

Get more information at nature.org/Texas.


Jan 102011
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

A few hours due north of NYC or northwest of Boston – depending on how you’re oriented – are some of the most pristine and beautiful woodlands imaginable.

Snowmobiling in the Aidirondacks (Photo: NY State Snowmobile Assoc. and the Pleasant Riders SNC).

The Adirondacks region – famous as a getaway for fall foliage sightseers, hikers, skiers, hunters and fisherman – encompasses hundreds of lakes, mountains and miles of rich woodland habitat.  It’s territory that cradles wildlife, from trout to moose, and gives birth to the Hudson River.

At its center, the 6 million acres Adirondack Park, is the largest publicly protected park in the nation, bigger than the Yellowstone, Everglades and Grand Canyon national parks.

Now, as the result of a land use agreement between The Nature Conservancy and the state of New York announced last week, even more of this unique region will be protected from harmful development. The deal between the Conservancy and the state will preserve 89,000 acres for recreational uses and sustainable forestry, saving local jobs and tourism opportunities, but keeping out potentially harmful development that would subdivide and upset the ecological health of the region.

Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, called the arrangement a dual victory for economic development and nature preservation, which in this region are not mutually exclusive goals.

The land involved, which already sustains about 800 jobs in timbering, will expand public access to recreational areas, but at the same time, protect the forests and waterways that make the area a magnet for visitors, Carr said.

Keeping a balance between economic and ecological needs will help the region thrive, he said, and not fall victim to inappropriate or haphazard development that could harm the local communities.

“That’s the magic of this transaction. And the real vision. I think this is visionary work by the state of New York, and the communities and The Nature Conservancy,” Carr said in an interview Friday.

Snow scene, Adirondacks (Photo: Carl Heinman II for The Nature Conservancy).

A land deal the size of 11 Manhattans

The 89,000 acres is already owned and managed under Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) rules by a Danish company, ATP Timberland Invest, that sought to own a green-managed forest in North America, Carr explained.

The deal signed this week gives the state of New York a conservation easement – essentially recreation-use rights – to the same property.

It’s all part of a larger land plan that began in 2007 when the Nature Conservancy purchased 161,000 acres that had been held for generations, since the Civil War, by the paper manufacturer Finch, Pruyn.

Recognizing the promise in such a land windfall — which covered property “the size of 11 Manhattans”, the Nature Conservancy undertook a study of both the wildlife and economic needs of the region before deciding how the land should be managed, Carr said.

Surveys showed the area contained “90 mountains, 70 lakes and 415 miles of rivers and streams.”

In evaluating the best way to proceed, the Conservancy first enlisted a team of scientists to determine how best to use and preserve the lands. The team identified  plant and animal species in need of protection and identified land that would be best set aside as wilderness. The plan calls for this portion of the original land acquisition — some 65,000 acres of mostly back country — to be turned over the the state of New York as well in the coming years, for long term protection as wildlife habitat and for certain recreational uses.

Adirondacks beech salvage (Photo: Kevin Redmon, The Nature Conservancy).

That left 89,000 acres that incorporated woods, fields and 27 communities. That land was sold to ATP Timberland Invest, which was the strongest bidder and shared to Conservancy’s goal of wanting to keep the woodlands managed by certifiable sustainability practices. A deal was arranged to keep the local mill supplied with fiber from the forests.

The Natural Conservancy then set out to meet with officials and leaders in those 27 towns, to determine how local residents would like to use the land. The local wishes ranged from wanting more and better connected snowmobile trails for themselves and tourists, to expansion room for schools and golf courses.

A plan evolved that incorporated these ideas and provided for keeping the region useful for tourism – a $1 billion annual enterprise in the Adirondacks, essential to the local and state economies. That resulted in turning the 89,000 acres over to New York state, which essentially has recreation rights to the property.

The state hopes that the new easement, which increases the inventory of public access lands and waterways, will keep tourism robust, including the snowmobiling that local towns depend upon during the leaner winter months.

The balancing act: Woodlands saved, but also used for recreation

“Snowmobiling generates $800 million in spending per year in New York State. If you look at a statewide map of the trail system, there’s a hole in Essex County, which means we’ve been missing out on a share of that money as a result. The trails we can now use because of this conservation easement are helping to fill that gap in a big way,” said New York State Snowmobilers’ Association (NYSSA) executive director Dave Perkins.

