AmeriScan: January 29, 2001


LOS ALTOS, California, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - The David and Lucile Packard Foundation has awarded $4 million dollars to organizations in the Philippines and Mexico that integrate family planning services and education with natural resource management and alternative economic development.

The three organizations, PATH-Philippines, Conservation International Foundation (Mexico), and Pronatura (Mexico), are also working in local communities to cultivate economic development programs that benefit the people and their environment.

"By awarding these specific grants we are recognizing the inherent relationship between people and the environment," said Sarah Clark, director of the Population Program for the Packard Foundation. "When the population size grows too fast, it outstrips both the environment and the economy of its resources."

"These awards support the implementation of community based solutions, which include voluntary family planning, conservation and economic development," Clark said. "Success in one or more of these areas is mutually beneficial to all of them."

The Packard Foundation awarded funds to the World Wildlife Fund to develop a media campaign geared towards youth that highlights the social, environmental and health problems posed by an increasing population.

The RARE Center for Tropical Bird Conservation was funded to replicate its successful Caribbean radio soap opera drama in the Pacific Islands of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. This successful social marketing approach to family planning education has boosted clinic visitations and contraceptive use, and reduced teen pregnancy rates.

"This has been an extremely successful program in the Caribbean," said Jeanne Sedgwick, director of the Conservation Program at Packard. "These radio programs raise awareness not only of the problems faced by the environment, but what individuals can do to minimize their impact."

A $5.8 million grant to the Institute for International Education will pay for family planning leaders to come to the U.S. for advanced training, and train others in Ethiopia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Pakistan and India.

"We have always made it a priority to partner with individuals and organizations at the community level in these countries who are doing the work," said Clark. "This award provides the training and the tools they need to be more effective and efficient, and ultimately, more successful."

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OGLETHORPE, Georgia, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - Two prestigious organizations have recognized Weyerhaeuser's Georgia Timberlands and Wood Supply groups for meeting responsible environmental standards including protecting soil, wildlife habitat, water quality and other long term criteria of sustainable forestry.

The Georgia Weyerhaeuser operations were certified under the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard. Established by the International Organization for Standardization, ISO 14001 registration recognizes organizations whose environmental management systems meet its stringent requirements.

Their forest practices have also been certified to the American Forest and Paper Association's (AF&PA) Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFISM) standard. AF&PA is the national trade association of the forest, paper, and wood products industry.

The certifications resulted from an independent audit by the Quality Management Institute, a division of the Canadian Standards Association.

The Georgia timberlands operations are Weyerhaeuser's first business units in the U.S. to reach the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System milestone. The Georgia Timberlands unit manages 334,000 acres of forests in the state.

"Recognition by these reputable organizations validates Weyerhaeuser's long standing commitment to sustainable forestry and environmental excellence," said Steven Rogel, Weyerhaeuser chair, president and chief executive officer. "Incorporating the principles and standards of ISO 14001 and SFISM is helping to ensure that reliable processes are in place in our operations to improve our environmental performance and to meet regulatory and stakeholder requirements in the years ahead."

"Weyerhaeuser is committed to align all of its timberlands and manufacturing operations to the ISO 14001 standard," Rogel continued. "This international standard is well suited to its large scale timberlands and manufacturing operations in the United States, Canada and the Southern Hemisphere."

To date, 8.69 million acres of the timberlands Weyerhaeuser manages in Canada, New Zealand and the U.S. have been certified to the ISO 14001 EMS standard, as have three of Weyerhaeuser's manufacturing facilities in British Columbia.

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MILBROOK, New York, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - Fragmented forest habitats are vulnerable in part because they have more edges, which are susceptible to invasion by non-native species. While the obvious solution of minimizing the amount of edge is not always feasible, there may be another effective approach: intact edges can help keep seeds out of the forest interior, according to new research in the February issue of "Conservation Biology."

"Our work addresses the impact of forest fragmentation at the 'neighborhood' scale - what happens when developers put up a new strip mall or housing complex. The development of our landscapes continually fragments forests and [that] should be considered when thinking about the distribution and degree of aggregation of homes," said Mary Cadenasso of the Institute for Ecosystem Studies in Milbrook, New York, who did this work with Steward Pickett of the same institution.

