AmeriScan: January 5, 2001


WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - The Sierra Club today launched campaigns to oppose President elect George W. Bush's nominations of Gale Norton as the Secretary of the Interior and John Ashcroft as Attorney General. Both nominees have "dismal" environmental records, the group said.

"Gale Norton would be a natural disaster as Interior Secretary. Norton is the oil, mining and timber industry's choice. She favors increasing the commercial and environmentally destructive development of our national parks, forests and wild lands," said Carl Pope, executive director for the Sierra Club.

During the Ronald Reagan administration, Norton served as associate solicitor at the Interior Department, authoring legal opinions to support oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Norton has also labeled government protections of endangered species an example of excessive regulation.

Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft, former senator from Missouri, is also disappointing, Pope said.

"In light of his poor environmental record and his open hostility to most environmental laws, how can we expect Senator Ashcroft, as Attorney General, to enforce environmental laws?" said Pope.

While in the Senate, Ashcroft voted against additional funding for environmental programs including the Clean Water Action Plan and toxic waste cleanups at Superfund sites. He voted in favor of bills to roll back clean water protections, and to allow mining companies to dump cyanide and other mining waste on large areas of public lands next to mining sites.

To block their appointments, the Sierra Club will be mobilizing its more than 630,000 members, working in coalition with other environmental and progressive groups and using radio, television and newspaper advertisements to educate the public about the environmental records of Norton and Ashcroft.

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ALBANY, New York, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - International Paper and The Nature Conservancy have announced a historic agreement that will conserve the forested character of the Adirondack Park in New York, protect ecological resources, create new outdoor recreation opportunities, and maintain the economic benefits of the region's working forests.

Under the agreement - one of the largest in the history of The Nature Conservancy's program in New York - the Adirondack Chapter of the Conservancy and the Adirondack Land Trust will purchase from International Paper about 26,500 acres of land for $10.5 million. The transaction will link existing conservation and working forest lands, preserving the unfragmented forest landscape of the Adirondacks.

The Conservancy is purchasing three parcels:

"Being born and raised in the Adirondacks, I appreciate how important it is to have a balance between economic activity and conserving our natural resources," said John Dillon, chairman and CEO of International Paper. "I believe today's transaction with The Nature Conservancy allows us to continue along this path."

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BOZEMAN, Montana, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - One of the arguments against allowing snowmobile travel in Yellowstone National Park has been that groomed snowmobile trails may make it easier for bison to travel outside the park, where they can sometimes be shot. But a new study suggests that bison do not seek out these trails for winter travel.

"Most of the travel is not taking place on groomed roads," said Dan Bjornlie, who finished his master's degree in ecology at Montana State University (MSU) last spring. Bjornlie, who spent two winters documenting the precise movements of bison in the park's western section, now works for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The project was prompted by the mass exodus and shooting of bison during the 1996-97 winter, said Bob Garrott, an MSU ecology professor and project advisor. Some suspected the bison were exploiting the groomed roads to leave the park, a hypothesis repeated so often by the media as to appear as fact, said Garrott.

"Dan's the first person to directly address that question with field studies, and his intensive work does not support this hypothesis," Garrott said.

Bjornlie monitored bison in the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon river drainages from November 1997 to May 1998 and from December 1998 to May 1999. In all, he and his team logged 28,293 bison observations.

About eight percent of the time, the bison were traveling. Up to 20 percent of that travel time was on roads, but more often the animals followed natural corridors, streambanks and packed trails, Bjornlie found.

"The data show that of all activities, a really small part is traveling, and of that, a small part is travel on the roads," Bjornlie said.

The study, funded by the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey, has been accepted for publication in the "Journal of Wildlife Management."

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WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - Buffalo Field Campaign volunteers occupied a U.S. Forest Service road Thursday morning, blocking access to a bison capture facility site on the Horse Butte Peninsula.

One activist sat in a platform suspended from a tripod while another attached herself to a locking device buried in the road. A third perched in a tree and videotaped as law enforcement personnel worked to remove the protesters and dismantle the blockade.

Montana Department of Livestock (DOL) agents arrived at the protest site around 8 am and focused attention on Jayna Jensen, who was locked into the road. After removing her sleeping bag the agents took her food and water. Facing hypothermia in the subfreezing temperatures, Jensen released from the lockdown on her own after three and a half hours.

The agents then focused on the man in the tripod, attempting to knock him from his perch 30 feet above the ground by poking him with a long stick, the activist group Buffalo Field Campaign (BFC) reported.

Law enforcement officers later used a cherry picker to remove first the videographer and then the man occupying the tripod, both of whom were arrested.

State and federal wildlife officials harass and sometimes shoot bison that leave the park to prevent the potential transmission of brucellosis to domestic cattle. Brucellosis is a disease carried by some bison that can cause animals to abort their fetuses.

There are no cows on Horse Butte until June, BFC said. All of these cows winter in Idaho, and are vaccinated against brucellosis, the group said.

Although this grazing allotment brings in less than $800 to the U.S. Treasury, the state and federal governments have committed more than $40 million over the next 15 years to haze, capture and slaughter buffalo, BFC activists said.

"Powerful livestock interests are robbing our treasury with one hand while they slaughter America's last wild herd of buffalo with the other," said BFC spokesperson Dan Brister. "Today's actions demonstrate our commitment to bring the unnecessary slaughter to a stop."

