Season of Giving: 45 Ways to Protect Wildlife

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Rainforests, animals, marine and freshwater aquatic life — they all need extra help given the environmental agenda of the upcoming administration. But you can help make a real environmental impact by using this Season of Giving as an opportunity to give to organizations fighting for the issues you believe in, like the protection of plant and animal wildlife.

Each week during the holidays Everyday Earthiness is posting lists of great environmental organizations that need support, including:

This week we’ll highlight some of the best wildlife conservation organizations fighting to protect forests and trees, fish and birds, animals and habitats.

Wildlife conservation issues

Climate change, pollution, contamination, urban development, fossil fuel extraction, mining, agriculture, poaching, hunting and fishing, deforestation, lack of proper protections and disregard of existing environmental regulations all pose major threats to plant and animal wildlife across the globe. Because so many environmental issues overlap, many organizations work on multiple fronts and tackle the protection of wild animals, marine life and plant life. Here are some of the specific issues facing each category.

Wild Animals – Whether in the depths of the wildest wilderness or at the fringe of urban developments, human activity has an enormous impact on animals. Threats to land, forests, rainforests, water sources, air quality and ecosystems also threaten the wild animals that depend on them. Pollution, contamination, deforestation, strip mining often hurt animal species long before we notice the impact on humans. Unsustainable hunting practices, lethal predator control and poaching also threaten animal species. Just like for humans, the greatest threat to animals is climate change, which already hurts and threatens to endanger some species and (if left unmitigated) threatens to cause mass extinction of plant and animal species to an extent never seen before in the history of the planet.

Marine Life – Increasingly higher acidification of the oceans from carbon emissions soaked up by the sea threaten vast numbers of fish, marine mammals, coral and even microorganisms. Coral reefs are home to a quarter of all ocean fish, yet 20% of coral has already died off, with more than double that expected to be destroyed in the near term due to greenhouse gas emissions. Millions of tons of plastic trash floating in five colossal garbage patches in the world’s oceans — especially microplastics broken down by the sun into tiny pieces and consumed by fish — threaten marine life and have already entered the human food chain. Overfishing, illegal whaling and net fatalities also impact marine species.

Trees, Forests and Rainforests – Rainforests are home to half the planet’s plant and animal species. They provide humans with food and medicines, clean air and water and fight climate change. Rainforest once covered 14% of the world, but now only covers 6%. Conservation efforts in rainforests use your donations to stop deforestation, since clear-cutting trees in these regions accounts for 10% of all global emissions of carbon dioxide. How? During photosynthesis, carbon gets stored inside the trees, creating a carbon “sink”. Whether in rainforests or regular forests, cutting trees down, burning them and letting them rot releases carbon into the atmosphere. Fewer trees also means less help cleaning CO2 out of the air.

Saving just 1 acre of rainforest can offset up to 200 tons of CO2 emissions, and conserving rainforests is one of the most cost-efficient forms of carbon offsetting. Forests are also proven to have a cooling effect on the atmosphere by releasing moisture from the ground into the air, and removing that cooling apparatus further contributes to climate change. Planting more trees, on the other hand, helps fight global warming. Most deforestation happens to clear land for agriculture, like cattle farming and palm oil plantations, strip mining and urban development.

How to support wildlife conservation organizations

  1. Donate – Environmental action groups need funding to operate and make an impact, so donations are the most important way to help these organizations. Remember, one-time donations are wonderful, but monthly donations are the best way to keep these organizations working effectively and efficiently.
  2. Participate – Signing petitions, calling your representatives, attending rallies and protests, attending community meetings and legislative sessions, writing letters to the editor, listening to organization podcasts and reading news updates, volunteering to work and spreading the word on social media and elsewhere are all great ways to help out local and international environmental organizations.
  3. Adopt/Sponsor – Adopt animals, species, acres of forest, acres of rainforest or individual tree plantings through these organizations to fund specific goals within these organizations. The bonus: adoptions and sponsorships make great gifts for the holidays. For example, my family will each receive one acre of rainforest from the Rainforest Foundation in their stockings this year. In conservation, a little gift goes a long way, and can be education to the recipient as well.
  4. Visit – Traveling to threatened or protected natural spaces (in responsible ways, of course) increases your awareness about and appreciation for those special places and their delicate ecosystems and can have the added benefit of funding (through entry fees, tour company fees, trail fees, campsite fees, etc) wildlife conservation and protection efforts. Some animal protection organizations work through zoos and aquariums, so visiting and buying memberships for these conservation-oriented groups helps fund environmental goals.
  5. Participate in Youth Programs – From nature walks to day camps to volunteer programs, many land and wildlife conservation organizations and nature preserves host youth programs to educate and inspire the next generation of environmentally aware citizens.

