AmeriScan: September 11, 2000

CALIFORNIA PLEDGES $25 M TO BUY, RESTORE WETLANDS

SACRAMENTO, California, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - California Governor Gray Davis has signed a bill authorizing $25 million in state funds to buy and restore up to 19,000 acres of wetlands and open space around San Francisco Bay. "The signing of this bill represents a significant first step and my sincere interest in the potential of this project," said Governor Davis. "We have presented with a unique opportunity to improve the health of San Francisco Bay, as well as expanding the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge." Davis reduced the amount of the acquisition from $30 million to $25 million, hoping to prompt the federal government to provide additional funds for more wetlands acquisitions.

In a letter sent Friday to the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Davis asked committee chair Ralph Regula, an Ohio Republican, Davis asked for federal help in meeting the $300 million price tag that Cargill Salt Company has placed on its historic wetlands, now diked and drained for use in salt production. "An appropriation of federal funds this year, combined with a commitment to match future State appropriations, would enable the federal and State governments to earnestly pursue a partnership here," wrote Davis. The Cargill Salt Ponds are located at the southern end of San Francisco Bay in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, and adjoin the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

* * *

PLASTIC SOFTENER PROPOSED FOR TOXIC RELEASE INVENTORY LIST

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to add a new category of chemicals to the list of toxic substances included in the annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) reporting. The proposal is in response to a petition by the Washington Toxics Coalition which contends that the chemicals - diisononyl phthalates - causes cancer, systemic toxicity, developmental toxicity and endocrine disruption. EPA reviewed the petition and available data and determined that diisononyl phthalate (DINP) meets the listing criteria and that there is sufficient evidence that chemicals in the DINP category do cause cancer or other serious or irreversible chronic liver, kidney or developmental toxicity in humans.

Phthalates, including diisononyl phthalate, are chemical plasticizers used in making flexible vinyl products such as shower curtains, medical devices such as tubing and IV bags, upholstery, raincoats, balls and soft squeeze toys. The Toxics Release Inventory, published by the EPA, is a source of information regarding toxic chemicals that are being used, manufactured, treated, transported or released into the environment. Data on individual chemicals or categories are submitted each year to the EPA and a state-designated agency by covered facilities. On the federal level, EPA checks these data for reporting errors and then compiles them into a database. EPA conducts a limited number of data quality inspections; otherwise, the submitted data are not verified. The proposal is available at: http://www.epa.gov/tri.

* * *

RECYCLING COULD TURN RECALLED TIRES INTO PROFITS

JACKSONVILLE, Florida, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - The recall of millions of defective Bridgestone/Firestone tires will create enormous piles of tires unless they are recycled into useful products. American Rubber Technologies, a crumb rubber producer, sees a lucrative business opportunity to recycle these millions of tires. American Rubber Technologies produces Rebound, made for use under turf that is subjected to heavy use such as athletic fields, parks and golf courses. Developed and patented in conjunction with five universities, Rebound increases soil aeration and reduces compaction, always a problem in turf maintenance. It provides up to 30 percent reduction in surface hardness, reducing potential serious player injury.

American Rubber Technologies also uses scrap tires to make RubberStuff, a rubber surface designed for use under playground equipment as a safe landing pad for children. RubberStuff exceeds Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines for safety and resiliency. It is sold to parks, schools, municipalities and the general public via retailers such as Wal-Mart. ReVived Rubber is an American Rubber Technologies patent-pending process that recycles both natural and synthetic rubber. Aside from the Firestone/Bridgestone tire recall, Michael Blumenthal, executive director of the Scrap Tire Management Council, said Americans discard "approximately 270 million scrap tires each year" - one for every man, woman and child in the country - which he calls "a huge waste of a renewable resource." A.C. Thomas, chairman of American Rubber Technologies, said, "Now with the increased public awareness of the problem of scrap tires, we believe that by working with the tire manufacturers, dealers and the end-users we can all make a difference in this emerging industry and provide an effective alternative to burning or burying these recalled tires."

