AmeriScan: January 30, 2001

FEDERAL FUNDS SUPPORT WILDLIFE REFUGE EXPANSIONS

WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - Hundreds of migratory and endangered wildlife species will benefit from a $109 million dollar appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (USFWS) fiscal year 2001 budget.

These funds, raised through offshore oil drilling leases, will be used to purchase lands for the National Wildlife Refuge System, securing habitat for wildlife and expanding recreational and educational opportunities at 48 refuges in more than 30 states and territories from New Hampshire to the South Pacific.

"The 2001 land acquisition budget will provide a strengthened legacy of wildlife conservation for the American people to appreciate and enjoy for generations to come," said outgoing USFWS director Jamie Rappaport Clark. "We are particularly grateful to Congress and President Clinton for acting to preserve the integrity of Pelican Island, the nation's first refuge."

Congress appropriated $6,000,000 to acquire areas adjacent to Florida's Pelican Island, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903. The refuge is threatened by encroaching development, and the LCWF funding will enable the USFWS to participate in cooperative efforts to purchase breeding habitat for the endangered wood stork and other migratory birds and lagoon habitat for the endangered manatee and juvenile sea turtles.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) dollars are used to purchase fee title and conservation easements from willing sellers within the authorized boundaries of the specified refuges. When considering acquisition of land, the USFWS evaluates a number of criteria, such as the soil, water quality and quantity, historical and current wildlife use, and the potential for habitat restoration.

During the proposal stages of a new refuge or refuge expansion, the agency considers the interests and input from neighbors, business and community groups, local and state governments, and conservation and recreation organizations.

USFWS economic research shows that refuge visitors nationwide spur more than $400 million a year in spending in surrounding communities.

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LAWSUIT SEEKS CRITICAL HABITAT FOR THREATENED BULL TROUT

MISSOULA, Montana, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - Two Montana based conservation organizations, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Friends of the Wild Swan, have filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for failure to designate critical habitat for bull trout throughout its range.

The Endangered Species Act requires the USFWS to designate critical habitat when a species is listed as threatened or endangered, or conduct additional necessary research, and issue final determinations of critical habitat no later than one year from the date of the finding. The Act also mandates that critical habitat designations shall be made "on the basis of the best scientific data available."

All bull trout populations in the lower 48 states are protected under the Act, and have been for a minimum of 13 months. Bull trout in the Columbia and Klamath river basins were listed in June 1998.

"Unfortunately, despite the clear and mandatory legal timelines of the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has itself chosen not to act," said Jack Tuholske, lead attorney for the groups. "Therefore, my clients concluded that legal action is the only way to compel the government to provide the legal protections the bull trout is due, and which it so urgently needs."

"Once this habitat is mapped and identified, the job of analyzing projects, protecting water quality and restoring watersheds is easier - this not only benefits fish but people too," said Arlene Montgomery, program director of Friends of the Wild Swan.

"It took seven years from the time of petitioning until the time of listing and it may be an arduous journey to protect the habitat critical to bull trout survival," said Mike Bader, executive director of Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "Hopefully, for the sake of the bull trout, it won't be too long."

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OIL SPILL THREATENS OREGON'S YAQUINA RIVER

TOLEDO, Oregon, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - Officials are still working to clean up an oil spill in the Yaquina River in Oregon that occurred last week when a tanker truck overturned on Highway 20 near Toledo.

The accident killed the tanker's driver, and spilled about 5,800 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil next to the Yaquina River, most of which entered the river.

As of this morning, about 3,500 to 4,000 gallons of oil had been collected for disposal and recycling. About 120 yards of oil soaked soil has been excavated and removed. Eighteen yards of absorbent material have been collected and removed.

tanker

The tanker overturned on a winding section of road near the Yaquina River (Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Environmental Quality)
Oil collection and recovery operations had to be scaled back Sunday due to high winds and heavy rains.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) staff are surveying the river for signs of wildlife in distress. ODFW officials ask local residents who may see wildlife that appear to be in distress to call ODFW office at 541-867-4741 and report the animals' locations.

The public is cautioned not to touch wildlife that appear to be affected by the oil, as animals can be dangerous when they are stressed and may suffer additional injury during handling.

So far, ODFW biologists have recovered one oiled kingfisher and have spotted four oiled mergansers, a type of diving duck. They have also counted several beaver lodges in the vicinity of the spill, as well as fresh otter and raccoon tracks on the bank.

Sampling in sediments and water quality is underway to evaluate the potential long term threats to fish and wildlife. The process of removing oil from the banks can sometimes increase contamination or re-contamination downstream and in stream measures need to be conducted with care to avoid harming salmon spawning beds.