The arrangement will help link towns by expanding snowmobile trails, and relieve some of them of having to pay for leases to create linkages.

“Indian Lake has been paying to lease snowmobile trails on an annual basis,” said Indian Lake Supervisor Barry Hutchens in a statement.  “Now, with the uncertainty associated with year-to-year leasing erased, we see these trails as permanent and valuable assets that can help our struggling winter economy and our town budget appropriations.”

The Adirondacks, a leaf watchers paradise. (Photo: Carl Heinman II for The Nature Conservancy).

The new access areas also will serve sportspeople and “leaf peepers,” tourism officials said.

“The Adirondacks are repeatedly picked by AAA as New York’s number one destination for leaf peeping,” said Jim McKenna, a representative of the Adirondack Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism. “Many of the lands protected by this agreement are the very places people travel here to see in all of their autumn splendor—helping to increase economic activity to our communities.”

Ten million people visits Adirondacks Park annually, supporting one our of every five jobs in the area, according to the state.

While New York maintains its new conservation land for tourism; a plan is in the works to transfer the remaining portion of the Nature Conservancy property, the part designated to remain as wilderness to New York state as well, Carr said.

This will help fulfill the state’s desire to keep the Hudson Valley watershed pure and uncontaminated, preserving forests that help filter natural water reserves and mitigate climate change.

For now, the remaining 65,000 acres remains in the hands of the Nature Conservancy.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network


Sep 172010
 

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

With society’s emphasis on a greener future, it should come as no surprise that study of the environment, energy and conservation has made its way into high school classrooms.

Students at Common Ground, a green high school in New Haven, Conn. (Photo: Common Ground.)

Some have taken it much further, creating environmentally themed high schools. Now, the Nature Conservancy’s program aimed at helping students and teachers learn more about eco-topics has joined forces with some of those schools.

The conservancy’s LEAF program (Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future), along with the Ecological Society of America, will partner with eight green-focused public high schools to help students receive an education that will serve them, the environment and the Earth.

Six of the eight schools are in New York City, and two are in New Haven, Conn. Their areas of study range from environmental ethics and urban green spaces to aquaculture, healthy lifestyles and more.

The LEAF program will offer students and teachers access to the Nature Conservancy’s and the Ecological Society’s scientific resources, which will provide peer review of the school’s environmental curriculum.

Teachers can receive peer mentoring and become part of support networks. LEAF will give educators access to online forums and professional workshops as well.

Among other tools at the school’s disposal are the:

  • Climate Wizard (to visualize climate change anywhere on Earth)
  • Atlas of Global Conservation (where students can analyze their place in the world, and habitats and species around them)
  • The Cool Green Science Blog (the latest conservation science news)

The conservancy’s Carbon Calculator lets students measure their carbon footprints, and its Living Laboratory of Nature offers access to nature preserves across the U.S.

If green jobs are the wave of the future, this program will provide students – including those from low-income urban areas —  a shot at good jobs of all kinds.

Through environmental lessons and activities, students will gain experience and exposure to nature and life sciences. Mentors, alumni and peers will be part of the support efforts for students.

More and more environmentally themed high schools will be popping up across the country, according to LEAF. Eventually, the LEAF program hopes to support more than three dozen similar high schools nationally, reaching an estimated 20,000 students.

The program has already provided paid summer internships and environmental curriculum to students and schools. It’s primary supporter is the Toyota USA Foundation.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network


Jun 032010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

Avon Products Inc. today announced that it will plant two million trees to restore the Atlantic Rainforest in South America, one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the world. This company said the commitment is part of its Hello Green Tomorrow Campaign, announced in mid-March, to unleash its woman-to-woman network of 6.2 million representatives and 300 million customers in a global women’s environmental movement.

Avon said it took only 80 days to almost double the company’s initial pledge of $1 million dollars, with every dollar going to the planting and restoration of one tree. Sixty countries, ranging from Japan to Mexico to Russia, are participating in the Hello Green Tomorrow campaign.

All trees planted in the Atlantic Rainforest through Hello Green Tomorrow will support the United Nations Environment Programme Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. The trees will be planted and the restored forest monitored by The Nature Conservancy, Avon’s partner in the program.

“Conserving South America’s Atlantic Rainforest is critical for both nature and for the millions of local people who depend on it for survival,” Glenn Prickett, Chief External Affairs Officer of The Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “The funds raised with Avon will advance The Nature Conservancy’s restoration efforts in the forest, which in turn will protect important sources of clean water for local communities and, on a more global scale, help to regulate the atmosphere and stabilize global climate.”


