AmeriScan: October 30, 2001

252 MORE SPECIES MAY NEED FEDERAL PROTECTION

WASHINGTON, DC, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) today published a revised Candidate Notice of Review naming 252 species of plants and animals that may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, including 26 new candidate species.

The Notice includes the 35 domestic animal and plant species that are now proposed for addition to the list of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants.

The USFWS publishes the list to solicit new information on the status of candidate species and threats to their survival. USFWS biologists rely on a variety of sources to determine whether a species may require listing under the Act, including contributions from private, university and government scientists and other citizens, as well as local, state and federal land management and planning agencies.

The Notice, last updated in October 1999, also informs the public which species the USFWS is considering proposing for protection, encourages conservation, and promotes development that accommodates the needs of candidate species.

"For our endangered species program to be effective, we need to communicate with the public," said Marshall Jones, USFWS acting director. "The notice provides information about the threats our fish, wildlife and plants face. We hope it will focus more attention on imperiled species so we can work in partnership with the American people to conserve and recover them."

The USFWS has removed 75 species from the candidate list since it was last revised in 1999. Of the 62 species removed in this Notice, 54 were given protection under the Endangered Species Act as threatened or endangered species.

Four species were removed from the candidate list because they were found to be extinct, two because of changes in their taxonomic classification, and two because conservation agreements reduced the threats to the species.

Among the species added to the new candidate list are the island fox, southern Idaho ground squirrel, yellow-billed cuckoo, western sage grouse, sand dune lizard, Georgetown salamander, Ozark hellbender, yellowcheek darter, Zuni bluehead sucker, Phantom Cave snail, Whulge checkerspot butterfly, and slender moonwort.

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GRANT SUPPORTS STUDY OF ENERGY SURCHARGE

WASHINGTON, DC, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded $60,000 to the Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) in Washington, DC to study the effects of an energy surcharge on air pollution reductions.

The grant will help the CCAP to provide states with information on how to design and implement State Public Benefit Charge programs to maximize air emission reductions.

A Public Benefit Charge is a per kilowatt hour surcharge on certain industrial and residential customer electric bills that is used to fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, like wind power. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now have laws requiring these surcharges.

The EPA realizes that not all energy projects produce equal air emission reductions. CCAP will use this grant to analyze the emission reduction potentials of a wide range of energy projects, and recommend criteria for using Public Benefit Charge funds in a way that gets the most reductions.

The CCAP will focus the study on two of the 21 states that already have Public Benefit laws: New York and Illinois.

CCAP, founded in 1985 by a bipartisan group of state governors, seeks to promote and implement innovative solutions to major environmental and energy problems by balancing environmental and economic interests.

Besides CCAP, this project is also being funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund (http://www.glpf.org/) in the amount of $300,000. The Fund, a private, nonprofit corporation formed in 1989 by the governors of the Great Lakes states, is a permanent environmental endowment supporting cooperative actions to improve the health of that ecosystem.

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CRITICISM PROMPTS HALT TO POISONING PLANS

VENTURA, California, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - After receiving a letter Monday from The Fund for Animals and the Channel Islands Animal Protection Association, the National Park Service (NPS) has suspended its plan to use helicopters to shower Anacapa Island with grain pellets containing rat poison.

The Park Service was scheduled to begin dropping Brodifacoum, a toxic anticoagulant poison with a record of killing non-target birds, mammals, and other wildlife, on the island on Thursday. In a letter from The Fund's attorneys, the organizations demanded that the Park Service "immediately cancel or delay the proposed action" because it would kill protected wildlife in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Park Service Organic Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Just hours later, an attorney for the Park Service notified the organizations that the Channel Islands National Park has decided to suspend the implementation of the project "pending additional legal and policy review."

"We are elated that the Park Service has decided not to indiscriminately assault the wildlife of Anacapa Island with toxic poison on Thursday," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals. "The agency needs to protect wildlife and their habitats rather than recklessly use the most dangerous poison in the most dangerous manner possible."

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." Anacapa Island also provides habitat for the California sea lion, the harbor seal, the Pacific slender salamander, the side-blotched lizard, the Southern alligator lizard, and the deer mouse - a 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 would kill non-target mice, lizards, birds and other animals who consume the poison, and cause secondary poisoning of birds of prey who feed on poisoned animals.

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INEEL, CONTRACTORS SETTLE ON ASBESTOS AND CFC VIOLATIONS

BOISE, Idaho, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - Contractors for the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) have paid more than $160,000 in penalties for violating federal asbestos and chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) emissions laws.

Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company (LMITCO) was the management and operating contractor at INEEL until October 1, 1999, when the company was replaced by Bechtel BWXT Idaho, LLC (BBWI). The asbestos violations were discovered in October of 1999 when EPA conducted an unannounced inspection of asbestos abatement and demolition work at the site. The violations include:

Inhalation of asbestos fibers can cause lung cancer and other lung diseases. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed regulations for renovation and demolition projects to prevent release of asbestos fibers into the environment, protect workers and protect the public.