The Yaquina River and its tributaries are home to a variety of creatures including salmon and steelhead, beaver, otter, ducks and geese. There are eagle nesting areas downstream of the accident site. Birds such as eagles and osprey can be harmed by secondary contamination when they consume dead or dying creatures that have been oiled.

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CLEANUP BEGINS ON RHODE ISLAND'S WOONASQUATUCKET RIVER

NORTH PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a $2.6 million cleanup plan for dioxin contaminated sediments along the Woonasquatucket River in Rhode Island.

The cleanup plan addresses the shores of the Woonasquatucket River between Centredale Manor and Lymansville Dam, outside the community of Centredale Manor. The project, slated to begin this summer, also calls for the restoration of Allendale Dam.

The selected cleanup plan, first proposed to the public last fall as part of an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, involves the excavation of about 2,500 cubic yards of dioxin contaminated sediments and bank soils to meet EPA's cleanup criteria. The material will be transported off site for treatment.

EPA plans to request that responsible parties at the site either perform or fund the cleanup activities. The Centredale Manor Restoration Project was added to the National Priorities List of hazardous waste sites in February 2000, making it eligible for federal Superfund cleanup funds.

Since July 1999, residents have been warned not to swim in the river or eat fish caught in the river.

"This approval is a major milestone in the cleanup of the Woonasquatucket River," said Ira Leighton, acting regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "For the first time, we'll be removing contaminated material from the site."

"This cleanup plan is an important step towards the community's goal of once again making the Woonasquatucket River fishable and swimmable," said Senator Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican. "I look forward to working with everyone involved to ensure this project moves forward."

Key elements of the cleanup plan include excavating contaminated soils that contain dioxin in excess of one part per billion and replacing the contaminated soil with clean fill and loam. Field work for the project is expected to begin this summer and be finished by next summer.

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SCIENTISTS LEARNING TO KEEP TABS ON DIOXIN

FARGO, North Dakota, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - Monitoring a group of toxic chemicals called dioxins in food, livestock feeds and other materials should be less expensive, thanks to new technologies developed by scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).

Dioxins, produced by natural or industrial processes, are chlorinated aromatic compounds that can build up in the fat of humans and animals. Earlier this month, dioxins were added to the National Toxicology Program's list of substances "known to be human carcinogens." The dioxin family of about 210 compounds includes 17 that are considered toxic.

The new ARS technologies can detect dioxins in concentrations as low as 0.1 parts per trillion in fat samples. ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

When ARS scientists in Fargo began dioxin research in 1994, analysis cost almost $2,000 per sample. That cost is now down to about $600 to $800 per sample, and ARS researchers are developing an even more efficient procedure that requires minimal use of chemical solvents and is expected to reduce costs of analysis by half.

The USDA has investigated the extent of dioxin contamination in livestock from all sources, including dioxins in beef produced in 13 states. The scientists found that most of the samples were "clean," with some exceptions in the kidney fat of some individual carcasses.

The beef samples that had high dioxin levels were found to have come from animals raised in barns or pens containing posts that had been treated with dioxin containing pentachlorophenol (penta) to prevent rotting. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has since banned the use of penta in fence posts or feeding troughs in barns.

An article about dioxin research appears in the January issue of ARS' "Agricultural Research" magazine, available at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jan01/dioxin0101.htm

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NEW SENSORS CONSERVE POWER, REDUCE POLLUTION

BLACKSBURG, Virginia, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - A new sensing device developed by Virginia Tech electrical engineers may help energy intensive industries, including companies that specialize in transportation, power, glass, steel and aluminum, to reduce their power needs.

The use of these sensors should also reduce the emissions of pollutants.

Honeywell, ABB, Howmet and Corning are a few of the companies that have teamed with the Virginia Tech Photonics Laboratory (VTPL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help commercialize the new sensing technology.

The sensors are designed for use in harsh environments, particularly where temperatures exceed 1500º C, said Anbo Wang, director of the VTLP. These very hot environments are found in jet engines, power plants and ceramic engines that might power the autos of the future.

In a jet engine, the new sensors could monitor sound wave pressures, and warn the pilot that the engine is on the verge of shutting down. Or, this sensor in an auto engine could keep the vehicle operating at its most efficient temperature and pressure.

In the past, industry has primarily relied upon semiconductor pressure sensors that have several major drawbacks. These include a limited maximum operating temperature of 482º C, poor reliability at high temperatures, sensitivity to temperature changes, and susceptibility to electromagnetic interference.

Based on VTPL's past success in developing the self-calibrating temperature and pressure sensors, the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded $1.8 million to continue its work in this area. The agency awarded VTPL's partner, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, an additional $180,000 to collaborate on the project, and work towards the commercialization of these sensors.