Mar 262010
 

From Green Right Now Reports

On Earth Day this year, April 22, Disneynature will release Oceans, which will explore the mysteries and dangers of these vast bodies of water that cover nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface. French co-directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud used the latest underwater technologies to capture never-before-seen images, the company said.

(Photo: Disneynature)

(Photo: Disneynature)

Disneynature said it will make a donation to The Nature Conservancy to save coral reefs in honor of every person who sees the film during its opening week (April 22-28) in a program being called “See OCEANS, Save Oceans.”

The film is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, a long-time environmentalist who has focused his efforts on promoting ocean conservation. The actor has lent his support to the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s “Save the Whales Again!” campaign, as well as working with environmental organizations including Sea Shepherd, California Coastal Protection Network, Ocean Futures Society, Oceana and Waterkeeper Alliance, and others.

Disneynature, the first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years, was launched in April 2008 to bring top nature filmmakers together to share a wide variety of wildlife subjects and stories with theatrical audiences. Earth, the first film to premiere domestically under the new label on Earth Day 2009, had a record-breaking opening weekend for a nature documentary.  On its opening day, the film also broke the single-day box-office record for a nature documentary.

Related video:

View the trailer for Oceans:


Sep 022009
 

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

They started out as pets, perhaps living in little boys’ bedrooms, being shown off to friends and wrapping around arms. But then the Burmese pythons grew, and grew, and grew (about 7 feet in a year), and they weren’t so cute or easy to deal with any more.

So, trying to do the right thing, their owners gently released them into the wild, near the large, shallow “river of grass” that flows through much of south Florida, known as the Everglades.

Problem solved.

Not quite. Those pet pythons grew — up to 20 feet long and 250 pounds –and they eat anything from deer to bobcats to wood storks to endangered species. Less than a decade ago, there were only a few in the Everglades. Today, more than 100,000 of them are slithering around south Florida, crushing what was an already delicate ecosystem.

Even though the state is aggressively trying to find them and restrict the sale of them as pets, the python hunters will never catch up. And the giant reptiles are spreading, south into the Florida Keys and north into Central Florida. One estimate predicts they will eventually inhabit about one-third of the United States.

And that’s not taking global warming into account.

If there’s any wisp of a silver lining to this mess, it’s that the python problem has turned the nation’s attention toward the depth and scope of invasive exotic animals, fish, reptiles and plants.

The U.S. spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year to try and staunch the flow of invasive species. But the damage the invaders cause brings that total to about $35 billion annually, according to National Invasive Species Council. Worldwide, the economic toll from invasives tops $1.4 trillion, according to the Nature Conservancy, which publishes a list of ways people can help reduce that number.

The invaders tend to spread rapidly, eating or killing the food and habitats of native species. They can clog streams and rivers, alter entire ecosystems and potentially wipe out endangered species. They can cause major forest fires, destroy rangeland and even decrease tourism.

It’s hard to put a number on them in the US: The Fish and Wildlife Department estimates as many as 50,000 non-natives are here now, but of those, about 4,300 are trouble-making invasives.

“I can tell you that for the Nature Conservancy, wherever we work, globally and nationally, invasive species have been identified as one of the greatest threats to biodiversity,” said Doria Gordon, the Director of Conservation Science for Florida’s chapter of the Nature Conservancy.

Though relatively few imports become invasive, when they do, they can become a monumental problem, she said. Florida is a state where climate, population and ports create an ideal environment for voracious invasives. Reptiles such as monitor lizards, Cuban tree frogs and iguanas are growing quickly and gobbling up native species. “The Cuban frogs are capable of eating most of our native tree frogs,” she said.

The animals and reptiles may be more interesting, but it is the plants that really wreak havoc on the environment. They take over because, as exotics, they lack natural pests in their new territory. (Just as invading wildlife is able to run amok because their natural predators live on another continent.)

“Hydrilla and water hyacinth have been problems for years,” she said. “They constrain navigation and water flow, create hazards to navigation and power generation,” she said.

But Gordon reserves special scorn for a plant that poses perhaps the biggest threat to Florida’s native areas: Old World climbing fern.

