AmeriScan: October 29, 2001

HARDROCK MINING RULE REVISIONS WEAKEN PROTECTIONS

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Bush administration is reversing several hardrock mining rules issued in the final days of the previous administration, which will make it easier for companies to mine gold, silver, copper and other minerals on federal property.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will publish a rule on Tuesday that retains a requirement, introduced by former President Bill Clinton, that hardrock mining companies post bonds sufficient to cover cleanup expenses after mining is complete.

However, the BLM will modify its 3809 surface mining regulations to eliminate the provision allowing the Department of Interior to deny permits to proposed mines that could result in "substantial irreparable harm" to the environment. The mining industry lobbied hard to overturn that provision, saying it was too broad and vague to be enforceable.

The BLM says the final rule, which takes effect on December 31, removes several "unduly burdensome provisions" of the current mining regulations. The BLM will publish a proposed rule to give the public an additional opportunity to comment on the new regulations, as well as on additional issues related to the regulation of hardrock mining operations.

"This final rule will safeguard our environment while continuing to ensure a reliable and affordable supply of minerals that are important to our economy and security," said acting BLM director Nina Rose Hatfield.

"The approach that we are taking today reflects the support that exists for the current rule's framework, while addressing the significant concerns that have been raised regarding the unnecessary burdens imposed by that rule," Hatfield said.

The revised regulations will retain general mining performance standards and revise most of the environmental and operational standards. The rule retains stricter standards addressing the use of cyanide in mining operations and acid mine drainage.

More information is available at: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/news/regulatory/index.htm

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OFFSHORE ENERGY PRODUCTION HEADED FOR GULF OF MEXICO

HOUSTON, Texas, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - Energy production has been approved in Lease Sale 181, located in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced Friday.

Environmental groups have opposed opening the 1.5 million offshore area to new oil and natural gas exploration, warning that the region often hosts endangered sperm whales. The House of Representatives had blocked the lease sale in its version of the Interior Department budget bill, but the final version of the bill allowed the sale to proceed.

The area is scheduled to be leased out to energy explorers during a sale on December 5.

"In the aftermath of last month's terrorist attacks, Americans charged our government to strengthen national security. This is a positive step in that direction," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "True national security must expand conservation programs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil from evil dictators, such as Saddam Hussein, and create new jobs - all while protecting the environment."

The Interior Department has not held a lease sale in the eastern Gulf since 1988. The area included in Sale 181 is near the Crazy Horse project, one of the largest energy discoveries in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Interior Department calculates the area contains 1.25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - enough to serve one million U.S. families for 15 years," Norton said. "The area also contains 185 million barrels of oil - enough to fuel the automobiles of a million families for nearly six years."

Blocks in this sale are located in the deepwater portion of the federal outer continental shelf, due south of Alabama.

"I am firmly committed to a process that I call the Four C's: they are consultation, cooperation, and communication - all in the service of conservation," Norton said. "During the course of this entire sale process, we focused heavily on consultation, communication and cooperation with state government interests and together reached a decision and a sale that will create jobs, protect the environment and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

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PUFFERFISH GENE SEQUENCE COULD ILLUMINATE HUMAN GENOME

SAN DIEGO, California, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - An international research consortium has completed a draft sequence of the genome of the Japanese pufferfish, Fugu rubripes.

The Fugu draft sequence was announced at the 13th International Genome Sequencing and Analysis Conference in San Diego on Friday.

Although the Fugu genome contains many of the same genes and regulatory sequences as the human genome, it carries those genes and regulatory sequences in about 365 million bases, compared to the three billion bases that make up human DNA. With far less so called "junk DNA" to sort through, finding genes and controlling sequences in the Fugu genome should be a much easier task.

The information can then be used to help identify these same elements in the human genome.

The Fugu genome project was initiated in 1989 by Sydney Brenner in Cambridge, England, and led by the U.S. Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute (JGI).

"All organisms are related," said Trevor Hawkins, director of the JGI, which is one of the largest publicly funded genome sequencing centers in the world. "Although the Fugu genome is only one eighth the size of our human genome, it has a similar complement of genes. Yet we know very little about the structure of those genes and how they are turned on and off. That's why we're sequencing genomes of microbes, sea squirts and now Fugu - because these comparative genomics programs are key to understanding the biology of the human genome."

The Fugu draft sequence is the first public assembly of an animal genome by the whole genome shotgun sequencing method.

"We first chopped the genome up into pieces that are small enough to sequence," said Dan Rokhsar, associate director for Computational Genomics at the JGI. "The challenge was then to reassemble the genome by putting together nearly four million of these overlapping fragments - in the same way that you'd put together a giant jigsaw puzzle."

More Fugu sequence information can be accessed at: http://Fugu.jgi-psf.org

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PARTNERSHIP AIMS TO IMPROVE COASTAL FISHERIES

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - American Rivers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have announced a new three year partnership to improve coastal fishery resources.

The American Rivers/NOAA Community-Based Restoration Program Partnership will match state, local and private funding for voluntary dam removal and fish passage projects in California, the Northeast, and the Mid Atlantic states.