Organizations protecting wildlife (flora and fauna) in general

1. The Nature Conservancy – The only environmental charity listed among the 50 biggest U.S. charities. TNC’s priorities include worldwide efforts to protect water, take action on climate change, save oceans, conserve land and transform cities using their staff of hundreds of scientists, a network of local branches across 69 countries, partnerships with companies and strategic conservation and financing. Symbolic gifts through their Gift Catalogue help protect wildlife and restore and conserve habitats, including Adopt-an-Acre options. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 84.35 score / 71.2% spent on the programs and services it provides.

2. Environmental Defense Fund – EDF takes on the most urgent environmental threats to the climate, ecosystems, people’s health, and more by combining science, economics, and law to find practical and lasting solutions. EDF is working on multiple wildlife and habitat initiatives to restore fisheries, implement a new wildlife protection system that is balanced with economic growth, launch sustainable agriculture solutions and create coastal resilience. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 94.48 score / 79.1% spent on the programs and services it provides.

3. Sierra Club – The oldest and largest environmental group in America, the Sierra Club has 750,000 members. Their subsidiary National Marine Wildlife and Habitat Committee tackles marine life and habitat protection issues. Their Our Wild Americas campaign follows the Sierra Club’s historic tradition of protecting America’s wildlands forests and grasslands. Local chapters in each state organize and fight for local environmental issues, such as their campaign to preserve sage grouse in my home state of Utah. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 94.08 score / 88.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.

4. Greenpeace – Besides being a major actor in the fight for climate action, this international organization has long been a warrior for wildlife protection. Over 30 years ago, Greenpeace started the Save the Whales movement. Since then, protecting oceans has been one of their main objectives worldwide as they work to preserve deep sea life and protect oceans from pollutions and oil spills. Two other main initiatives include forest protection and saving the Arctic as a wildlife refuge. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 88.01score / 82.6% spent on the programs and services it provides. Rated by Fundraiser Insight as one of the Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well.

5. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Principally known for protecting animal species, the WWF has several wildlife focuses, including forests, fresh water, oceans and wildlife across the globe. WWF’s unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 86.04 score / 74.2% spent on the programs and services it provides. Rated by Fundraiser Insight as one of the Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well.

6. Earth Policy Institute – This group publishes research examining the feasibility of an environmentally and economically sustainable world, provides a plan (they call it “Plan B”) and examples of how this could work, and keep the media, policymakers, academics, environmentalists and other decision-makers focused on the process of getting there. Its website carries video of public appearances by staffers, as well a schedule of future appearances.

7. Earthjustice – This non-profit public interest law firm is dedicated to protecting oceans, land, and wildlife “because the earth needs a good lawyer.” They take on critical environmental issues and bring about positive change by protecting the wild, promoting healthy communities and fighting for clean energy and a healthy climate. The EarthJustice website has an explanation of major cases concerning the ocean that are currently underway. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 93.25 score / 79.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

8. Round River Conservation Studies – This group’s goal is achieving large scale conservation through studies, research and partnership with communities around the world, including in southern Utah. Round River utilizes the principles of conservation biology to formulate strategies that provide partner communities, organizations and governments a well-founded scientific basis for long-term conservation efforts.

Organizations that protect wild animals

9. Defenders of Wildlife – This major national conservation organization focuses solely on wildlife and habitat conservation and the safeguarding of biodiversity, working to protect and restore imperiled species throughout North America through programs on the ground, policy at the state and national level and legal safeguards in the courts. Successes include convincing the UN to ban high-seas, large-scale driftnet fishing to help save dolphins and other species. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 83.98 score / 74.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

10. Wildlife Conservation Society – This global organization seeks to save wild animals and wild spaces,working to conserve the world’s largest wild places in 15 priority regions that are home to more than 50% of the planet’s biodiversity. WCS’s team of field scientists study the natural environment and provide crucial information toto engage and inspire decision-makers, communities, and millions of supporters to take action. WCS was one of the first conservation organizations in the U.S. and operates five conservation-oriented zoos and one aquarium, all in New York. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 93.46 score / 82.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

11. National Wildlife Federation – This organization protects wildlife and habitats, works to restore, protect and conserve wetlands and waterways, fights climate change, advocating for conservation and connecting kids with nature. Wildlife protection includes helping animals in a warming world, safeguarding endangered species, stopping the spread of invasive species, building corridors for wildlife, implementing state wildlife action plans and specific restoration and recovery campaigns. The group offers wildlife adoptions and tree sponsorship gifts. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 80.25 score / 77.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.

