In 1936, J.N. “Ding” Darling – a Pulitzer-winning editorial cartoonist, onetime chief of the U.S. Biological Survey, and the designer of the flying goose symbol prominent at all federal wildlife refuges – persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to convene more than 2,000 hunters, anglers, and conservationists at the first North American Wildlife Conference in Washington, DC. That gathering resulted in the formation of the General Wildlife Federation, a conservation group which was later renamed the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), where Darling served as the first president. Apart from its headquarters in Reston, Virginia, NWF today has 49 autonomous state affiliates which are supported by nearly 6 million people across the U.S.
On the premise that “our nation’s wildlife, fish, healthy waters, clean air, and public lands are a birthright of all Americans,” NWF maintains that “government has a sacred duty to conserve and steward these public trust resources for all, including future generations, using the best available science and providing robust financial [i.e., taxpayer] resources.”
One of NWF’s most significant initiatives is its Climate Change program, founded on the premise that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial and recreational activity – particularly carbon dioxide and methane – are heavy contributors to the potentially catastrophic phenomenon of global warming. This “urgent” matter, says NWF, “is putting more than a century of conservation achievements at risk and will have profound implications for the very fabric of the nation’s natural systems.”
As a means of reducing “carbon pollution,” NWF supports the implementation of a cap-and-trade program and/or a carbon tax – i.e., a fee imposed on the burning of carbon-based fuels like coal, oil, and gas. Such measures, the Federation explains, would properly “shift the costs of carbon pollution from society as a whole to those responsible for the pollution.” In a related campaign, NWF calls for the United States to reduce its reliance on coal and petroleum in particular, while increasing its use of “clean” and “renewable” energy derived from wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass sources.
Augmenting these efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, NWF exhorts the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to “create strong [mileage and emissions] standards for new cars and trucks that will save drivers billions at the gas pump.” “In conjunction with President Obama‘s climate plan,” said NWF in 2016, “the EPA has begun the process of issuing carbon pollution limits on existing and new power plants.” The major obstacles to continued progress in that direction, the Federation lamented, were “powerful [Republican] members of Congress” who, “under the influence of polluters,” “are seeking to prevent [the] EPA from addressing the public health and environmental impacts of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants.” By NWF’s calculus, these congressional representatives “would let polluters off the hook” and “obstruct the EPA from saving lives.”
Another of NWF’s foremost priorities is the preservation of animal species that it classifies as “endangered.” A highly effective way to “preserve” such creatures, says the Federation, would be to ensure that vast tracts of formerly private land are henceforth owned and overseen by a federal government that will ban logging, mining, construction, energy exploration, and virtually any other private enterprise thereon. Toward that end, NWF favors the designation of vast tracts of wilderness as “public lands” that are “safeguard[ed]” against “fragmentation and development of all kinds.” For example, NWF works to “prevent oil and gas drilling in the iconic Arctic National Wildlife Refuge” (ANWR) in Alaska, denouncing “legislation that would hand the Arctic Refuge over to profit-laden oil companies, all under the guise of lowering gas prices.”
In a related effort, NWF is devoted to “defending and strengthening the Endangered Species Act” (ESA) of 1973, which it describes as a statute that “provides an essential legal safety net to prevent the loss of plant and animal species to extinction.” The ESA, as written, prohibits landowners from killing, on their own property, any animal that the federal government has designated as “endangered.” But over the years, courts have interpreted the Act broadly as a prohibition against even the use of private property in any way that might harm or destroy the habitat of an endangered species. This sweeping curtailment of private property rights has dragged many landowners into protracted and costly conflicts and litigation.
For details regarding additional NWF projects and priorities, click here.
Over the years, NWF has received financial support from a host of charitable foundations, including the Bank of America Foundation, the Beldon Fund, the Blue Moon Fund, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Bullitt Foundation, the Clinton Family Fund, the Compton Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Energy Foundation, the Flora Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the George Gund Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Heinz Family Foundation, the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the Joyce Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the New Land Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Sea Change Foundation, the Surdna Foundation, the Town Creek Foundation, the Turner Foundation, the Vanguard Foundation, the Verizon Foundation, the Wallace Global Fund, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
For additional information on NWF, click here.