The NWF Conservation Debate


400mm lens on tripod, 1/400 sec f8 ISO 200, bird about 200+ yards away.

I thought long and hard on what motives the National Wildlife Federation had for working with an obvious opponent in Scotts. Looking at the faces in this post is one of the reasons I envisioned. How can you not want the National Wildlife Federation to have the money needed to lobby for wetlands across America?



The partnering failed in 2012 to have the National Wildlife Federation work with Scotts to promote new community gardens and the Be Out There initiative to get kids intimate with nature. The link is to my post that looks at kids today and what gardening can help to do for them.  Be Out There is a program that the NWF currently has to encourage kids to spend time outdoors. Working with Scotts may have helped in reaching a wider audience.

The NWF needs money to lobby to amend conservation laws and policies and Scotts has it in profits. The “profits link” leads to a downloadable PDF report of Scotts for 2011.

This is where the partnership might have been strained in areas that conflicted with both parties mission statements. It did seem like the 30 million Scotts customers NEEDED reaching too. Yes, it might have been a sizable financial boon for the NWF, but it also could have been opportunity to influence as well. We obviously will never know.


I look mad, don’t I. Well, you would be too if factories dumped in your food source. Our waterways need to be fresh and CLEAN.

It is hard in this day and age for a non-profit to operate and they need money to do their good deeds.

Last year, a major storm hit when bloggers abandoned the NWF by leaving their organization and relinquishing signs (did they really?), in addition to getting on the web with an all out assault. Where did this leave the future of the organization? How are they faring?


Green Heron

Did the NWF have to resort to simplifying the certification process that we looked at in the last post in order to increase contributions? I really don’t know the answer to any of this, but I can see the NWF having to do something to keep donations coming in, especially if indeed they suffered from the backlash.


Great Blue Heron

I am pretty certain that many did not turn in their signs during the Scotts fiasco, although adamantly saying they would.

Canada_Thistle_Cirsium arvense

Canada Thistles

If you are eating grocery produce, it has the “devil’s tonic” sprayed on it to grow blemish free, not to mention the fertilizers and weed control used between rows.  Now who does not want and eat perfect looking grocery produce? Is it OK to eat the produce grown with pesticides, just not douse our flowers?

I think the public needs retraining here. Vegetables and fruit do not need to be perfect. They just need to be healthy, safe and nutritious. Sadly, it also needs to be economical and readily available so here in lies the dilemma.


400mm lens, tripod, 1/1600 sec f5.3, ISO 400 – Tree Swallow (?) and nesting male House Sparrow

I have no argument that there are better ways to farm and garden, but are they as cost-effective in labor and plant loss which seems to be the bone of contention to support the use of growing and pesticide products?

If I had my way, these products would have never come to market, but that is not the reality folks. They are here and what do we do about them? Of course a small percentage of us will not purchase, but again that is not the likelihood of most, especially commercial growers. Does Scotts even provide products for commercial growers?


Red Winged Blackbird

It is farming practice that needs to be modified. Farming in the US occupies about 954 million acres. The US has 2,263,259,000 total acres of land. 736,681,000 acres, are classified as forested acres. Total lawn usage is 40.5 million acres, small in comparison. More than 270 million acres of federal land are set aside by various government agencies for use as wildlife refuges, parks, and wilderness areas. Add these numbers up and it still leaves a bit more than a quarter of a billion acres for other purposes such as building and paved surfaces like roads which comprises about 39,040,000 acres in the US.


Great White Heron

Nowhere could I get an estimate of gardens, but it is certainly less acreage than lawns if not already included in this statistic. My point being, that helping to use less or no pesticides and herbicides on home gardens, while admirable, is obviously little in comparison to the acreage use of the farms and commercial properties. Losing the lawn is helpful also, but again, small in comparison.

The only problem here is the effect on bees and birds since they don’t differentiate where they dine. Greater effect on them happens in the commercial fields, but it happens in gardens as well.


Green Heron

It almost needs to be a broad base mandate to have any measurable effect. Diazinon was successfully removed from the marketplace for all lawn, garden and turf uses, with manufacturing stopped in June 2003. I remember as a Master Gardener recommending its use as per what Cornell suggested.

It was recommended long after it was not manufactured, as product on shelves and stored in warehouses were allowed to be sold. You can see it can happen, but up until it does, many organizations recommend toxic or environmentally damaging product as long as they remain in the marketplace until exhausted.



