AmeriScan: January 10, 2001


LACEY, Washington, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - A fish called the Dolly Varden may received protection under the Endangered Species Act because of its striking similarity to the threatened bull trout. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced Tuesday that it is proposing to protect the Dolly Varden in the Coastal-Puget Sound region of Washington under the "similarity of appearance" provision of the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal would extend some of the Act's protections to Washington's Coastal-Puget Sound population of Dolly Varden as if it were a threatened species. Under the Act, a species may be treated as if it were endangered or threatened when it so resembles a protected species that law enforcement personnel would have substantial difficulty in distinguishing between the two species.

The proposal will help eliminate situations where people "take" bull trout when they believe they are "taking" Dolly Varden. "Take" is defined as killing or harming a protected species or destroying or altering its habitat.

Dolly Varden would only be treated as a listed species where its range overlaps with that of the Coastal-Puget Sound population of bull trout in Washington state.

"In the Coastal-Puget Sound areas, Dolly Varden occupy the same habitat as bull trout and are so similar that the two species cannot easily be told apart in the field," said Anne Badgley, USFWS Pacific regional director. "We are proposing protection for Dolly Varden to increase the chances that bull trout will be able to recover."

Dolly Varden and bull trout were once considered to be one species under the name Dolly Varden. Scientific research has separated the two species, but even specialists have difficulty in telling them apart by sight.

The Dolly Varden is named for its colorful spawning coloration. The name refers to a colorfully clothed character in the Charles Dickens novel "Barnaby Rudge."

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - The Ford Motor Company has announced plans to sell a Ford Explorer that travels 27 miles on a gallon of gas. The Ford Explorer is the nation's best selling sport utility vehicle (SUV).

"Last summer Ford announced they intend to turn a corner on fuel efficiency, and today they signaled how they'll move in that direction,"said Daniel Becker, director of the Sierra Club's Global Warming and Energy Program. "By making a more fuel-efficient Explorer, Ford will help curb global warming, cut America's oil dependence, and save drivers money at the gas pump."

The "New York Times" reported Tuesday that Ford will install devices to turn off the SUV's gasoline engine when the vehicle is idling and capture some of the energy lost in braking. The announcement comes on the heels of Ford's pledge last summer to improve overall fuel economy for the automaker's SUVs by 25 percent by 2005.

"Ford is proving itself a forward-thinking company by starting to make its SUVs ride somewhat lighter on our atmosphere and on our wallets," Becker said. "Significantly increasing the Explorer's fuel economy proves that technology exists to dramatically improve the efficiency of America's vehicles."

Compared to the 19 mile per gallon (mpg) Explorer now sold by Ford, a 27 mpg version will save drivers almost $3000 and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 27 tons over the lifetime of their vehicles, assuming a 124,000 mile vehicle life.

Because carbon dioxide is a major cause of global warming, the biggest single step the U.S. could take to curb that environmental threat would be to increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 45 mpg for cars and 34 mpg for light trucks and SUVs, the Sierra Club said.

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has selected 13 firms to perform scientific research for energy efficient power generation, industrial and buildings systems, and transportation. The total grant amount is $10.9 million.

"These firms will conduct ground-breaking research into the development of more energy efficient computers, engines, materials and alternative energy systems," said Richardson. "Investment in these technologies should help ease the demand for energy."

The Department of Energy (DOE) invests in research to improve energy efficiency and reduce dependency on traditional energy sources. The goal of the research grants is to help bring exploratory research to the point where advanced energy efficient systems can be developed into commercial products.

Among the grants is an estimated $1,824,574 for the University of Nevada to conduct research to demonstrate that solar energy systems can be made at an affordable cost for commercial buildings. The University will also demonstrate that complex hybrid reactors used for emissions reduction at power plants can be made to compete with existing technologies.

Washington State University will get an estimated $800,000 perform basic research on the use of animal manures as feedstocks to produce low cost energy products, including fuels, chemicals, electricity and other products.