The CFC violations were discovered when a Bechtel employee notified EPA of the loss of 300 pounds of refrigerant from a cooling system at the INEEL. The refrigerant leak was first discovered in July 1999 and had not yet been fixed.

In reviewing more than 1,500 pages of Bechtel records, the EPA found numerous violations of record keeping and leak repair requirements.

Scientists have concluded that CFCs damage the stratospheric ozone layer, which already is depleted over Antarctica, and, to a lesser extent, over North America, Europe and other populated areas. This layer of gas screens individuals from the sun's powerful and harmful ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to sunburn, cataracts and skin cancer. Increased radiation also can damage important food crops and marine ecosystems.

When allowed to escape into the air, the CFC molecule breaks apart releasing chlorine, which then attacks the earth's protective ozone layer, located in the upper atmosphere 30 miles above the earth's surface. A single chlorine atom can destroy more than 100,000 ozone molecules.

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RESEARCHERS TRACK ALASKA SEAL MIGRATION

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - Using a combination of hunting knowledge, ingenuity, and high-tech satellite tracking, scientists are tracking Alaska's ringed seal migration for the first time.

Researchers supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), working with Alaska Native hunters, have captured, electronically tagged, and tracked a ringed seal in its spring migration as it moved northward with the ice of the Chukchi Sea.

This is the first time anyone has tracked a ringed seal in open sea ice, and its success has not only increased knowledge about the seal's movements, but also enhanced trust and mutual respect between scientists and custodians of traditional ecological knowledge, said Gay Sheffield of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG).

"Seal tracking is an important and somewhat unexpected offshoot of a larger NSF project to establish an onshore environmental observatory on Little Diomede Island in the Bering Strait and to encourage the participation of Alaska natives in the research effort," said Sheffield, who oversees marine mammal sampling and data gathering for the observatory.

Ringed seals are one of the four ice associated species of seals in those waters. The others are bearded, ribbon and spotted seals.

"In Alaska, the large scale movements of ringed, bearded and ribbon seals are unknown except in a general sense," said Sheffield. "At this point, the only northern seals in Alaska for which we have had even an inkling of their movements are spotted seals."

The tagged seal was captured by island residents using what Sheffield described as a "clever and effective" method in which a homemade plywood slide was deployed from a blind to block the animal's escape down its breathing hole in the ice. Scientists then approached the seal on the ice and glued a tracking device to its fur.

Once released, the animal traveled more than 700 kilometers (400 miles) north during the period it was tracked - about seven weeks last summer - diving to depths of more than 50 meters (164 feet).

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VISIT PUBLIC LANDS FEE-FREE ON VETERANS WEEKEND

WASHINGTON, DC, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - All areas managed by the Interior Department will waive entrance fees on Veterans Day Weekend, November 10-12, in hopes of boosting visitor traffic at national parks, monuments, and other public lands.

Many private, state and local recreation areas have also partnered with the Interior Department and are waiving their fees.

"Our nation's public lands are an inspiration to the freedoms all Americans cherish," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "Since the September 11 attacks, families have visited natural and historic areas to gain hope and strength as we heal from the assault on America and unify behind our nation's efforts to seek solace and find justice."

At national wildlife refuges, entrance fees will be waived, but members of the public may have to pay for certain permit fees or public uses that involve advance reservations.

"National wildlife refuges are places where Americans can 'get away from it all' and enjoy nature at its best," said acting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Marshall Jones. "And with refuges within an hour's drive of most major cities, it is easy to get to one of these beautiful places to fish, hunt, photograph wildlife, or simply experience the beauty of a refuge."

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says waiving the fees will honor the nation's veterans, rescue workers and citizens who have suffered losses during the recent terrorist attacks.

"Americans have always sought healing and peace in our Nation's parks, and we welcome all visitors to our public lands in this time of trial. We encourage them to draw comfort and strength from the beauty and serenity of our outdoor, natural spaces," said Brigadier General Robert Griffin, director of civil works. "We also take this opportunity to honor those whose sacrifices have preserved our nation's freedom and democracy as well as those who lost family and friends during the recent tragedies."

More information is available at: http://www.recreation.gov

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WISCONSIN PROGRAM WILL PROTECT WATER QUALITY

WASHINGTON, DC, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the state of Wisconsin are collaborating on a $243 million Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to protect the state's water quality and wildlife habitat.

"This conservation program encourages farmers to help improve the state's natural resources," said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "Reducing runoff contaminates will return our investment many times in healthier wildlife, recreation and cleaner water in Wisconsin's rivers and streams."

Under this program, USDA will reimburse farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land next to rivers and streams from agricultural production. Program participants will receive annual rent, cost share assistance, and other financial assistance.

The Wisconsin CREP will reduce water pollution through the installation of 85,000 acres of riparian buffers, 15,000 acres of native grasses and wetlands. Restoring native grasses will increase populations of many species, such as grassland birds including the greater prairie chicken.