Calling it a fern is misleading – it’s more like ivy on steroids. Native to Africa and Asia, Old World found its way into a nursery decades ago. Now, it covers large swaths of Florida’s uninhabited land, rapidly moving north thanks to wind-blown spores. Old World blankets the ground, bushes and even the top of forests, smothering everything it covers – like a leafy version of The Blob.

How can such a pervasive plant be controlled? “We try to contain them. At the edges, where densities are low, we can keep knocking them backwards,” Gordon said. Right now the northern boundary of Old World climbing fern’s range is near Orlando. “We’re now starting to look for spores in the air there,” she added.

“The real effort is to find a biological agent that can control the vine,” Gordon said, rather than using huge quantities of pesticides. Finding a living thing to battle back another living thing has only worked for a few species. “It’s difficult to find one that will only attack that specific species and not anything else.”

Hawaii is a perfect example of such well-intentioned plans gone wrong.

First Polynesians, then Europeans, arrived to the islands with their dogs, pigs, lizards, plants, cattle and sheep. The Westerners, unfortunately, brought along rats, too. The rats ate sugar cane and the unique flightless birds of the islands. To kill the rats, the mongoose was brought in. Unfortunately, the mongoose ate the birds, not the rats. Rats are nocturnal and the mongoose is not. Thus, dozens of the dwindling species of rare birds in Hawaii were wiped out.

Today, Hawaii’s struggle with non-native plants, animals and reptiles is worse than any other state, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Unleashing one exotic to battle another has happened on the mainland as well, according to Richard Mack, professor in the school of biological sciences at Washington State University. “Ironically, most of our problems we brought upon ourselves. Two-thirds of the plant invaders were deliberately introduced (via horticulture), and it backfired,” he said.

“The problem is that we don’t have a good handle on this. The funds, resources, they haven’t been allocated.”

There’s a cycle to it all, Mack said. “One of these invaders arises and causes havoc. There’s a call to deal with it and it takes a sustained effort and incredible persistence to get rid of one of these species.

“There may be initial success – the population numbers go down. That’s mistakenly taken as a sign that public funds can be pulled back. But these are living organisms, so they go back and build up their populations and it gets as bad as it was before,” he said.

Thus, money to combat the invasives dries up, and often the task of trying to control the pests falls on area communities.

One of the bad actors in the U.S. now, Mack said, is cheatgrass. It came from Eurasia about 200 years ago. “It’s had a devastating effect in the far west,” he said. Despite its size, it is a strong competitor with native plant species and is a factor in major forest fires in California or Nevada. “It also causes downstream siltation and erosion in the river systems in the west,” Mack said.

And who can forget what has come to be known as the “Vietnam of entomology,” the fire ant fiasco in the Southwest?


Jun 012009
 

By Shermakaye Bass
Green Right Now

The world is not our oyster. At least, not according to The Nature Conservancy, which presented a pioneering survey on the state of global shellfish to the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC in late May that uncovered some startling statistics.

Conducted by Nature Conservancy scientists from five continents over a five-year period, the first-ever report states that 85 percent of the world’s oyster reefs have disappeared over the last 150-odd years, largely due to over-harvesting, poor water quality and degraded environments. The complex habitats, also called oyster beds by some, are vital to the world’s bays and estuaries. And as go the reefs, the report warns, so, potentially, go much larger, interlocking marine ecosystems.

“One third of the places that we looked at globally were functionally extinct,” lead author Mike Beck, senior scientist for the Conservancy’s Marine Initiative, told GreenRightNow. “That means they had less than 1 percent remaining of the former habitat, as best as we could tell. That occurs on every continent except Antarctica – where oysters don’t occur.”

He explained that European coasts once thrived with oyster reefs, and even the once legendary fisheries of America’s West Coast are in dire straits.

“Now, there’s virtually nothing left in all of Europe. We’ve also seen extraordinary declines in the Northwest and Chesapeake – and we’ve almost forgotten (laymen, not scientists) that there used to be a native Olympia Oyster out there, from British Columbia to Mexico. The San Francisco Bay used to be full of them,” Beck said, pointing out that one famous American writer made a few bucks off the Golden Gate’s oyster trade, in more ways than one.


May 212009
 

From Green Right Now Reports

A new report released today by The Nature Conservancy says 85 percent of oyster reefs have been lost worldwide and they are now the most severely impacted marine habitat on the planet.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented and alarming decline in the condition of oyster reefs, a critically important habitat in the world’s bays and estuaries,” Mike Beck, senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the report, said in a statement. “However, realistic and cost-effective solutions within conservation and coastal restoration programs, along with policy and reef management improvements, provide hope for the survival of shellfish.”