Currently, the neonicotinoids ban is under review with three of the seven acting nerve agents being banned recently in the UK for the next two years. And why? The insecticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam put both land and water life at risk, but bees are the organisms behind driving the ban.


Seeds are treated with the chemicals and pervade the plants to stop insects in the soil from attacking the seed and other pests destroying the grown plant, unfortunately killing feeding bees and birds. In the US, the EPA is now re-evaluating the safety of neonicotinoids, but at the earliest, the direction on imidacloprid will be in 2016 and 2017 for clothianidin and thiamethoxam. Much like Diazinon, it looks to be a slow process.

Does Scotts have product with neoicotinoids? Check out this list. Also what about their birdseed? Birdseed is very susceptible to having been treated. I read where one treated corn kernel could kill a songbird.


Other countries are not so fortunate as we in the US, and have it worse with far greater toxic chemicals. Think about those pristine places as chemical dump sites, a much more toxic assault on the environment. There are a few of them in the US too, not just in places like China. More on that next post.

The preserved acreage in the US helps to support wildlife and provide animals a home if it is left in its natural state. That is exactly the point – the natural state. There is no control what others do and it is unlikely to change without it being enacted into law.


Red Admiral

Part 3 coming up and a more intense look at the debate. The larger problem looks closer to home and habitats in need.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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30 Responses to The NWF Conservation Debate

  1. CC says:

    Wow……thanks for the insight. Just this winter I made the decision not to fight my yard (sloping city lot) where I have not been able to grow grass; this has been going on for several years. Now it will be rock gardens/mondo grass, etc.

  2. flora says:

    amazing shots Donna….love the long graceful neck of ?not sure what kind of bird ?

  3. Randy Garcia says:

    HI, and Thank You for Such A Great Blog!! I Love Nature and All of God’s Wonderful Creatures, Something BIG Really Needs To Happen Soon To Conserve Or Planet !! We Are Destroying Or Planet And Not Caring…

    Follow By Example…Be A Leader !! Care For What You Love And Dream For….
    Support NWF 150% I Do And Always Will !!

  4. Thanks for revisiting this topic. How we use chemicals is something that should be addressed in a logical way.

    • I agree. It is a difficult subject because it is so polar. As a designer, I do recognize not everyone is willing to have a property chemical free. My clients would never want a garden such as mine. I have weeds and am not all that fastidious about pulling them out. I don’t spray them, except those in the pavers. I value the bugs too much. My clients are generally not fond of bugs either.

  5. You make many good points. Here is something to think about re chemicals on fruits and vegetables. You have probably heard of the dirty dozen of fruits and vegetables that should be purchased organically if economically possible. Well peaches are towards the top of the list. However, the testing to produce this list includes all peaches. If you just include peaches grown in the US and Canada, they wouldn’t even be on the list. Lesson, imported fruits and vegetables are generally more toxic than US and Canadian produce.

    • Very good point to add. Yes I do know about the dirty dozen and I wish I did not have to buy so many fruit and vegetables that I know have been sprayed. Even those at the farmers markets all have been treated. I go to the places selling fruit and vegetables right from the fields and I know each of these farmers sprays. No getting around it unless one can grow their own. Your point on produce in the US vs. imported is absolutely right. I remember in Costa Rica seeing where much of our produce like mangoes, banana and coffee are grown, you could just smell the chemicals in the fields. It is also a place where a lot of our annual/tropical flowers come from. In places like that they have little recourse too because of the insects and disease because of the humid/hot climate.

  6. Phil Lanoue says:

    Very crucial points you make with excellent photos.

  7. I guess we have different pespective on the NWF/Scotts issue. The problem, in my view, is that NWF needs Scotts money far more than Scotts needs NWF. As a result, Scotts will have more power in the relationship. And the more NWF becomes dependent on Scotts, the more power Scotts has over NWF. So NWF would have more money for their good work, but I think it is inevitable that their agenda would shift to be more consistent with that of Scotts. I do think that environmentalists should talk to industry and collaborate where possible (for example, the Sierra Club and the natural gas industry), but it is dangerous to become dependent on their support.
    As to your point about lawn versus agriculture, surely you are right that agriculture covers far more acres. However, I think the intensity of pesticide use and also overuse of fertilizer is greater with lawns. Certainly pollution from lawns has a big impact on certain bodies of water, as I remember from Lake Mendota when I lived in Madison WI. Wonderful pictures as usual, by the way!

