Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife
Defenders of Wildlife was founded in 1947 in Washington, D.C. Superseding older groups such as Defenders of Furbearers and the Anti-Steel-Trap League, the organization was established to protect wild animals and the habitats that support them. Today their goals include the preservation of biodiversity and the defense of species as diverse as gray wolves (Canis lupus ), Florida panthers (Felis concolor coryi ), and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos ), as well as the western yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus ), the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii ), and Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii ).
Defenders of Wildlife employs a wide variety of methods to accomplish their goals, from research and education to lobbying and litigation. They have achieved a ban on livestock grazing on 10,000 acres (4,050 ha) of tortoise habitat in Nevada and lobbied for restrictions on the international wildlife trade to protect endangered species in other countries. In 1988 they successfully lobbied Congress for funding to expand wildlife refuges throughout the country. Ten million dollars was appropriated for the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, two million dollars to purchase land for a new preserve along the Sacramento River in California, and $1 million for additions to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. They are currently seeking passage of the National Biological Diversity Conservation and Research Act and the American Heritage Trust Fund, which would support the continued acquisition of natural habitats.
The organization has been at the forefront of placing preservation on an economic foundation. In Oregon, they have overseen the establishment of a number of areas from which to view wildlife on public and private land, thus improving access to natural habitats and linking the environment with the economic benefits of the state's tourism industry. Defenders maintains a speaker's bureau, and they support a number of educational programs for children designed to nourish and expand their interest in wildlife. But the group also participates in more direct action on behalf of the environment. They coordinate grassroots campaigns through their Defenders Activist Network, which has a membership of 9,000. They work with the Environmental Protection Agency on a hotline called the "Poison Patrol," which receives calls on the use of pesticides that damages wildlife, and they belong to the Entanglement Network Coalition, which works to prevent the loss of animal life through entanglement in nets and plastic refuse.
Restoring wolves to their natural habitats has long been one of the top priorities of Defenders of Wildlife. In 1985, they sponsored an exhibit in Yellowstone National Park and at Boise, Idaho, called "Wolves and Humans," which received over 250,000 visitors and won the Natural Resources Council of America Award of Achievement for Education. They have helped reintroduce red and gray wolves back into the northern Rockies. In order to assist farmers and the owners of livestock herds that graze in these areas, Defenders has raised funds to compensate them for the loss of land. They are also working to reduce and eventually eliminate the poisoning of predators, both by lobbying for stricter legislation and by encouraging Western farmers to participate in their guard dog program for livestock.
In order to conserve land, the Defenders have also launched their own coffee line called "Java Forest." The coffee beans are grown under the forest canopy or on farms which recreate a natural habitat. This reduces the large amount of land that is used for hybrid coffee beans. Twenty-five percent of each purchase is being returned to the Defenders to be used in other programs.
Defenders of Wildlife has 425,000 members and an annual budget of $5.2 million. In addition to wildlife viewing guides for different states, their publications include a bimonthly magazine for members called Defenders and In Defense of Wildlife: Preserving Communities and Corridors..
[Douglas Smith ]