Northwestern University will receive about $814,215 to conduct research that enables high temperature ceramic coatings to be used in energy efficient heat engines, such as microturbines and industrial gas turbines.

Other funded projects involve superconducting tapes, fuel cell materials, ultra-thin films for heat pumps and nanotechnology.

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - The National Weather Service has agreed to work with Vietnam's weather agency to provide advanced weather models and other scientific expertise to help strengthen its ability to predict, warn and manage river and coastal floods caused by tropical storms.

The National Weather Service and Vietnam's Hydro-Meteorological Service signed an agreement allowing the two nations to exchange scientific resources, technical knowledge and weather forecast services.

The U.S. investment includes $1.4 million to help create a coastal warning system to alert fishing boats at sea and a radio based system that will use U.S. technology to broadcast weather information to boaters listening on low cost radios.

Vietnam's Red River Delta region is vulnerable to river flooding, tidal effects and storm surges from tropical systems moving across the South China Sea. The current warning system in Hanoi provides an average of 12 hours notice of a threatening flood event.

Once Vietnamese forecasters incorporate the U.S. river forecast models, the warning lead time is expected to increase to 36 hours.

"The last El Niņo event [1997-98] impacted a broad cross-section of the South East Asian economy," said Department of Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta. "Improved climate forecasting will help reduce some of the impacts Vietnam faces from floods and drought."

Each year, Vietnam, a nation of 74 million, endures an average of five tropical storms, bringing torrential rains and floods. In November 1999, a tropical depression swelled the nation's Central Vietnam river, causing widespread flooding in seven provinces.

"Vietnam's location along the South China Sea offers the U.S. scientific community a unique vantage point to study monsoon activity and help find answers to other weather/climatic questions," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator D. James Baker.

Retired Brigadier General Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service, said, "Both countries have much to offer each other about the understanding of weather, water and climate. This agreement will benefit both parties and help save more lives from the deadly consequences of flooding."

* * *


SACRAMENTO, California, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has begun a comprehensive scientific review to determine whether yellow-billed cuckoos in the western U.S. should be proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS determined that this review was warranted in response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity.

"This is the next step in the process," said Michael Spear, manager of the USFWS California-Nevada Operations Office. "We will conduct a comprehensive review of the species. Our review will include all available information, including information submitted during this comment period by other government agencies, scientists and the public."


Yellow-billed cuckoo (Photo by Bill Duyck, courtesy Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology)
The yellow-billed cuckoo breeds from southern Canada south to the Greater Antilles and Mexico. While the yellow-billed cuckoo is common east of the Continental Divide, biologists estimate that more than 90 percent of the bird's riparian habitat in the West has been lost or degraded as a result of conversion to agriculture, dams and river flow management, bank protection, overgrazing and competition from exotic plants such as tamarisk.

In August 2000, a coalition of environmental groups filed suit to list the yellow-billed cuckoo as an endangered species throughout its range in North America, and the groups may still seek protection for the species in the East.

"The Fish and Wildlife Service is using bad science and inexcusable delays to deprive the yellow-billed cuckoo of the protection it needs," said Kieran Suckling, science and policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Habitat loss is driving the cuckoo to extinction before our very eyes."

The USFWS will accept public comments on the proposal until February 8. Comments should be sent to the Field Supervisor, Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, 2800 Cottage Way, Room W-2605, Sacramento, California 95825.

* * *


BUTTE, Montana, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - Three Montana environmental groups plan to sue the state of Montana and the federal government to protect bison and bald eagles. On Monday, the Buffalo Field Campaign, Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers, and The Ecology Center, Inc. filed a 60 day Notice of Intent (NOI) to sue in federal district court.

