National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)

The famous editorial cartoonist and conservationist Ding Darling had a vision for a new organization that would unite local and state groups—a national wildlife organization.  And so he made it happen!

Protecting wildlife and their habitats, like these snow geese at the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, has always been the mission of the National Wildlife Federation (photo by Larry Nielsen)

Ding Darling (1876-1962) was the Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist for the Des Moines Register (learn more about him here)  But he was also a devoted conservationist, with strong beliefs that our nation’s soils, wetlands and waterfowl needed protection.  He became Chief of the U. S. Biological Survey (now the Fish and Wildlife Service) for a brief two years, serving under President Franklin Roosevelt during 1934-1935.  During that time, he turned the survey from a sleepy bureaucracy into the modern, professional organization we know today.  He kick-started the system of national wildlife refuges and implemented the Duck Stamp that supports the purchase and maintenance of those refuges, now numbering more than 550 throughout the country (learn more about the Duck Stamp here).

“Ranger Rick” is the world’s oldest and most widely read nature magazine for children

But he had another vision as well.  He watched as local and some state-wide conservation groups formed and played major roles in their communities.  Darling believed the nation needed a conservation organization, too, in order to protect and enhance resources on a much larger scale. He convinced President Roosevelt to hold a national meeting of conservation agencies and organizations in early February, 1936.  It was attended by 1500 people—and has been held annually ever since.

During that meeting, on February 5, the assembled delegates agreed to form the General Wildlife Federation.  Following Darling’s plan, the Federation was intended to represent state-level conservation groups, now unified so they could speak with a common voice.  The delegates elected Darling as president, a post he retained for several formative years of the new group.  The Federation was quickly endorsed by the states; within months forty-four states had formed state federations (now called affiliates) as the basis for the national group.  In 1938, the group changed its name to the National Wildlife Federation, as we still know it today.

The National Wildlife Federation has programs reaching the most remote parts of the world–and your neighborhood.

Since then, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has become one of the largest and most influential conservation organizations in the U.S. and the world.  The NWF has over 6 million individual members and 51 affiliate groups (state, territorial and regional).  It publishes several popular magazines, including National Wildlife for adults and Ranger Rick for children.  It produces a television program and has a variety of internet and social media platforms.

The organization’s fundamental mission, however, has not changed since its inception—to conserve and enhance wildlife.  Their current strategic plan states their mission this way:

“We believe America’s experience with cherished landscapes and wildlife has helped define and shape our national character and identity for generations. Protecting these natural resources is a cause that has long united Americans from all walks of life and political stripes. To hunters, anglers, hikers, birders, wildlife watchers, boaters, climbers, campers, cyclists, gardeners, farmers, forest stewards, and other outdoor enthusiasts, this conservation ethic represents a sacred duty and obligation to protect and build upon our conservation heritage for the sake of wildlife, ourselves, our neighbors, and—most of all—for future generations.”

            To address that mission, the NWF partners with well over 100 other organizations in both the private and public sector.  They advocate for public policies that enhance wildlife conservation, both in the U.S. and around the world.

References:

Lendt, David. L.  2991,  Ding—The Life of Jay Norwood Darling.  Maecenas Press, Mt. Pleasant, SC.  196 pages.

National Wildlife Federation.  2017.  Strategic Plan.  Available at:  https://www.nwf.org/-/media/NEW-WEBSITE/Shared-Folder/PDFs/2017_NWF-Strategic-Plan_interactive.ashx.  Accessed February 2, 2018.

Nielsen, Larry A.  2017.  Nature’s Allies—8 Conservationist Who Changed Our World.  Island Press, Washington DC, 255 pages.

This Month in Conservation

February 1
Afobaka Dam and Operation Gwamba (1964)
February 2
Groundhog Day
February 3
George Adamson, African Lion Rehabilitator, Born (1906)
February 4
Congress Overrides President Reagan’s Veto of Clean Water Act (1987)
February 5
National Wildlife Federation Created (1936)
February 6
Colin Murdoch, Inventor of the Tranquilizer Gun, Born (1929)
February 7
Karl August Mobius, Ecology Pioneer, Born (1825)
February 8
President Johnson Addresses Congress about Conservation (1965)
February 8
Lisa Perez Jackson, Environmental Leader, Born (1982)
February 9
U.S. Fish Commission Created (1871)
February 10
Frances Moore Lappe, author of Diet for a Small Planet, born (1944)
February 11
International Day of Women and Girls in Science
February 12
Judge Boldt Affirms Native American Fishing Rights (1974)
February 13
Thomas Malthus Born (1766)
February 14
Nature’s Faithful Lovers
February 15
Complete Human Genome Published (2001)
February 16
Kyoto Protocol, Controlling Greenhouse-Gas Emissions, Begins (2005)
February 16
Alvaro Uglade, Father of Costa Rica’s National Parks, Born (1946)
February 17
Sombath Somphone, Laotian Environmentalist, Born (1952)
February 17
R. A. Fischer, Statistician, Born (1890)
February 18
Julia Butterfly Hill, Tree-Sitter, Born (1974)
February 18
World Pangolin Day
February 19
Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial Established (1962)
February 20
Ansel Adams, Nature Photographer, Born (1902)
February 21
Carolina Parakeet Goes Extinct (1918)
February 22
Nile Day
February 23
Italy’s Largest Inland Oil Spill (2010)
February 24
Joseph Banks, British Botanist, Born (1743)
February 25
First Federal Timber Act Passed (1799)
February 26
Four National Parks Established (1917-1929)
February 27
International Polar Bear Day
February 28
Watson and Crick Discover The Double Helix (1953)
February 29
Nature’s Famous Leapers
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