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DETROIT, Michigan, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - An island in Lake Michigan has been donated to the state by developer David Johnson, chairman of Victor International, who saved the island from commercial development when he purchased it seven years ago.

The 836 acre North Fox Island, off the shore of Leland and Charlevoix, is valued at $15 million. The state will pay just $2.2 million from a land grant trust for Johnson's legal and closing expenses, making the donation worth almost $13 million.

Johnson, who also founded and funded the Victor Institute for Responsible Land Development and Land Use at Michigan State University, said, "It is my hope that this pristine natural environment will be of use to botanists and wild life biologists from around the world as they study our rapidly disappearing habitats."

North Fox Island is home to such threatened species as the Lake Huron tansy, calypso or fairy slipper, Pitcher's thistle and Pumpelly's brome grass. An important rest stop for migratory birds, the island is forested with ground hemlock growing under northern hardwoods.

The island includes a 180 foot high dune formation, a stone/sand beach and five miles of Lake Michigan shoreline.

"This is a great opportunity for the State of Michigan to acquire an island that has rich and diverse biological characteristics," said Governor John Engler. "David Johnson's desire to place this property into public trust is another example of his commitment to improving our landscape and ensuring that biological treasures like North Fox Island are appropriately managed and maintained."

Johnson purchased North Fox Island in 1994 to stop the 535 home, golf course and marina development proposed for the property.

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CONCORD, New Hampshire, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) plans to begin a formal rulemaking process to adopt a new, tighter regulatory standard for arsenic in drinking water. The new state level will be 10 parts per billion (ppb), more stringent than the existing state and federal arsenic standard of 50 ppb.

This threshold will also serve as an action level for private well owners who wish to treat their drinking water so that it meets this health based level.

DES commissioner Robert Varney noted that this change is being proposed in collaboration with the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which reviewed extensive data underscoring the need for the tighter level.

"The proposal is designed to strengthen our state's safeguards for protecting public and private water supplies and the health of our citizens," said Varney. "This tightening recognizes the improved science associated with arsenic which shows more of a health concern than previously believed."

Arsenic is a poisonous chemical element that occurs naturally in many parts of the U.S., including New Hampshire. It also occurs as a legacy of past human activities such as coal ash disposal and apple orchard spraying.

Varney said that a number of risk assessment studies worldwide have shown arsenic to be associated with an increased risk of bladder, lung, kidney, liver, skin and prostate cancer.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of tightening the federal arsenic standard. EPA is now in the public comment phase of rulemaking to lower the federal standard from 50 ppb to a level between five and 20 ppb.

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WESTLAKE VILLAGE, California, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - Dole Fresh Fruit Company, a subsidiary of Dole Food Company Inc., plans to begin offering certified organic bananas to consumers this month.

For several years, the company has been conducting research into the production of organic bananas, which are grown without the use of commercial chemicals and fertilizers. Emphasizing improvements in soil fertility, as well as biological and cultural approaches to pests and plant diseases, Dole is now able to add organic bananas to its list of fresh fruit products.

The organic bananas will be grown in Ecuador and Honduras on farms that have been certified as organic by U.S. based certification agencies and inspected by the Independent Organic Inspectors Association to ensure organic integrity.

Dole's Latin American subsidiary, Standard Fruit de Costa Rica, was the first major banana producing area in the world to be certified to the International Organization for Standardization's environmental management system standard, ISO 14001. All of Dole's farms that grow bananas in Latin America and Asia are now certified to ISO 14001.

The bananas will first be available to Dole's West Coast customers. Over the following months, the program will be expanded to offer the new organic bananas to all of North America.

"Dole has a culture of maximizing environmental performance while providing the highest quality food in the marketplace today," said Sharon Hayes, director of environmental affairs for Dole Food Co. "Dole's production of certified organic bananas is another sign of Dole's commitment to environmental leadership and consumer choice."

Dole Food Co. Inc., with 1999 revenues of $5.1 billion, is the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh cut flowers, and markets a growing line of packaged foods.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 5, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has given permanent approval to shot formulated of tungsten, nickel and iron for hunting waterfowl and coots, after toxicology tests showed no harm to birds that ingested the shot. In December, the agency also extended temporary approval of tin shot for the current waterfowl season.

The USFWS assessed possible effects of the tungsten-nickel-iron (TNI) shot, and determined that it is not a "significant threat" to wildlife. Hunters can use the new shot, marketed under the brand name HEVI-SHOT and manufactured by ENVIRON-Metal, Inc., for the balance of the current season and for all future seasons.

Lead shot was banned for waterfowl hunting nationwide in 1991. Ingestion of as little as one lead pellet from lake and stream bottoms can cause fatal lead poisoning in most ducks.

"As new research shows, the ban on lead shot has been a tremendous boon for North American waterfowl. Hunters should know that by using nontoxic shot, they are helping to preserve our hunting heritage for future generations," said USFWS director Jamie Rappaport Clark, referring to a recent study that examined lead shot poisoning in waterfowl.

The study, "Ingestion of Lead and Nontoxic Shotgun Pellets by Ducks in the Mississippi Flyway," was published last summer in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Researchers found that the ban on lead shot reduced lead poisoning deaths of Mississippi Flyway mallards by 64 percent, while overall ingestion of toxic pellets declined by 78 percent over previous levels.

TNI shot joins steel, bismuth-tin, tungsten-iron, tungsten-polymer, and tungsten-matrix shot as permanently approved nontoxic shot types. Permanent approval of tin shot will not be given until the shot's manufacturer completes additional testing requirements.