Cadenasso and Pickett measured how many seeds blew from an old field into an adjacent deciduous forest patch, a common type of edge in New England. The researchers studied seeds that are dispersed by the wind because many invasive plants have wind borne seeds.

To see how the forest edge's structure affected seed invasion, the researchers compared two types of edges: intact and thinned.

They created 130 feet of thinned edge by removing all trees, shrubs and branches that were less than half the height of the forest canopy. This thinning extended 65 feet into the forest patch. The resulting thinned edge resembled that created by logging or a large blowdown.

The researchers found that four times as many wind borne seeds crossed the thinned edge than the intact edge. They also found that seeds crossing the thinned edge penetrated 2.5 times deeper into the forest - 145 feet into the "thinned edge" forest versus 55 feet across the "intact edge" forest.

To help protect forest fragments from invasive weeds, Cadenasso and Pickett recommend "sealing" the edge by planting it with dense native shrubs, vines and understory trees, as well as removing non-native plants from the edge.

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RALEIGH, North Carolina, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - A pair of marine biologists at North Carolina State University are exploring the spawning migrations of adult female blue crabs, hoping to learn whether the crabs actually move through a deepwater migration corridor sanctuary established to protect the females before they produce their offspring.

In the winter, female blue crabs head for the salty waters near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay estuary to spawn the next generation of their species. Scientists understand very little about this important facet of crab biology, said Dr. Donna Wolcott, North Carolina State associate professor in the Department of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

"We suspect that cold stimulates female crabs to go deeper and deeper, but we don't know that for certain," said Wolcott. "We'd like to know when they set out; we'd like to know if they're swimming or walking. We'd also like to know whether they're foraging the whole time, or high tailing it down the bay."

Dr. Tom Wolcott, her research partner and spouse, said their preliminary results indicate that female blue crabs do not begin their migration to the deep, salty waters of the Chesapeake until October, after the sanctuary is reopened to fishing.

Beginning next summer, the Wolcotts will capture and fit a handful of adult female blue crabs with ultrasonic transmitters that will relay continuous information about the crabs' location and depth in the Chesapeake Bay. A team of researchers will then spend days at a time on a boat following each crab.

The researchers will also attach small devices to a larger number of female crabs - about 500 each year for the next three years - to record information on water temperature, depth and salinity as the crabs make their spawning journey.

The Wolcotts are hoping to discover which environmental conditions in the Chesapeake and other estuary systems, such as Delaware Bay and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds of North Carolina, initiate the females' migration.

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WOODS HOLE, Massachusetts, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service4 (NMFS) and commercial fishers are organizing an ambitious scientific survey in the ocean off the northeastern U.S. to improve information about the distribution, size and condition of the monkfish population.

The survey will take samples at about 450 locations and begin in late February. The project is expected to cost about $520,000.

Much of the present knowledge about monkfish is based on information gathered by routine scientific surveys of the continental shelf, and from landings and industry reports. The survey data are good indicators of change in stocks over time.


A monkfish - also called goosefish or angler - caught during a successful pilot survey conducted in October 2000 by the NMFS and commercial fishers (Photo courtesy NMFS)
"But the regular survey doesn't provide precise information for monkfish, or most species, in part because of the differences in how species respond to the survey trawl," said Dr. Steven Murawski. Murawski is leading the survey for the NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

The work will be conducted aboard two chartered commercial monkfish trawlers. The crew will include commercial fishers, and scientists and technicians from NMFS, the State of Massachusetts and Rutgers University.

"The cooperative survey is exciting to the fishing community," said Kathy Downey, a fish processor and member of the Monkfish Defense Fund in New Bedford who also helped to organize the collaborative project. "It has been our perception that the existing surveys were inadequate and inappropriate in helping all of us, scientists and industry alike, get a handle on the monkfish stock. The collaborative effort with the government is a commitment from both industry and scientists, to improve the quality of the monkfish stock assessment."