The Nature Conservancy said the report is the first comprehensive global analysis of the state of shellfish. It was written by scientists across five continents, from conservation organizations as well as academic and research institutions. The report was released today at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Washington, DC.

In addition to being a culinary favorite and a long-standing staple in seafood restaurants around the globe, The Nature Conservancy said oysters provide benefits to humans in less obvious ways. They act as natural water filters and improve water quality, provide food and habitat for fish, crabs and birds, and serve as natural coastal buffers that help to protect shorelines and keep coastal marshes intact, an important factor in protecting communities against storm surges and sea-level rise.

A number of conditions threaten oysters around the globe, according to the report:

  • In the majority of individual bays around the world, there has been a greater than 90 percent loss of oyster reef habitat and in some areas, the loss of oyster reef habitat exceeds 99 percent.  Globally, 85 percent of oyster reefs have been completely lost.
  • Reefs are functionally extinct in many areas, particularly in North America, Australia and Europe, and no are no longer able to provide any ecosystem benefits to people.
  • Most of the world’s remaining wild capture of oysters comes from only five regions on the east coast of North America, and in most of these regions, oyster reefs are in poor condition or worse.

The report says the driving forces behind the decline of oyster reefs include destructive fishing practices, coastal over-development, and associated effects of upstream activities such as altered river flows, dams, poorly managed agriculture and poor water quality. Many of these threats have been around for decades and even centuries, but today there are two main issues that impede oyster recovery efforts.

According to the report, the first is a widespread lack of awareness that shellfish habitats are in trouble. In nearly all cases, shellfish are managed as fisheries, meaning they are viewed solely as a commodity but are not valued for the intrinsic role they play in keeping marine ecosystems healthy and intact. The second challenge is the common perception that as native shellfish decline, non-native shellfish can act as an ecologically suitable replacement. But previous introductions of non-native oysters and other shellfish into new areas have spread disease and have had other negative impacts on the surrounding environment.

The report lays out specific recommendations drawn from examples around the world, such as the need to elevate native, wild oyster reefs as a priority for habitat management and conservation, carry out large-scale restoration programs, and make better use of protected area policies for shellfish protection.

“We want to raise awareness that the world’s remnant oyster reefs and populations are important, since they may in fact represent some of the last examples of reef habitat produced by a particular species of oyster,” Christine Crawford, a scientist with the Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia and a co-author of the report, said in a statement. “We have an opportunity to conserve such reefs in Australia and elsewhere with the results of this assessment.”


May 152009
 

By John DeFore
Green Right Now

New York jewelry designer Ted Muehling looks at ivory palm nuts in a carving hut on the Micronesian island of Pohnpei. Photo: Ami Vitale

Opening this week at New York City’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the exhibition “Design for a Living World” explores possibilities for ecological sensitivity in a realm of top-tier design work — from fashion star Isaac Mizrahi to artist/architect Maya Lin — in which conspicuous over-consumption is often the rule.

The show was developed by The Nature Conservancy, whose Project Director Sara Elliott says they “were looking for designers who demonstrated an innovative and open-minded approach to materials or who were thinking about the relationship between products and place or source,” instead of only recruiting those known for green-friendly work. Designers were pointed toward areas where the Conservancy works — from Bolivia to Australia to Idaho — and asked to draw their inspiration from whatever they found there.

The show, which is expected to travel to cities like Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco after leaving New York in January, wound up with a broad array of creations, from sculptural pieces to prototypes for what could be mass-produced, everyday objects. More important than marketability, Elliott says, is “that the objects say something about the place, the people who depend on that place for their livelihood, and/or the inherent qualities of the material.”

In a way, the show’s impact on viewers seems like a secondary concern: The challenge here was to designers, who make so many decisions on the consumer’s behalf long before a product is available for sale. Non-designers come away from the show, hopefully, ready to pay more attention to questions about where their goods come from and how their production affects a community. As for the creative professionals who participated, Elliott says, “I think in almost every instance, the designers have been inspired to pay closer attention to the materials they specify in their work and the impacts that those material choices have on real people and real places across the globe.”