"NOAA Fisheries is pleased to be part of a groundbreaking public-private partnership to remove obsolete and unsafe dams to restore free flowing river habitat historically used for fish spawning and rearing," said Scott Gudes, acting NOAA administrator. "By teaming our efforts with American Rivers, a proven leader in dam removal and fish passage, we will enhance anadromous fish habitats and help rebuild numerous fishery populations that much more quickly."

American Rivers will receive $400,000 during the first year of the partnership to support project funding and engineering expertise from NOAA's Community Based Restoration Program. The program, which is part of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, has been working with community organizations to support habitat restoration projects in marine, estuarine and riparian areas since 1996.

As a matching grant award, the total value of the effort could exceed $5 million over the three-year life span of the partnership.

"This partnership is an example of how national organizations can team up to serve local needs," said Elizabeth Maclin, director of field operations and dam programs at American Rivers. "Lack of funds is often the number one obstacle facing local communities that want to address the fish passage problems associated with obsolete dams."

More than 75,000 dams taller than six feet have been built across the country and tens of thousands of smaller dams. Many of these dams are no longer used for the purpose for which they were built, and have often been abandoned.

These aging structures can block migratory fish from reaching spawning grounds, upset a river's temperature and flow, and create a safety hazard. By removing some of these dams and constructing fish passage at others, improvements to rivers and fish habitat can be achieved - often at a small cost.

More information is available at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat/restoration and: http://www.americanrivers.org/damremoval/default.htm

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PARK SERVICE PLANS TO POISON WILDLIFE, GROUP CHARGES

VENTURA, California, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - Today, The Fund for Animals and the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association wrote to the National Park Service opposing its decision to use helicopters to shower Anacapa Island with grain pellets poisoned with Brodifacoum, a toxic rat poison with a record of killing non-target birds, mammals and other wildlife.

In the letter from The Fund's attorney, Jonathan Lovvorn, the organizations demanded that the Park Service "immediately cancel or delay the proposed action" because it will kill protected wildlife in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Anacapa Island, the smallest island of Channel Islands National Park, is home to more than 150 species of birds, including species listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as "Birds of Management Concern" because they are "likely to become candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act," such as the burrowing owl and the short-eared owl.

Anacapa Island also provides habitat to a variety of other wildlife, including the California sea lion, the harbor seal, the Pacific slender salamander, the side blotched lizard, the Southern alligator lizard, and the deer mouse - a unique species that exists only within Channel Islands National Park.

The Park Service acknowledges that its plan to distribute Brodifacoum throughout the island to eradicate rats will result in "widespread mortality" to non-target mice, lizards, birds, and other animals who consume the poison, and will cause secondary poisoning of birds of prey who feed on poisoned animals. The California Department of Fish and Game has recognized that Brodifacoum results in the non-target poisoning of mammals and birds, and the California Department of Pesticides has decided to reevaluate its current authorization of Brodifacoum as a rodenticide.

Because of Brodifacoum's proven track record of killing non-target birds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has warned the superintendent of Channel Islands National Park that federal law prohibits the taking of migratory birds.

Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals, said "It is simply unbelievable that the Park Service has decided to use the most dangerous poison in the most dangerous manner possible on Anacapa Island. The agency is charged with protecting wildlife species, not assaulting them indiscriminately with toxic poison from helicopters."

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YELLOWSTONE GRIZZLIES DOING WELL

JACKSON, Wyoming, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - The Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population is doing well, but bear deaths in 2001 highlight the need for more efforts to minimize conflicts between bears and people, says the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee (YES).

YES, comprised of the state and federal agencies managing grizzly bears and their habitat in the Yellowstone ecosystem, reports there were 42 grizzly females with cubs counted in the Yellowstone ecosystem during 2001. All of these females were within the area where population data are recorded in and around the Yellowstone recovery zone.

This is a new record high number of females seen with cubs, seven higher than the previous high observes in 1998 and 2000. There were at least 78 cubs seen with these 42 females in 2001 and this is also a new record high number.

However, as of October 17, there have been 16 known and probable human caused grizzly deaths in the 14,481 square mile area where mortalities are counted. Of these 16 deaths, including nine males and seven females, 14 were the result of management removals after conflicts with human activity, such as bears killing cattle or sheep, bears causing property damage, and bears eating garbage or other human related foods.

"As the Yellowstone grizzly population continues to expand in numbers and distribution, we expect more grizzly bears to be on private lands, making ongoing food and garbage storage on these lands, a primary management concern if we are to minimize bear human conflicts in the future," the YES committee stated.

A vehicle along the North Fork of the Shoshone Highway hit another bear, and the remaining death is still under investigation. In addition to these 16 deaths, in April a black bear hunter in Wyoming illegally killed an adult male grizzly bear.

The Yellowstone Ecosystem Managers will increase efforts to work with private landowners to emphasize making human related foods unavailable to bears so bear human conflicts are minimized. Ideas on how to increase these efforts will be discussed at the upcoming meeting of the management subcommittee on December 4-5 in Jackson.

