AmeriScan: January 17, 2001

WILDLIFE REFUGES GET NEW MANAGEMENT RULES

WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has released several new draft policies providing guidance on public recreation and educational activities and conserving wilderness on the 93 million acre National Wildlife Refuge System.

The drafts complete development of an extensive body of policy necessary to implement the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, which President Bill Clinton signed into law in late 1997.

"A lot has changed since the first refuge manager patrolled for poachers in a sailboat almost a century ago," said USFWS Director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "Once these policies are final, they will form a solid foundation to guide the most important aspects of modern refuge management."

The new policies are: The proposed General Recreation Policy, which provides general guidance for managing recreational and educational uses of the refuge system.

Six draft policies - Hunting, Fishing, Wildlife Watching, Wildlife Photography, Environmental Education and Interpretation - which update and replace the USFWS's existing policy on recreation.

The draft Appropriate Refuge Uses Policy, which spells out a process for evaluating uses other than those six priority uses on refuge lands.

The draft Wilderness Stewardship Policy updates existing wilderness management guidance and spells out how wilderness will be handled during the preparation of Comprehensive Conservation Plans.

The draft Mission, Goals and Purposes policy clarifies the interaction between the mission of the USFWS, the goals of the refuge system, and the purposes for which each refuge was established.

In a related move, the USFWS also published its final Biological Integrity, Diversity and Environmental Health policy today. The final policy provides guidance and basic principles for wildlife and habitat management practices.

The full text of all these polices can be found at http://bluegoose.arw.r9.fws.gov/new.html

"Preparing these policies over the past three years has been a tremendous effort, and we are looking forward to shifting gears and working to ensure that these are carried out consistently at refuges across the country," Clark said.

Praising the new policies, Sean Smith, public lands director for the conservation group Bluewater Network, said, "We wish to thank the Clinton Administration for taking these bold measures which better ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the nation's wildlife."

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FLORIDA BUDGET PLEDGES MILLIONS FOR ENVIRONMENT

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - Florida Governor Jeb Bush has proposed to spend $2.5 million to protect Florida's springs. The funding request is part of the Governor's fiscal year 2001/2002 budget, unveiled today.

Through the years, pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorous have intruded upon Florida's springs, which are important sources of fresh water, recreation and wildlife habitat.

"Governor Bush has clearly recognized that it is far more effective to prevent environmental damage than it is to clean it up after the fact," said state Department of Environmental Protection secretary David Struhs. "His proposal to build public/private partnerships with landowners and local governments to determine the quantity and quality of spring flows is the single most important thing we can do today to protect these unique water resources."

There are about 600 springs throughout Florida, 33 of which are known as First Magnitude Springs, those that discharge the greatest amounts of water per day. These springs will be the first to benefit from appropriated additional funding from the state.

During cold weather months, manatees seek refuge in Blue Spring, while Homosassa Springs serves as a home and refuge for manatees year round. Discharges from Devil's Ear Spring flow through caves reported to be more than 4,000 feet long and 85 to 100 feet deep.

Bush also requested $300 million for Florida Forever, the nation's largest land and water acquisition and management program. The governor's budget includes an additional $100 million for Everglades restoration and $9 million for manatee protection.

The governor asked for $800,000 to begin the process of removing nitrates from the Silver Spring and Ocklawaha River Basin in anticipation of full restoration of the Ocklawaha River, and $72 million for statewide water projects.

The budget proposal offers $66 million for community green space, parks and recreation, and $173.4 million for the operation and management of Florida's state parks.

The complete budget proposal is available at: http://www.ebudget.state.fl.us/

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WARM SUMMERS TRIGGER COLLAPSING ICE SHELVES

BOULDER, Colorado, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - Warmer surface temperatures during summers can cause more ice on Antarctica ice shelves to melt into standing water ponds, then leak into cracks and increase the odds of collapse, shows a new study published by an American team of scientists.

Led by Ted Scambos of the University of Colorado at Boulder, the team focused on the Larsen Ice Sheet on the Antarctic Peninsula. The Larsen Ice Sheet experienced major retreats in 1995 and 1998, including more than 775 square miles (2007 square kilometers) that disintegrated during a January 1995 storm.

The team used satellite images of meltwater on the ice surface and a computer simulation of the motions and forces within ice shelves. The results indicated that added pressure from surface water filling up the cracks and crevasses can crack ice shelves, causing portions to float away and melt.

"The result implies that other ice shelves are closer to the breaking point than we previously thought," said Scambos. "The shelf retreats that have occurred so far have had few consequences for sea level rise, but breakups in some other areas like the Ross Ice Shelf could lead to increases in ice flow off the Antarctic and cause sea level to rise."

Floating ice shelves, which account for about two percent of Antarctic ice, undergo cycles of advance and retreat over many decades. While scientists have known that meltwater fills crevasses and enlarges the cracks, this is the first study to explain the physics linking ice shelf viability and meltwater ponds.

"The importance of melt water implies that ice shelf stability may not be limited by the mean annual temperature, as has long been thought, but by the mean summer temperature," says coauthor Christina Hulbe of the University of Maryland and NASA's Goddard Earth Science & Technology Center. "As the mean summer temperature exceeds 0 degrees Celsius, surface melting is likely to promote ice shelf retreat."