12. Wildlife Conservation Network – This organization works with 17 partner organizations to provide independent wildlife conservationists with the tools and funding they need to save endangered species and conserve their habitats, particularly with strategies that help people and wildlife coexist and thrive. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 100.00 score / 91.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

13. Wildlife Land Trust – This division of the Humane Society is devoted to protecting sanctuaries for wildlife by finding ways to protect habitats and the wildlife within them permanently. They also run anti-poaching projects. Donate land or money. The Humane Society also works to protect seals, urban wildlife, wild horses, exotic pets and marine mammals.

14. Ducks Unlimited – This non-profit focuses on wetlands, waterfowl, and wildlife conservation in the U.S. and Canada, working since 1937 to protect 13 million acres and counting. DU relies on science in their conservation efforts, working to protect waterfowl through land conservation, policy, research and recognizing value and market-based systems where environmental “credits” can be generated and sold for the benefit of the waterfowl and people. DU also provides support to waterfowl hunters to promotes sustainable and responsible hunting.

15. National Audubon Society – This group’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. This organization tackles conservation issues around land, water, climate, coasts and important bird areas using science, policy and education. Charity Nativigator Rating: 4 stars / 92.05 score / 82.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.

16. American Bird Conservancy – Calling themselves the Western Hemisphere’s bird conservation specialist, this group works to to conserve native birds and their habitats across the Americas. ABC creates policy, advocacy and practical solutions to combat threats to birds like extinction, habitat loss, glass collisions, pesticides, fish netting, cats and invasive species, climate change and lack of resources. Check out their Bird Smart Glass Program and Bird Tape to help prevent 1 billion bird deaths per year from collisions with windows. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 93.98 score / 87.3% spent on the programs and services it provides.

17. Cheetah Conservation Fund – If big cats is your thing, check out this group’s efforts to tackle threats to the cheetah and its entire habitat (including human communities) in order to save the species in the wild. CCF maintains a research program on the biology, ecology and genetics of cheetahs that publishes papers in peer-reviewed journals annually, and currently operates the only fully-equipped genetics lab at an in-situ conservation facility in Africa. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 94.11 score / 83.0% spent on the programs and services it provides.

18. Sea Turtle Conservancy – Sea Turtle Conservancy was founded in 1959 by world-renowned sea turtle expert Dr. Archie Carr to save sea turtles from eminent extinction through rigorous science-based conservation. Headquartered in Florida, the organization carries out worldwide programs to conserve and recover sea turtle populations through research, education, advocacy and protection of the natural habitats upon which turtles depend. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 89.11 score / 85.4% spent on the programs and services it provides.

19. WildAid – WildAid’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes, working to reduce global consumption of wildlife products by persuading consumers and strengthening enforcement under the premise that “When the buying stops, the killing can too.” Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 100.00 score / 91.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.

20. Wildlife Alliance – Based out of New York and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this group works on the front lines in direct animal conservation efforts on behalf of some of the most threatened forests and species, including a rescue center for wild animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 84.56 score / 79.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.

21. SOS-Bees – This Greenpeace initiative is aimed at saving bees, and therefore agriculture and ecosystems, by stopping the use of bee-killing pesticides, adopting a bee action plan and promoting ecological farming in Europe. Donate, get vocal or sign their petition here. Or sign this Save-Bees.org petition calling on Obama to protect bees in the United States.

Organizations protecting marine life

22. Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society –  As the name would suggest, this group works for the conservation and welfare of whales, dolphins and porpoises with the aims of stoping whaling, ending dolphin drives that slaughter and sell off dolphins for human entertainment in the black market, stopping airline carriers from transporting dolphins to these aquariums and ending captivity of these creatures in aquariums like SeaWorld.

23. American Cetacean Society –  The oldest whale conservation group in the world, this organization protects whales, dolphins, porpoises, and their habitats by educating the public about the problems these animals face. It also provides teachers’ guides and fact sheets on marine mammals and allows interested parties to join the group’s whale watching trips to Baja.

24. Ocean Mammal Institute –  This group provides in-depth research and collects data on the impact of human marine activities on whales and dolphins in order to develop guidelines to protect these marine mammals.