Studies indicate that the overall monkfish population size has decreased since 1987, when the fishery began a dramatic expansion. Before 1987, about 5.5 million pounds of fish were caught each year. In 1999, about 55 million pounds, worth almost $47 million, were landed.

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UNIONDALE, New York, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) is planning to offer financial incentives to businesses and governmental units who agree to generate a portion of their own electric needs during the months of June through September, as a way to conserve its supply of electricity during peak periods.

A new Supplemental Service Rate will encourage entities on Long Island who have existing on site generating capacity - or are willing to install such capacity - to use that capability to supply a portion of their own electric supply during the summer.

"We only need to look at California to see how life can be dramatically impacted by the lack of an adequate electric supply," said LIPA chairman Richard Kessel. "Since 1998, LIPA has been saying that Long Island's electric supply is tight. We've repeatedly indicated that we need to conserve, use our electric supply efficiently and add new resources including renewable energy technologies.

"In 1999, we saw just how tight our electric supply is," said Kessel. "We came extremely close to blackouts during the four day, July 4th weekend heat storm. Looking ahead to summer 2001, Long Island will need every megawatt of electricity we can either conserve or generate to get through extreme heat waves without blackouts."

A preliminary LIPA survey estimates that self generation capacity on Long Island - which includes businesses and local governments with installed backup generation - could total 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity. If as little as 10 MW of this backup power is used as a self supplied source of electricity, LIPA could save enough electricity to supply about 2,500 average residential homes on a normal summer day.

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BOZEMAN, Montana, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - Keith Cooksey, professor of microbiology at Montana State University-Bozeman, is searching the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park this winter for microbes that devour carbon dioxide.

Cooksey is part of a team looking for ways of lowering carbon dioxide emissions from coal fired power plants. Besides Cooksey, the team includes a mechanical engineer at Ohio University and researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The group has a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

While the coal fueled power industry has reduced particulate and sulfur emissions, it still produces high amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Ohio University is experimenting with ways of absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) with algae. Like other plants, algae use the gas as part of their metabolic process called photosynthesis. Now they are looking for a microorganism that can do the job even better.

"If you want thermotolerant, we're in a good place to look," Cooksey said, referring to Yellowstone National Park. The park is well known for heat loving organisms that live in and around park hot springs.

"They must be thermotolerant because the gases from these coal-fired power plants - which are about 14 percent carbon dioxide - are hot," Cooksey said. "The gases have been through the scrubbers to get rid of the ash, but they still have lots of CO2."

Ann Deutch, research permit coordinator for Yellowstone National Park, said fewer than one percent of the park's microorganisms have been discovered and characterized. As microbiologists continue to improve their ability to look, they find greater layers of complexity in the microbial community, she said.

A Yellowstone microbe that could work as a CO2 scrubber would mean royalties for the park. Deutsch said the project also makes her glad Yellowstone National Park was set aside for future generations.

"When the park was created in 1872, they certainly weren't thinking of a CO2 scrubber for a coal fired power plant," Deutch said. "Who'd have known?"

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 29, 2001 (ENS) - FedEx Express and the conservation group Environmental Defense have committed to work together to develop the environmental standards for a diesel electric hybrid truck.

The vehicles could cut delivery truck emissions by 90 per cent and fuel costs by 50 percent. FedEx, the world's largest express transportation company, runs a fleet of 45,000 trucks.

"Together, we want to see a truck on the road that will set the standard for environmental efficiency," said Elizabeth Sturcken, project manager for the Alliance for Environmental Innovation, a project of Environmental Defense and The Pew Charitable Trusts. "We have announced an aggressive goal."


Cleaner trucks may soon speed into FedEx fleets (Photo courtesy Federal Express Corporation)
Creating such a low polluting truck will be "Difficult, yes, but achievable," said Jim Steffen, FedEx's chief engineer for vehicles. "We're very enthusiastic."

Much of the hybrid technology is already in hand. Hybrid diesel electric buses using regenerative braking which recaptures the energy that conventional vehicles lose in braking - are already running in Boston and New York City.

Drivers "won't notice the difference," Steffen said. Manufacturing costs will be higher at first, but "I fully expect pre-production hybrids to be on the road within four years," he said.