WHOM DO YOU CALL FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

by Whit Gibbons

April 29, 2002


Got an environmental problem you want others to know about? Finding out whom to write, call, or email about local or regional environmental problems is one of the most frustrating situations concerned citizens deal with. For example, how do you find out what the wildlife laws are and how to enforce them? Where can you get a listing of citizens groups interested in protecting the environment? These are common questions people ask these days. The answer to all of them, and many similar ones, can be found in a single source, the 2002 Conservation Directory (47th edition), prepared by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

The directory lists organizations, agencies, and officials concerned with the use and management of natural resources. Included are the names of each state's senators and representatives to Congress and chairs of all Senate committees that deal with environmental issues.

In addition, each government department and agency is listed, with names and addresses of individuals and a description of any of the unit's environmental missions. For example, under the Department of the Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration is concerned with making highways safe, efficient, and economical but also gives "full consideration to the highway's impact on the environment."

The directory has entries for more than 3,500 international, national, and regional commissions and organizations. These range from the Alabama Environmental Council (stateoffice@aeconline.ws), which is "dedicated to the preservation of Alabama's environment on all fronts: air, water, and wildlife," to Zero Population Growth (info@zpg.org), which "works to educate and motivate Americans to help meet the global population challenge." The directory does not editorialize about the political positions or conservation directions of the programs; it simply provides contact information for each one.

When checking the current edition of the directory to decide what "Z" organization to use in my column, I noted the absence of the Zimbabwe Chapter Federation, which was in an earlier edition. Upon checking, I found that NWF does not charge for an organization to be listed in the directory, so an organization's absence is due to other reasons, such as not submitting proper entry information, changing an organization's name, or simply going extinct.

Each state is treated separately, with details given about state agencies that deal with environmental issues. The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all fish and wildlife commissioners and directors in the United States and Canada are listed. This is a valuable source of information for schools, civic organizations, or any group interested in obtaining information about environmental laws, regulations, and new initiatives.

Also provided for each state and country are the names and missions of citizen groups involved in environmental matters. If you have a regional environmental issue you feel deserves attention, you should be able to find a group that can supply you with more information.

One categorization that is of interest is that non governmental organizations are separated into two groups: non profit organizations and for profit ones. The non profits, such as the South Carolina Environmental Law Project, take up more than 550 pages; the for profits, such as the Atlanta Audubon Society, take up only 9 pages. I'm not sure what message this conveys but maybe it's that people feel so strongly about environmental issues that most organizations can run on a volunteer basis.

The book also contains a listing and locations of federal lands that result in many of the protected habitats in the country. The United States now has hundreds of national wildlife refuges administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and national forests administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The names, addresses, and phone numbers of superintendents of the national parks and seashores are also given. Disappointingly, the lands of the Department of Defense and Department of Energy are not singled out, even though military bases and DOE sites are responsible for vast regions of protected environments across the country.

Printed editions cost $70.00 and are available from the publisher (Island Press, 800 828 1302). For many environmental groups that would be money well spent. Another option is the online Conservation Directory (www.nwf.org/conservationdirectory), which is a free service. Either way you want to go, this is the source for finding out the who, what, why, where, and wherefore about environmental organizations for any occasion.



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