25. International Marine Mammal Project – The International Marine Mammal Project fights to protect dolphins, whales and the ocean environment with key focusses on eliminating threats to dolphins posed by the tuna fishing industry, keeping commercial whaling illegal around the world, freeing dolphins and whales from captivity and promoting sustainable fishing and the responsible travel through marine habitats.

26. Marine Fish Conservation Network – This coalition contains over 170 national and regional environmental organizations, commercial and recreational fishing groups, and aquariums. It is dedicated to conserving fish and to promoting the long-term sustainability of their populations by maintaining and strengthening the conservation and management objectives of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. They maintain a running tab on fish-related legislation in Congress.

27. Wild Oceans – This group’s mission is to keep the oceans wild to preserve fishing opportunities for the future by bringing conservation-minded fishermen and pro-fishing environmentalists together to promote a broad, ecosystems approach to fisheries management, conserve ocean fish, prevent overfishing, reduce fish bycatch, and protect marine habitat. Their programs emphasize that conserving the ocean’s top predators and preserving healthy ocean food webs and critical habitats are essential to the survival of all fish, marine mammals and seabirds.

28. Humane Society – Having recently celebrated its 50 year anniversary, the Humane Society can boast of being the largest animal protection organization in America. Besides its on-land wildlife protection initiatives, the Humane Society also works towards the protection of marine mammals from commercial fishing, boat collisions, entanglements in fishing gear, beaching-related dangers like sonar, seal hunting, and especially stopping the captivity of dolphins and whales in Sea Worlds and zoos.

29. The Ocean Conservancy – This group advocates healthy ocean ecosystems and opposes practices that threaten marine life. Through “research, education, and science-based advocacy,” the group empowers people to speak and act on behalf of the oceans. Its website features congressional action alerts, petitions, a quarterly magazine, and free e-cards.

30. Global Coral Reef Alliance – This coalition of volunteer scientists, divers, environmentalists and other individuals and organizations is committed to coral reef preservation by focussing on coral reef restoration, marine diseases, and other issues caused by global climate change, environmental stress, and pollution.

31. Coral Reef Alliance – This group takes a multi-pronged approach to restoring and protecting coral reefs in partnership with the communities living nearest the reefs by reducing local threats to reefs like overfishing and poor water quality, helping communities benefit socially, culturally, and economically from conservation, improving reef management, working directly with the tourism industry to decrease its environmental footprint and to educate visitors about the beauty and importance of coral reefs, and sharing knowledge to make a global impact. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 95.58 score / 83.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.

Organizations Protecting Trees, Forests and Rainforests

32. Rainforest Foundation – Founded by Sting and his wife to take a different approach proven to be most effective at protecting rainforest: partnering with indigenous communities and legally empowering them to protect their ancestral land. They fight to secure legal rights of indigenous people to their land, influence laws and policies to protect their resources and build strong and sustainable community leadership. Only $5 protects an acre of rainforest. See their list of “10 Things You Can Do To Protect The Rainforest”. Charity Navigator: 4 stars / 98.23 score. 86.2% of proceeds spent on the services and programs provided.

33. Rainforest Partnership – This organization’s mission is to protect and regenerate tropical rainforests by working with the people of the forests to develop sustainable livelihoods that empower and respect both people and nature. This group uses impact and data driven methods to protect tropical rainforests as a critical carbon sink and oxygen producer for the world — literally the lungs of our planet and a critical factor in its health.

34. Rainforest Trust – This organization works to protect the world’s most threatened species and ecosystems on the planet—in the tropical rainforests and beyond. Their work protects biodiversity from habitat destruction and saves endangered and threatened species by purchasing forest acreage, creating conservation areas and providing forest guards to protect imperiled wildlife. Support this group for just $10 per acre of rainforest and 100% of your donation will go to their conservation efforts. Charity Navigator: 4 stars / 98.23 score. 92.8% of proceeds spent on the services and programs provided.

35. Rainforest Alliance – This international nonprofit organization works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. The Rainforest Alliance fights climate change by purchasing and conserving forests, reforesting degraded land and sustainably managing forests via local groups. The group’s certification seal (the label with the frog) lets consumers know that a product has been created in a way that protects the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the area. Their green frog certification seal indicates that a farm, forest, or tourism enterprise has been audited to meet standards that require environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 85.73 score / 87.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

36. Rainforest Conservation Fund – This organization works to ensure the future of tropical rainforests through practical solutions and with respectful commitment to local people. Their work protects rainforests from logging, clearing for agriculture, unsustainable hunting, fishing and extraction of plants and animals, charcoal production, pollution, mining and exploration and extraction of oil primarily in the Tamshiyacu Tahuayo Communal Conservation Area (ACRCTT) in the Amazon basin of northeastern Peru.