The research shows the summertime temperatures on the Larsen Ice Sheet are just a few degrees below what the researchers believe is the threshold for surface ponding and subsequent ice cracking events.

"The findings provide a solid link between climate warming and the recent extensive disintegration of some Antarctic ice shelves," said Scambos. "The process can be expected to be more widespread if Antarctic summer temperatures continue to increase."

More information is available at: http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov/gsfc/earth/environ/ice/ice.htm

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MORE EL NIŅO'S/LA NIŅA'S MAY LEAD TO RAINFALL EXTREMES

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - Researchers studying changes in tropical precipitation patterns have noted a higher frequency of El Niņos and La Niņas over the last 21 years.

These global weather patterns may lead to more global rainfall extremes, say the researchers at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

When El Niņo and La Niņa events occur, the world can expect more months with higher or lower precipitation than normal. Droughts will be more common than floods over land areas, the researchers said.

Scott Curtis of UMBC and Robert Adler of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are coauthors of a paper titled, "The Magnitude and Variability of Global and Regional Precipitation Based on the 21 Year Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) and 3 Year Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Data Sets." The paper was presented Tuesday at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Albuquerque.

El Niņo events occur at intervals of about two to seven years, although the average is about once every three to four years. Curtis said the global precipitation database shows El Niņos or La Niņas occurring almost every two years throughout the last two decades.

Curtis and Adler confirmed that during El Niņos, there is an increase in precipitation in the central equatorial Pacific and a decrease over the East Indies. During years with El Niņo it is wetter over the ocean and drier over the land, compared to "neutral" years with neither El Niņo nor La Niņa.

The decrease in rainfall can be up to seven percent over tropical land areas. Curtis found that rainfall over the ocean does not change much during a La Niņa event compared to neutral periods, but the data does indicate wetter land areas.

"Over the entire 21 year span of the global rainfall database, results indicate an increase in rainfall in the Indian monsoon region and a decrease over central Africa," said Curtis. "The change in precipitation over the tropics looks like a combination of El Niņo and La Niņa, which is not too surprising since we just experienced a strong El Niņo in 1997-98 followed by a strong La Niņa in 1998-99."

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MAKAH WHALE HUNT GETS NEW ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

SEATTLE, Washington, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued a draft environmental assessment that looks at the environmental effects of a gray whale hunt off the Washington coast. It also lays out a range of alternatives under which the Makah Indian tribe might continue its gray whale hunt for the next two years.

A federal appeals court decision last year set aside an earlier environmental assessment.

The draft examines the biology, abundance and distribution of the gray whale, and the effects of human activities on the population. The draft also outlines a range of subsistence hunting alternatives under which the Makah could exercise their whale hunting treaty rights.

The Makah, the only U.S. Indian tribe that has a specific treaty right to hunt whales, were granted a quota of five whales per year by the International Whaling Commission in 1997.

The tribe has a whaling tradition that dates back at least 1500 years, but stopped whaling in the 1920s. Following removal of the gray whale from the Endangered Species List, the Makah took a single whale in 1999.

Under the first alternative outlined in the draft, the Makah tribe would retain the five whales a year quota, with hunting restricted to annual gray whale migration periods.

Under alternative two, the quota would remain at five whales a year, and the tribe would be allowed a limited hunt outside the migration period.

The third alternative would place no restrictions on where and when the tribe could hunt, limiting the tribe to take no more than five whales a year.

The fourth alternative would not allow a whaling quota for the tribe.

Public comments on the draft will be accepted until February 16. The NMFS will hold a public hearing to gather comments on the draft on February 1 at 6 pm, at the Sand Point Magnuson Park Auditorium in Seattle.

Copies of the draft are available at: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov

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AGRICULTURE SECRETARY REVIEWS ACCOMPLISHMENTS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - In his final press conference as Agriculture Secretary on Tuesday, Dan Glickman reviewed his six year record of accomplishment at the Department. Glickman highlighted his efforts to enhance the Agriculture Department's (USDA) role in improving the lives of all Americans, not just the nation's farmers and ranchers.

"While farm issues remain at the heart of this Department, USDA serves all Americans by ensuring food safety, promoting good nutrition, helping build strong rural economies and protecting our natural resources," said Glickman. "Broadening USDA's role and impact has been my primary goal and, I believe, my greatest accomplishment as Agriculture Secretary."

Glickman released a report to President Bill Clinton, "Harvest of Hope," that highlights recent major achievements at the Department. The report is available at: http://www.usda.gov/events/special/harvest.pdf

Glickman said he has led a shift in forestry policy, away from a focus on timbering and toward more of a multi-use philosophy, emphasizing recreation, species protection and clean water. The Secretary promoted a plan to protect almost 60 million acres of national forest land from additional road building.

At Glickman's recommendation, President Clinton created a national monument to protect the world's remaining giant sequoia trees in California.

Glickman and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt won funding increases for federal fire prevention and suppression efforts, Glickman said.

The USDA announced national organic standards that provide information for consumers and will encourage growth in this $6 billion market.