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LEATHERBACK TURTLE FROM COSTA RICA VISITS FLORIDA

GAINESVILLE, Florida, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - A leatherback sea turtle, a critically endangered species, made a rare appearance in Florida last Friday. The turtles bears flipper tags applied when it was nesting on the beach in Pacuare Nature Reserve, Costa Rica, in 1994.

The immense female leatherback was encountered inside the Indian River Lagoon on Florida's east coast, where leatherbacks have never before been seen. Despite the numbered flipper tags, it took researchers several days to determine where the turtle had been tagged.

The turtle emerged during the middle of the day on a bayside beach and dug an egg chamber but never laid any eggs. Passersby watched in awe as a rescue team from Sea World and the U.S. Coast Guard arrived and took the mammoth turtle by boat to deep waters where leatherbacks live, and released it unharmed. Algae growth on the turtle's back suggests it had been in the lagoon for as long as a week.

"This emphasizes the importance of international cooperation in sea turtle conservation and research," said Sebastian Troëng, research coordinator for Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), a group that coordinates leatherback tagging and protection programs in Costa Rica. "These creatures are a shared resource; they don't recognize international borders, so people in many countries have to work together to improve the situation for these endangered animals."

Leatherbacks, the largest of all sea turtles, are now considered critically endangered, since Pacific Ocean populations have crashed in recent years due to incidental capture by commercial fishing operations. The leatherback population nesting on the Caribbean shore of Costa Rica may now represent the third largest nesting aggregation in the world, according to an analysis by biologists from Caribbean Conservation Corporation, Asociación ANAI and the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

The major threats facing this leatherback population are the killing of nesting females on some nesting beaches, illegal egg harvesting and interactions with long line fishers.

More information is available at: http://www.cccturtle.org/program.htm

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EPA OFFICE OPTS FOR RECYCLED PAPER

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - The mid-Atlantic regional office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is practicing what it preaches - recycling. The office announced a new policy this month that all of the printing and copy paper it uses will be 100 percent recycled with 100 percent post-consumer fiber and chlorine free processing.

The federal government standard for paper requires 30 percent recycled post-consumer content.

"The environmental impact will be significant," said Bradley Campbell, EPA regional administrator. "Based on our anticipated use of copy paper and printed publications in the coming year, the environmental savings over the 30 percent standard for just our region equates to eliminating 73,372 pounds of solid waste, conserving 80,730 gallons of water, saving 105,300 kilowatt hours of electricity, preventing the emission of 133,380 pounds of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, and sparing the cutting of 810 trees that would be used for new paper."

"As the agency responsible for protecting human health and safeguarding our air, water, and land, we believe this is a major step in further protecting our environment," Campbell added. "We hope other federal agencies, state and local governments and the regulated community will follow our lead."

All of the region's publications will not only use 100 percent recycled paper with 100 percent post-consumer fiber but will be printed using vegetable based inks. Chlorine free paper reduces the amount of dioxin in wastewater. The paper mills will use hydrogen peroxide or ozone to bleach the paper rather than using chlorine or chlorine dioxide.

The mid-Atlantic region covers Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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DON'T FLUSH THOSE FISH

WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2001 (ENS) - If the aquarium of exotic fish that you got for Christmas is becoming a burden, think twice before you dump the tank and destroy the evidence.

"It happens all too often," said biologist Pam Fuller of the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, Florida. "The fish tank that the budding hobbyist wanted so much becomes an unwanted responsibility and the nearest stream, or water source of any kind, provides the solution."

This is not the solution.

"Each year, more than 2000 non-native fish species, representing nearly 150 million exotic freshwater and marine fishes, are imported into the United States for use in the aquarium trade," Fuller said. "Dumping them into the nearest body of water when they are no longer wanted creates a problem for the native fish species and for ecosystems in general."

When fish find themselves in a non-native habitat, they become susceptible to parasites and diseases that they do not have a natural ability to fend off. The fish may also be attacked by native predators, such as larger fish, fish eating birds or water snakes.

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Armored catfish, common aquarium algae eaters, are now established in the wild in Florida, Hawaii, Nevada and Texas (Photo courtesy USGS)
If exotic fish survive and reproduce, they are difficult, if not impossible, to control or eradicate. Their presence may lead to changes in the native fish population through competition with native species or by preying on them.

Aquarium fish may also infect native fish with exotic parasites or diseases, or may affect the genetics of native species by hybridizing with them. Some aquarium species may even pose a physical or public health threat, such as piranhas and freshwater stingrays.

Fuller makes the following suggestions about unwanted aquarium fish:

To find out more about invasive species in general, go to http://www.usgs.gov and click on "Invasive Species Threaten America's Biological Heritage." For more information on non-native aquatic species, go to http://www.fcsc.usgs.gov/Nonindigenous_Species/nonindigenous_species.html