Heat Mapping, Houston Youth & Accessible Trails

The latest news from National Wildlife Federation & affiliates: heat mapping; Earth Tomorrow expands in Houston; accessible trails from New Hampshire Audubon

  • Delaney McPherson
  • Field Work
  • Jul 04, 2023

Visualizing Extreme Heat

In recent years, heat has killed more people in the United States than any other natural disaster, according to the National Weather Service. As climate change continues, scientists say extreme heat events will become increasingly common, with devastating impacts.

To illustrate the severity of the issue, the National Wildlife Federation created The Rise of Extreme Heat, a new presentation that lays out the data in a clear—and gripping—format.

An image of a heatmap that shows annualized heat wave frequencies.

The report features maps showing the frequency of heat waves (pictured), droughts and wildfires, and it emphasizes how extreme heat and other signs of climate change disproportionately impact marginalized communities. Factors including a lack of air conditioning (top, where Los Angeles resident Karen Tapia tries to keep her daughter cool during a heat wave), low tree coverage and high pollution levels all amplify the effects of heat. These issues are especially prevalent in low-income and population-dense areas as well as in Indigenous communities and communities of color, the report finds. For example, one map, “Tree Equity Scores,” shows how neighborhoods with higher percentages of people of color tend to have less tree cover.

The report also examines the effectiveness of community solutions, including increasing urban tree canopy and creating DIY indoor filter fans. And it provides information on current policy initiatives calling for investments in climate-smart infrastructure that could help mitigate the effects of climate change.

“People all over the country are experiencing more heat waves," says Lindsay Kuczera, NWF's storytelling manager for climate and energy. "Places that historically haven't had to deal with extreme heat and its effects often don't have safeguards like air conditioning. This tool gives people needed information for protecting themselves and their communities.” See more at nwf.org/extremeheat.

Donor Spotlight: Amy Munich of Dayton, Ohio

WHY I GIVE  “NWF had an influence on me. I started planting only native plants, and I got bees, butterflies and wasps in my garden. They don’t sting me. They just suck up nectar and couldn’t care less about me. They care about making a living. Having been a teacher of wildlife and nature, I think what [NWF does] is extremely important.”

An image of Earth Tomorrow students participating in a rally.

Houston, We Have Earth Tomorrow

For the past two decades, the NWF initiative Earth Tomorrow® has empowered young Atlantans to explore environmental justice and leadership opportunities. This year, NWF is expanding to Houston—the nation’s fourth-largest city and the program’s first permanent addition since Atlanta in 2001.

Through Earth Tomorrow high school clubs, students can join field trips, learn about career development, work on environmental community-service projects and more. In Atlanta, a recent focus on youth democracy inspired students to take active roles in their future, including participating in a climate protest (above) and assembling a group of 80 for a March visit to the Georgia State Capitol, where they met with legislators to discuss conservation policy. And each year, Earth Tomorrow puts on the Summer Institute, a weeklong immersive experience where students travel to a local college for outdoor excursions, conservation activities (below), sessions with environmental justice experts and a career fair.

An image of Earth Tomorrow students participating in river cleanup.

“What’s exciting for me is that we’ve created staying power in Atlanta,” says Crystal Jennings, NWF’s director of youth leadership programs. “To be able to do that in Houston and build a longstanding program there, too, is gold.”

In Houston, NWF is already engaging young people through Student Resilience Ambassadors. The new Earth Tomorrow program will aim to reach those SCRA participants, as well as other students interested in learning about environmental justice. Following Atlanta’s template, the program will kick off with a Summer Institute at the University of Houston in June. From there, students can take their knowledge and skills into their schools, becoming leaders in their own Earth Tomorrow clubs.

“I’m grateful we’re able to use the Atlanta program as a model.” —Marya Fowler, NWF regional director of education

An image of people walking on a path at Alice Bemis Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary.

NWF Affiliate Spotlight: New Hampshire Audubon

"Birds are the heartbeat of what we do, but we do so much more than that,” says Dyanna Smith, director of communications for the NWF affiliate New Hampshire Audubon. In summer 2022, that work included unveiling the new All Persons Trail at NH Audubon’s headquarters in the state capital of Concord (below). In addition to making their sanctuaries physically accessible for all people, NH Audubon aims to create a safe, equitable environment for anyone—human or critter—who explores their trails. This summer, the organization plans to expand the trail, currently a half-mile loop through a wildflower meadow, by adding another half-mile portion through a nearby wooded area.

An image of Marc Nutter, James Piet and Pat Vincent-Piet at the new All Persons Trail at Silk Farm.

Altogether, NH Audubon manages 39 wildlife sanctuaries (including the Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary, top, in Sandwich) totaling nearly 10,000 acres of wetlands, forests and meadows. At three nature centers, visitors can enjoy activities such as birding walks, talks from the centers’ in-house biologists, art exhibits and meeting some of NH Audubon’s ambassador animals, including a bald eagle, a timber rattlesnake and a pair of barred owls.

NH Audubon also runs summer camps at the centers, giving kids the opportunity to learn about conservation firsthand. Through this hands-on, educational approach, NH Audubon engages with people throughout the state, who in turn contribute to a massive volunteer network tracking wildlife population trends. As part of those efforts, NH Audubon volunteers have been counting bald eagle populations since the 1980s. The birds were once completely eradicated from the state, but in a 2020 survey, volunteers counted more than 100 of the birds of prey.

“We’re striving to make sure that we are a welcoming place. Our sanctuaries are open to all." —Dyanna Smith

An image of a family camping in a van.

Bulletin: Great American Campout

This summer, Great American Campout™ is partnering with Johnson Outdoors and the Clean Earth Challenge to encourage people to get outdoors and keep our green spaces clean. To learn more, go to nwf.org/great-american-campout.

More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Building the Future »
Read Last Issue's Field Work »
Blog: Three Ways Heat Waves are Impacting Americans More Than any Other Disaster »

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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