    • I trusted the NWF and do not believe they would have compromised their principles and mission. They did not need the money as they showed by backing out, I guess. They could have used Scotts as easily as Scotts could have used them if that is what it was about, but I believed it a sincere relationship. Both had something to gain. We all have absolutely no idea what went on in negotiations, but I was looking in a positive direction as I was sure the two parties were as well. Why did they have to depend on Scotts? They still had their core supporters.

      There is no doubt about the impact of fertilizers on water bodies. Do you really think lawns are fertilized more than produce in farming? Farming also uses the GMO’s and treated seed. It would be good to look that up, but the farms are sprayed more and fertilized more. They have to guarantee salable product. Home owners have nothing more than green lawns if that is what they want, and all don’t. Think of it in pounds of Nitrogen per square feet too. The thing where lawns are bad is the fact that it runs off into sewers, etc., and carried to rivers/lakes. I did mention commercial properties when I mentioned farms. Commercial is most always sprayed and fertilized, also where there is runoff. I think the residential properties are taking too much of the blame for the environmental problems with chemicals. My next post looks at brownfields. This really is a major problem everywhere industry was.

  8. Learning more new information today – Great Post! Loving your captures – Have a Great One:)

  9. catmint says:

    hi donna, good luck with this issue. Same problems here – commercial vested interests have greater power than NGOs, but mobilizing public opinion to pressure governments to change laws is ongoing from activists like you. I just heard an interview with an Indian woman activist who said that writing is political action!

    • If I did not work professionally on projects for cleanup, I would never have been so vested in these issues. I spent a year on one project and learned so much on what it took to bring land back, and the lands were far more toxic than than say a yard that sprays. That is why I know what organizations like the NWF faces when they try to institute change on a large scale. It is monumental. I applaud those trying to ban these chemicals. Slowly they get it done.

  10. A.M.B. says:

    What an interesting topic. It’s so complicated. It’s easy to see Scotts and those who use pesticides as villains, but there is a flip side of needing to make produce readily available (as you say). I’m looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on the issue.

    • Too many looked at Scotts as the “devil” as they said. Next post I look at why Scotts is so successful with 30 million gardeners. Could the NWF not benefited from their success?

  11. This is all so thought-provoking! Fortunately, in my area, CSA (community-supported agriculture) shares are easily obtained and prevalent. Because I don’t have enough sun for a large vegetable garden, I chose the CSA as my source for organic, local, fresh produce. And it’s economical because my HMO reimburses us for a large chunk of the cost–it’s a healthy lifestyle choice. I only wish organic, local options were more available and affordable during the winter months! Regarding the NWF and supporting wildlife, you bring up some interesting questions.

    • That is wonderful you have CSA shares in your area and you take advantage of it. I grow some vegetables here, but used to grow all that we ate in the summer (plus enough peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, and cucumbers to supply to three neighbors). With a short growing season, we still got decent produce. Now I am down to tomatoes, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, herbs and varied greens. I should have learned to can.

      It really is hard growing vegetables without pesticides though (next post), but I always do. You are right, it is a lifestyle. There are so many questions because not any of us were privy to went on behind closed doors and so many made very rash assumptions to the motives behind each. I just chose to take the more positive view that things could improve, more people would be exposed the NWF direction.

  12. Brian Comeau says:

    WOW. Lots if info…. Interested to read part 3 and put it all together. Great pics btw. You never cease to amaze me with you knowledge and talents.

  13. Wegmans has been experimenting with organic farming S of Rochester to come up with effective economical ways for farmers to produce organic produce for them. They have been quite successful and are now working with more local famers to get them to move. Where I live there is little organic farming or berry farms to pick or produce or anything even at the farmers market. That is why I grow my own veggies from seed and seek out organic produce. Sad really and I agree we need a full scale campaign for home owners and farmers. As more and more folks realize the sad effects and diseases caused by these chemicals hopefully we may have a demand that farmers can’t ignore.

    • I too shop Wegmans. I also buy organic where I can. Wegmans has a campaign to promote healthy eating and organic growing is the cornerstone of it. Growing is great, and I do each year too, but I cannot grow enough to get through the fall, let alone winter. The produce at the farm where I work with my friend has the vegetable patch out in the nursery fields. The vegetables are always blemished by insect damage and you always have to pick out the little munchers before eating it, but at least it is healthy. I get corn, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers there.

  14. This is big isue these days and in Majorca I am joining organizations to discuss and being pro-active in campaigning against use of any chemicals in agriculture. It is possible to do it and I will post soon about a project we are developing with trees. Good work with these posts!

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