Conserving Land & Water

Surge barrier
Credit: Craig Guillot, NWF

Safeguarding Frontline Communities

Protecting and conserving land and water is at the heart of the Federation’s mission. Across the country, Americans flock to majestic wild spaces and serene coasts and rivers to connect, recreate, and rejuvenate. These places define “America the Beautiful” and are essential, not just to people, but also to wildlife. Healthy habitats and secure corridors allow species of all types to thrive.

The Federation’s work in this space is diverse and critical as our planet faces pressures from a changing climate, urban sprawl, and pollution. In line with our mission, we believe cleaning our nation’s waterways and ensuring access to uncontaminated drinking water are fundamental to promoting healthy communities and quality of life. Our work ensures that every American enjoys safe access to an array of undeveloped, tranquil spaces and that embracing habitat connectivity allows people and wildlife to flourish together. We employ innovative strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change along our coasts and rivers to conserve spaces that many people and wildlife call home.

The health of our lands and waters impact our quality of life every day and the Federation’s conservation and restoration work allows healthy water to drink, safe places to recreate, room for wildlife to thrive, and increased resilience to a changing climate.

Amanda Moore

Along the Gulf of Mexico, for example, communities know all too well the impacts from rising sea levels and extreme storms. Working with community partners, we proudly advanced large-scale coastal restoration programs, prioritizing adaptation and building resilience for future generations. These efforts help to safeguard these communities on the frontlines of climate change, while also protecting iconic species like alligators, manatees, and sea turtles.

50K+acres of coastal
areas will be
MRGO Educational boat tour
Credit: Restore the Mississippi River Delta
Local fisherman showing vegetation to Army Corps
Credit: Amanda Moore, NWF
Mississippi River Gulf Outlet Ecosystem Restoration

Over many decades, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO) federal shipping channel degraded protective coastal wetlands surrounding New Orleans and those impacts came to the nation’s attention when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, devastating communities with severe flooding. Since the storm, we have led a coalition that advocates for the restoration of the ecosystem in and around the MRGO. Our mission is steeped in environmental justice and we partner with local leaders, especially in underserved, predominantly Black communities like the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East, to ensure all voices are heard in the planning and implementation of these projects. In 2022 we hit major milestones, with $400-million worth of projects moving into construction. These projects will restore nearly 50,000 acres of coastal marsh, ridges, and swamps. Other projects moved into design, including a $200-million landbridge project that will restore over 1,500 acres of marsh. These large-scale projects will create and enhance large sections of coastal habitat, providing critical wildlife habitat, storm protection for communities, and healthier estuaries for the working coast. We also gained Congressional clarification that MRGO ecosystem restoration will be federally funded, a long-awaited milestone that will allow even more progress on this critical restoration work moving forward.

Photo Credit: MRGO Must Go Coalition

A protester holds a sign reading "MRGO has got to go now".
Bringing Water Reuse to Affordable Housing

Water reuse helps to reduce the water footprint of urban construction, but such projects are often confined to expensive corporate developments. The Federation’s Texas Coast and Water team conducted nationwide interviews with community organizations, affordable housing developers, and water reuse experts to gather information and produce the first-ever guide to integrating water reuse into multi-family affordable housing projects. The guide makes the case that strategic integration of onsite water reuse can provide lasting financial and quality-of-life benefits to affordable housing residents and owners. We specifically structured this project around the perspectives and needs of low-income communities to shift the focus of water reuse initiatives to communities who continue to suffer the long-term financial and environmental effects of structural racism and oppression.

Photo Credit: Via Verde, Grimshaw + Dattner

Individuals tend rooftop garden plots
Raising Awareness of Agricultural Cost-Sharing in Pennsylvania   

Implementing conservation practices on agricultural land is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to improve water quality. But funding those efforts usually falls on the farmers. Our Pennsylvania affiliate PennFuture collaborated with the Choose Clean Water Coalition and other groups to raise awareness around the need for a dedicated source of funding to help farmers implement conservation projects on their land. The Coalition and its members worked together to educate members of the General Assembly on why creating the first state-funded agricultural cost-share program would benefit Pennsylvania’s farmers and improve the health of local waterways. Thanks in part to the Coalition’s webinars, op-eds, toolkits, and two informational videos promoting the benefits of cost-sharing, success was achieved when the program was included as part of the state budget.

Photo Credit: Drew Robinson

Farmer points across corn field in Lancaster, PA.
EcoFlights Navigate Focus onto Toxic Mining Debris and Watersheds

Toxic liquid waste resulting from mining operations, known as tailings, are a known risk to our watersheds. Without strong mitigation measures, tailings can flow from mine sites and into our watersheds, threatening communities, the environment and public health. The Montana Wildlife Federation and Conservation Northwest hosted several EcoFlights over British Columbia and bordering Northwest states to provide a bird’s-eye view of B.C. mine tailings and the impending threat to U.S. watersheds and Indigenous communities across the region. 

Photo Credit: Joshua Murdock, Missoulian