The agency is helping increase demand for corn based ethanol and soy based biodiesel by making payments to bioenergy companies that agree to expand their production.

The USDA's Water 2000 initiative has helped three million Americans gain access to safer drinking water and wastewater disposal services.

The agency has taken steps to strengthen its biotechnology regulatory process and increase consumer confidence in it. Secretary Glickman asked the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a thorough review of the agency's biotechnology approval procedures and recommend possible improvements.

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WETLAND SITES RECEIVE EDUCATIONAL GRANTS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - Seven U.S. Ramsar sites - from Connecticut to California - received small grants in the first round of the U.S. National Ramsar Committee's Small Grants Program, financed by the Committee with matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance was created by the Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. This intergovernmental treaty provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

The U.S. National Ramsar Committee is composed of leading non-governmental organizations that are concerned with wetland conservation and wise use, and is not a program of the Ramsar Bureau itself.

Proposals funded by the U.S. committee concentrated on education and outreach and included displays, field trips, films, pamphlets and even a boater identification program. The grants assist in the management of Ramsar sites in the U.S.

The grants, averaging a little over $1,500 each, were awarded for:

The Northern Neck Planning District Commission, for the Chesapeake Bay Ramsar site, to develop an informational brochure and portable display to control invasive weeds.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, for the Catahoula Lake Ramsar site, two grants: the first, to erect a wooden site identifying the Ramsar site, and the second, to contribute to the production of a film about the site.

The Touch of Nature Environmental Center at Southern Illinois University, for the Cache River Ramsar site, to provide experiential wetlands education for financially disadvantaged schools.

The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, for the Connecticut River Ramsar site, to print an educational pamphlet.

The Marin County Department of Parks, for the Bolinas Lagoon Ramsar site in California, to produce decals to identify kayakers using the lagoon.

The Great Bend (Kansas) Convention & Visitors Bureau, for the Cheyenne Bottoms Ramsar site, to promote the site's first Birding Festival in April 2000.

The Aberdeen (South Dakota) Convention & Visitors Bureau, for the Sand Lake Ramsar site, to develop a kiosk exhibit.

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NEW REGISTRY COULD BOOST INDOOR AIR QUALITY

ATLANTA, Georgia, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - Air Quality Sciences (AQS), an authority on indoor air quality, has launched of the world's first voluntary, certified labeling program for environmentally preferred indoor products, called the GREENGUARD Registry.

The Internet based GREENGUARD Registry (http://www.greenguard.org) will serve as a certification system with routine audits of listed products. Products featured in the GREENGUARD Registry must adhere to a battery of tests and meet the requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Washington, the Environmental Technology Verification and Germany's Blue Angel requirements.

AQS founder, CEO and chief scientist Marilyn Black, Ph.D., pioneered the development of specialized chambers for analyzing toxic chemicals down to the trillionth part. Her company also detects allergens and molds, which can threaten the health of workers.

"According to OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], over 20 million American workers are exposed to potentially serious health threats due to poor indoor air quality in the workplace," Black said. "This is what makes the GREENGUARD Registry such a critical standard."

Products and materials evaluated for GREENGUARD certification include adhesives and sealants, appliances, construction materials, insulation, paints and coatings, textiles, office furniture and equipment, and consumer products.

A study by William Fisk and Arthur Rosenfeld of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that U.S. companies can save up to $58 billion a year by preventing sick building illnesses, and another $200 billion in increased worker performance by creating offices with a healthy indoor air quality.

Fisk and Rosenfeld also found that the financial benefits derived from improving office environments can be up to 17 times greater than the costs associated with making those improvements.

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FAUX FUR: COMPASSION IN FASHION

WASHINGTON, DC, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says it is hip to wear fur - faux fur, that is.

The HSUS has joined Russell Simmons' Phat Farm and Cause Marketing to offer consumers a new fashion choice. The Baby Phat Fur Free Fur line, produced by Cause Marketing, is an elegant fabric that replicates the insulating qualities and beauty of animal fur.

"Not only does it have the look of luxury, but it has the durability that today's society demands," said Akay Shiraze of Cause Marketing. "The Baby Phat woman is self assured and is in complete control of the image she projects - and, compassion is certainly part of that image."

Baby Phat was conceived by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, as the women's counterpart to Phat Farm, his successful line of men's clothing. Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records and chairman of Rush Communications, a multimillion dollar corporation, is the force behind some of the biggest names in hip-hop including Run DMC, the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy.

Simmons' wife, former model Kimora Lee, provided the inspiration for Baby Phat and oversees the design of the line as creative director. Simmons chose to work with fur free furs in support of her husband Russell's belief in animal protection.

"The look of floor length fur free furs, especially worn with separates, is outrageous and fun," Kimora Lee Simmons said. "They're sumptuous and we can do sexy, over the top pieces that customers can use from season to season."

"Compassion in fashion is an idea whose time has come," says HSUS executive vice president Patricia Forkan. "It is no longer necessary for animals to suffer for the sake of fashion. Thanks to technology, consumers can wear beautiful and luxurious clothing while making a statement that animals deserve respect."