37. Amazon Aid Foundation – “Every minute a forest the size of 50 soccer fields is destroyed.” “At the current rate of destruction the Amazon could be gone in 40 years.” These are the kinds of messages this non-profit is trying to get out to educate and empower people to protect the Amazon as the lungs of our planet. The group uses art, science and multimedia projects to protect one of the Earth’s most threatened ecosystems.

38. Amazon Conservation Association – This group of ecologists and conservationists works to protect biodiversity by studying ecosystems and developing innovative conservation tools to protect land in Peru and Bolivia while supporting the livelihoods of local communities. ACA conserves the Amazon by protecting state, community, and private lands, by working with governments, by supporting local people to improve their management of natural resources, and by developing conservation solutions. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 100.00 score / 93.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.

39. Rainforest Concern – This UK based organization works to protect threatened natural habitats, the biodiversity they contain and the indigenous people who still depend on them for their survival via research, direct conservation and education, health and income generation programs. At present the organization has 16 conservation projects in 8 countries.

40. Forest Stewardship Council – This independent, international non-profit protects forests for future generations by setting the gold standard for forest management through its forest certification. FSC’s forest certification system is supported by groups such as WWF, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council and National Wildlife Federation. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 83.29 score / 84.5% spent on the programs and services it provides.

41. Rainforest Action Network – RAN campaigns for the forests, their inhabitants and the natural systems that sustain life by transforming the global marketplace through education, grassroots organizing and non-violent direct action. RAN operates differently than other conservation groups by challenging corporate power and exposing institutional systems of injustice in order to drive positive systemic change. Sign their petition to stop the destruction of rainforest by PepsiCo and Heinz here. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 93.19 score / 80.6% spent on the programs and services it provides.

42. National Forest Foundation – A partner of the U.S. Forest Service, this group works along side USFS to restore ecosystems to their natural resiliency and functions through on-the-ground conservation initiatives and to engage Americans in promoting the health and public enjoyment of our National Forests through forest stewardship, headwaters conservation, tree-planting, youth engagement and corporate partnerships. Charity Navigator Rating: 4 stars / 96.46 score / 89.0% spent on the programs and services it provides.

43. American Forests – This organization has been protecting and restoring forests and expanding urban greenspace for 140 years, one tree and one acre at a time. AF works with Congress, federal agencies and local governments to establish community forestry programs, improve the way we respond to wildfires and expand greenspace in cities. Their ReLeaf programs initiate tree-planting and reforesting programs at local, national and international levels. Charity Navigator Rating: 3 stars / 81.98 score / 69.9% spent on the programs and services it provides.

44. Friends of the Earth – The U.S. branch of this international group advocates in national and state governments and with community groups around the country to urge policymakers to defend the environment and work towards a healthy environment for all people. FOE looks at long-term solutions. One of their objectives is addressing the root causes of forest destruction and the marginalization of forest-dwelling communities through a campaign on landgrabs, forests & finance, and efforts to challenge forest carbon offsets. Rated by Fundraiser Insight as one of the Top 12 Environmental Organizations Who Use Their Donations Well.

45. Wildlife Habitat Council – empowering all acts of conservation by helping companies help nature locally and and around the world and certifying habitat enhancement and certifying education programs around the world. This is not a charity, but rather a group that provides strategies, grants and services to further corporate and conservation goals.

For Utah locals

For those of you in my home state of Utah, please consider supporting any of the following organizations via donations, calls to take action, volunteerism and more.

Wild Utah ProjectUtah Trout UnlimitedUtah Chapter Sierra ClubSwaner EcoCenter, Cottonwood Canyons FoundationWild Earth Guardians, and Sustain Utah.

What can you do today?

Engage in environmental issues by devoting some of your annual donations to environmental charities to protect climate, land, water or wildlife, by volunteering some of your time to environmental causes and to inspiring others to do the same. Be sure to spread the word about organizations you are supporting and why, what information you are discovering through those organizations and ways that others can help.

Featured film of the day: What can you do to protect wildlife in the Arctic? Start by learning about the wildlife that needs protecting and what threats they face in the gorgeous 3D documentary To The Arctic, narrated by Meryl Streep.

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