The NOI documents violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by the Montana Department of Livestock, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The Department of Livestock (DOL) plowed a road onto Horse Butte last week, and is constructing the Horse Butte Capture Facility. The facility will be used to capture bison so they can be tested for brucellosis, a disease that can cause bison and domestic cattle to spontaneously abort. Bison that test positive may be slaughtered.

The DOL operates the trap according to an Incidental Take Permit (for eagles) issued by the USFWS and a Special Use Permit authorized by the Gallatin National Forest.

The planned lawsuit focuses on the capture facility's close proximity to bald eagle nesting, perching and feeding sites.

"The law clearly allows Interior Secretary [Bruce] Babbitt and Forest Service Chief [Mike] Dombeck to revoke the Department of Livestock's permits to take bald eagles and capture Yellowstone bison on public lands for violation of any term, condition or law by the state of Montana," said Darrell Geist, executive director of Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers. "By not conducting pre-monitoring for wintering bald eagles, the Montana Department of Livestock has once again flagrantly violated the terms and conditions of their permits."

"The two symbols of America - the eagle and buffalo - are being abused by our government, and we the people will not silently stand by and watch" said Michael Mease, field coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign.

* * *


TAOS, New Mexico, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - Solar energy will be the source of electricity for an exclusive eco-resort that is being built in New Mexico. The former El Monte Lodge in Taos is being renovated to become an environmentally friendly vacation destination.

The lodge was purchased in 1997 by Dharma Holdings Inc., which wants to use the new facility as a prototype and showcase for sustainable living. The company says it is dedicated to sustainable growth and the preservation of natural and cultural resources.

"We originally planned the resort to include just 26 guest rooms, a spa and a restaurant," says executive vice president Kimberly Goodyear. "However, we recently purchased adjoining property that now makes it possible to expand the property to 40 guest rooms."

The El Monte project will be powered by solar energy, and Solar Sculptures(R) collection systems will be positioned throughout the property. The facility will be constructed in part with recycled materials, and will process its wastewater for reuse as irrigation water.

The wastewater will flow through a Living Machine(R), the company's proprietary technology that uses plants, bacteria and other living organisms to process the water.

Gunnash(R), an adobe-like material that includes recycled fly ash from coal burning power plants, will be used in parts of the construction.

Construction will start on the eco-resort as soon as zoning changes are approved by the town of Taos. The zoning approval includes plans to improve access for local residents to the spa and restaurant, and the proposed additional guest capacity.

More information is available at:

* * *


WASHINGTON, DC, January 10, 2001 (ENS) - Winter can be a wonderful time for a visit to a National Wildlife Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says. Although snowy conditions have forced the closure of the popular wildlife drives at many National Wildlife Refuges, in many cases these same conditions have produced near perfect trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing.

More than 50 National Wildlife Refuges and almost 1,000 Waterfowl Production Areas dot the Midwest alone, and remain open for public recreation year-round. Add wildlife to the pristine winter settings and the result is a near wilderness experience.

While non-motorized travel across refuge and waterfowl production lands is allowed, motorized travel is prohibited to protect wildlife and wildlife habitat.

"Like other national wildlife refuges we don't permit snowmobiles, ATVs, or other motorized vehicles on the refuge, except on designated roads," said Mary Stefanski, who manages the Rice Lake NWR near McGregor, Minnesota. "Vehicles can damage vegetation and create ruts, but the biggest problem is that they disturb wildlife, which can already be under stress from winter conditions."

Stress is not a problem on the Rice Lake refuge's seven miles of groomed ski trails, which loop throughout the refuge and offer outstanding wildlife viewing opportunities.

"Once out on the trails it's very quiet and peaceful. The ducks are gone of course, but at Rice Lake you'll still see resident birds, deer, the northern owls and maybe even signs of wolves," Stefanski said. "We also have a lot of old logging roads that are great for snowshoeing," she said, cautioning that groomed trails are reserved for skiers.

Many national wildlife refuges, especially those in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, offer similar "wildlife friendly" winter recreation opportunities.