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CALIFORNIAN FINED FOR DUMPING HAZARDOUS WASTES

PASADENA, California, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - A California man has been sentenced to serve six months home detention for illegally disposing of hazardous waste.

Olumbamidele Dada, owner of Kamila, Inc., was sentenced on October 16 to pay $70,055 in restitution for violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Dada had arranged with a shipper in Wilmington, California, to transport to Nigeria for resale thousands of containers of toxic, corrosive, flammable, chemicals which had been purchased from the U.S. military.

Dada never completed the transportation of the chemicals and they were left at the shipper's facility where some of their containers began to leak. The shipper was ordered by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Los Angeles County Fire Department to perform a cleanup that cost more than $80,000.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Health Hazardous Materials Division. It was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles.

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USFWS REGIONAL DIRECTOR RECEIVES PRESIDENTIAL RECOGNITION

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - Dr. Ralph Morgenweck, regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's eight state Mountain-Prairie Region, has received the 2001 Presidential Rank Award.

The Presidential Rank Award is the government's highest award for civil servants.

A total of 344 government employees from various backgrounds received the Presidential Rank Award. At a ceremony at Washington's Constitution Hall last week, President George W. Bush said, "Today we honor their exceptional performance. Their work covers a tremendous range of issues, yet they share some things in common: an outstanding work ethic, commitment to public service, and pride in a job well done."

Morgenweck, recognized for his innovative approaches to fish and wildlife management in over 22 years of government service, was instrumental in developing partnerships on three large river systems that affect 13 western states.

The Colorado, Platte, and Missouri Rivers generate hundreds of millions of dollars of hydroelectric power, provide drinking water for millions of people, irrigate more than four million acres of farmland and offer a variety of recreational opportunities and economic benefits. These three rivers also sustain a variety of wildlife, including 12 species on the Federal list of endangered species.

The partnerships Morganweck helped develop include federal, state, local and tribal governments, water user entities, utility companies and nonprofit environmental groups. With Morgenweck's leadership, the groups developed a shared vision and agreed upon goals and action plans.

The 344 recipients of the Presidential Rank Award will receive a lump sum payment based on a percent of their base pay, a gold or silver pin, and a framed certificate signed by the President.

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GRANTS SUPPORT EDUCATION IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - Ten minority serving institutions have been selected to receive grants and cooperative agreements worth $3.3 million to develop educational opportunities in environmental sciences.

The grants are part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) new Environmental Entrepreneurship Program (EEP). EEP is part of NOAA's $15 million Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions initiative. The awards will be distributed over the next three years.

"Minority Serving Institutions are making significant contributions in the areas of engineering, math and science," said Commerce Secretary Don Evans. "The Department of Commerce commends these scientific efforts and the NOAA Educational Partnership Program is providing new opportunity to further these outstanding research and education programs."

Funds provided through EEP support educational experiences that combine course work with environmental hands on stewardship and conservation. The goal is to educate and train students at colleges and universities which serve minority students, create jobs and develop environmental outreach projects while managing natural resources.

"I am proud to award these institutions for the important work they will be conducting for our nation," said Bodman. "By creating opportunities like this for students, educators and researchers, we are building futures, furthering the goals of science, and protecting the environment."

The NOAA program provides opportunities and develops curricula for students to pursue careers in atmospheric, environmental and oceanic sciences and remote sensing.

"The Environmental Entrepreneurship Program benefits both students and our ecology," said NOAA acting administrator Scott Gudes. "By getting faculty and students out in the field, they gain precious experience they could not get in a classroom. Also, they're actively playing a part in research, management and protection, part of NOAA's objective."

More information is available at: http://www.ofa.noaa.gov/~sdb/EPPS1.htm

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ENVIRONOMICS PROGRAM LINKS WEATHER, CLIMATE TO ECONOMY

WASHINGTON, DC, October 29, 2001 (ENS) - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has unveiled two new indices that evaluate the effect of climate conditions on corn and soybean yield and on residential energy needs.

The development of the indices is part of NOAA's "Environomics" program, an effort to better understand the impact of weather and climate on socioeconomic sectors of the nation. The indices were developed by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center, which maintains the world's largest weather database.

Anecdotal statements about the weather are often used to explain variations in economic activity, and these statements are often based on perceptions about the weather that may or may not be valid. Through NOAA's Environomics program, relationships between the nation's climate and vital economic sectors of the nation are defined using climate indices, which enhance the understanding of how year to year variations and trends in weather and climate affect associated sectors.

"Climate indices developed through the Environomics program provide quantitative information regarding climate's influence while providing historical perspective on how weather and climate conditions affecting our economy and society today compare with conditions of the past," said Thomas Karl, director of the National Climatic Data Center.

The Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI) tracks unusually hot and unusually cold conditions. It varies from year to year due to variability and trends in temperature, responding to temperature conditions in populated regions.

While the REDTI provides information on the impacts of temperature on energy demand, the Crop Moisture Stress Index was developed to quantify the effect of soil moisture conditions on crop yield. It provides historical perspective on conditions such as moisture stress that are associated with corn and soybean yields and is a source of information for explaining the cause of lower national yields.