Dec 262008
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Now that you’ve worn off the magnetic strip on the credit card buying presents for everyone, gotten the letter that your health insurance premiums are doubling and your job is being “redefined,” it’s time to think about those year-end donations. Sigh.

While environmental groups will likely have an easier time on Capitol Hill next year talking policy with a new Administration that sees global warming as a real threat, they paradoxically could be facing headwinds with donors.

Consider first that some of their large contributors may have been dragged down in the Bernard Madoff securities/Ponzi scheme, which savaged many charitable foundations. While the extent of that damage is being assessed, it’s safe to assume that even nonprofits that escaped that five-alarm fire, have been singed by the economic meltdown.

This holiday season, their biggest time to collect donations, finds them pressing for money from corporations and individuals who may be more flushed with worry than flush with cash.

Will a public that’s financially fragile have anything left over to help feed Pandas? Preserve forests? Save tigers? Support Darfur refugees? Buy back rainforests? Rescue polar bears? Stop mountain top mining?

Let’s hope so. The work list is long. The causes are legit. And climate change demands urgent attention.

Should you be making donations this season, here are links to some of the top environmental organizations. They all have worthy projects.

Defenders of Wildlife
I fell in love with this group when I heard about how they organize volunteers to ride Western ranges as part of an effort to help ranchers and the gray wolves live side by side in, if not harmony, détente. It’s just one of many innovative projects they support.

EarthJustice
Lawyers are the front lines when it comes to assuring everyone follows the rules under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and other protections that only work if they’re enforced. Earthjustice provides free legal counsel to environmental groups large and small, because, as their motto goes, “the earth needs a good lawyer.”

Environmental Defense Fund
An alliance-building group that lobbies for protections for nature and we human inhabitants, from coordinating a drive to clean up school bus emissions to advocating for wind and solar energy projects. (If you can’t donate, consider buying EDF President Fred Krupp’s book, Earth: The Sequel, an informative primer full of real life anecdotes that examines our green energy options.)

Environmental Working Group
Scientists working with EWG have screened our water, food, furniture and cosmetics for toxins, creating valuable tools like the Dirty Dozen list of fruits and veggies most doused with pesticides, and Skin Deep, a database where you can check your body lotion for harmful additives. Their reporting helps us show us how to clean up our home and natural environment.

Greenpeace
A strong advocacy that works on behalf of endangered wildlife, marine life and forests around the globe. Known for their visual stunts, boycotts and blockades, Greenpeace takes action and makes news, helping raise the profile of many enviro causes.

Nature Canada
This group is working to save our Northern wildlife such as the caribou (Santa’s reindeer), as well as one of earth’s largest land carbon sinks, the Boreal Forest. It may be in Canada, but it is of global importance.

The Nature Conservancy
The conservancy works to protect land, rivers and marshes around the world, relying on a staff of 700 scientists to steer work in the right direction. They’ve also begun a campaign to Plant A Billion Trees in the Atlantic rainforest in South America.

Natural Resources Defense Council
They’re also covering the planet, working to mitigate climate change and preserve habitats. A new fund drive invites people to donate $10 to plant a tree to help Revive the Rainforest in Costa Rica.

National Wildlife Federation
The producer of Ranger Rick and Your Big Backyard magazines focuses on AMerican wildlife and nurturing a love of wildlife and the outdoors in children. One way to donate is through their “adoption” programs.

Sierra Club
The oldest and largest American environmental group has a membership of more than 1 million and works to save natural spaces. Want to see the national parks protected? Look to Sierra Club. But they also have their hands in the urban environment, working with the Cool Cities project to tamp down carbon emissions and make cities greener and cleaner. Read about founder John Muir, who started Sierra in 1892 to “make the mountains glad.”

World Wildlife Fund
Where to begin? WWF has wildlife saving projects in place from the Congo to the Arctic to the Galapagos Islands. They also have a wealth of information on their website, and adopt-an-animal donor programs. (Big givers can adopt whole acreages of imperiled habitat through the Partners in Conservation program.

Union of Concerned Scientists
At the forefront of energy and climate science, this venerable group helps link the latest scientific thinking on energy, climate change and invasive species into policies that makes sense and preserve our world.

Worldwatch Institute
Someone’s got to study, analyze and explain the problems facing the globe so we can find the right solutions. That’s Worldwatch, helping dissect the issues that stand between us and a just, sustainable and less-toxic environment.

Copyright © 2008 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media