Implementation of the program is estimated to reduce runoff of phosphorus by 600,000 pounds, nitrogen by 300,000 pounds, and reduce sediment loading to streams by more than 330,000 tons a year. CREP will restore an estimated 3,600 stream miles and help the state comply with state and federal water quality standards.

The total cost of the program is expected to reach $243 million over 15 years. Of that amount, $198 million will come from USDA and $45 million from the State of Wisconsin.

CREP combines an existing USDA program, the Conservation Reserve Program, with state programs to meet specific state and national environmental objectives. CREP provides for voluntary agreements with farmers to convert cropland to native grasses, trees, and other vegetation in return for rental payments and other incentives.

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MINING CLAIMS BOUGHT FOR WILDERNESS PROTECTION

OURAY, Colorado, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has purchased more than 3,000 acres of endangered land in the mountains above Ouray for permanent protection.

This scenic and historic mining area receives more than one million visitors a year, and provides habitat for endangered species. TPL worked with a local coalition to build community support for the purchase and bought 402 seprarate mining claims from the Idarado Mining Company.

The property will be transferred to the National Forest Service, which has ranked the Red Mountain project as one of its top conservation priorities. This purchase marks the first step in a multi-phased initiative to save 11,000 acres in the heart of the San Juan Mountains.

"This is some of the most historically and ecologically important high mountain land in Colorado, " said Doug Robotham, Colorado state director for the Trust for Public Land.

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, a Colorado Republican and a member of the Senate Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, played a key role in securing federal funding for the project.

"These funds were included in the Interior bill after it became clear that they were essential to the acquisition of several thousand acres to preserve abandoned mine structures and to keep the area free of development," Campbell said.

The area's extensive aspen groves, alpine meadows and thick conifer forests provide habitat for the Canadian lynx and the Uncompahgre Fritillary (a butterfly species), both of which are on the federal government's list of threatened and endangered species.

"For the past 100 years, mining was a part of the economic engine that built this part of Colorado," said Dave Baker, president of the Idarado Mining Company. "This really begins the final chapter in Idarado's history in the region. Protecting this land and preserving its history will be Idarado's final legacy."

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PUBLIC INPUT SOUGHT ON WESTERN WATER ISSUES

TUCSON, Arizona, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - The Science Advisory Board of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) seeks public input on how NOAA science and technology can help resolve environmental issues in the West.

The board will meet November 6-8 in Tucson. Open to the public, the meetings will take place at the Sheraton Tucson Hotel & Suites on Tuesday and Thursday and at the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth on the University of Arizona campus on Wednesday.

"We want to hear from the people these issues affect the most," said Michael Uhart, the board's executive director. "What they tell us can help shape the kind of science we conduct and what types of technology can be developed to solve environmental issues."

Topics scheduled for discussion during the two day meeting include NOAA hydrologic research and services, water resources and regional to global water cycle research. Board meetings always allow time for public statements, either submitted in writing before the meeting or delivered orally at the meeting.

Information on how to submit statements to the board, as well as other meeting information, is available at: http://www.sab.noaa.gov

"Water is already a major issue in the west and is becoming an issue in other parts of the nation," Uhart said. "The board will use the information they hear at these meetings to develop recommendations about future research and technology development at NOAA."

NOAA's 15 member Science Advisory Board is the only federal advisory committee with responsibility to advise the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere on long and short range strategies for research, education and the application of science to resource management.

Members of the board are scientists, engineers, resource managers and educators appointed to serve a three to five year term.

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MICHELIN RALLY BRINGS GREEN CARS TO VEGAS

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, October 30, 2001 (ENS) - For the first time, 10 fuel cell powered cars and 15 hybrid cars rolled down the road together in the Michelin Challenge Bibendum event that began at the California Speedway and finished on the Las Vegas Strip Sunday night.

Almost silently, they rolled up next to the Las Vegas Hilton where politicians and media greeted the vehicles of the future. They were some of the 49 alternative fueled cars that demonstrated their strengths in the first North American running of the Michelin Challenge Bibendum 2001 on the weekend.

Beginning at sunrise on Saturday, vehicles participated in tests at the speedway designed to evaluate their performance in acceleration, braking, handling on a slalom course, fuel economy or energy use, range and noise level. They were given letter grades from A to D based on established performance criteria.

Eduoard Michelin, CEO of the tire company that sponsored the rally, told ENS that the environment is "a strong commitment" for his company. Twenty percent of the fuel consumption of cars is used in the rolling resistance to the road, he explained, and to save fuel Michelin has been working to reduce that rolling resistance.

Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine Hunt welcomed the low and zero emission cars to Las Vegas, saying the state is encouraging use of environmentally friendly transportation.

Five electric-hybrid French made Civis buses will begin operating in Las Vegas in 2002. They will glide along an optical guide system painted on the street on wheels that are each powered by an independent electric motor built into the hubs of extra wide Michelin tires.