* * *

FOREST SERVICE CHIEF SPEAKS OUT FOR WILDERNESS

DENVER, Colorado, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - U.S. Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck said Saturday that the United States should set aside more land as protected wilderness. "Other people have their classical literature, their myths, their traditions, their glorious architecture," Dombeck told environmentalists attending the Wilderness Society’s Wilderness 2000 conference this weekend. "We have our wilderness." But not enough federal lands are protected as wilderness, he warned. "Five percent of our land area is wilderness. It might not sound like much, and it isn't. It's not nearly enough," Dombeck said. "Wilderness provides solitude, a place to take refuge from the noise of traffic and frustration of every day life. A place for quiet reflection, a connection with our spiritual being."

Dombeck also spoke out against off road vehicle use in wilderness areas, calling it "the issue of the decade." The U.S. Forest Service and other federal lands agencies are now struggling to draft new management plans for snowmobiles, personal watercraft and other off highway vehicles on public lands. Dombeck said that is a sign of how far the federal government has progressed in its land management objectives. "But in spite of the many gains, I remain concerned about the future of wilderness," Dombeck said. "In this world of technological innovations that knows no bounds, who will speak for wild places, for natural landscapes, that yearly give way to parking lots, to urban sprawl, to malls, to developments?"

* * *

68 KANSAS COUNTIES DECLARED AGRICULTURAL EMERGENCIES

WICHITA, Kansas, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has designated 68 counties in Kansas as agriculture disaster areas because of crop damage due to severe drought, excessive heat, high winds, hail and flooding that took place this summer. The designation makes all qualified family sized farm operators in these counties eligible for low interest emergency loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency. "This year's hot, dry weather has hit soybean and hay farmers hard, as well as cattlemen, who are already feeding their stock from their winter supplies," said Glickman. "USDA is in the process of evaluating additional drought impacted counties in Kansas for disaster designation."

The counties of Anderson, Atchison, Barton, Chase, Chautauqua, Cheyenne, Coffey, Decatur, Elk, Jewell, Johnson, Leavenworth, Lyon, Marshall, Mitchell, Morris, Norton, Osage, Phillips, Republic, Rooks, Stafford, Wabaunsee, Washington, and Wyandotte were named as primary disaster areas. Another 43 counties that adjoin the primary disaster areas are also eligible for federal aid. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of this declaration to apply for the loans to help cover part of their actual losses. The Farm Service Agency will consider each application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available, repayment ability, and other eligibility requirements. Some counties in Kansas may also be eligible for the Emergency Conservation Program, which provides cost share assistance to supply water for livestock and other conservation measures. More information is available at: http://www.fea.usda.gov/pas/disaster/assistancel_htm

* * *

NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR CONDEMNS STATE’S BEAR HUNT

TRENTON, New Jersey, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman is urging the state Fish and Game Council to suspend its proposed limited bear hunt. Whitman also said she would take steps to protect public safety by imposing strict new guidelines for bear management, particularly in instances where there is contact between bears and humans in New Jersey. "Over the past several weeks I have received numerous requests from the elected and appointed officials from the areas of New Jersey most affected by the overpopulation of bears urging that the proposed hunt be suspended," Whitman said Friday. "Our strategy recognizes that potentially dangerous contacts between bears and humans in New Jersey have been on a dramatic increase and it authorizes lethal force on those bears that pose an immediate threat to the safety of our children, families and livestock. I believe that our bear management strategy will provide a higher degree of overall safety than the proposed random hunt targeted at 175 bears of all ages."

Whitman’s proposed bear management program includes five key components:

* * *

NEW INVADER ATTACKS SOYBEANS IN MIDWEST

MADISON, Wisconsin, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - A new invasive soybean pest has appeared in fields scattered across Wisconsin during the past month, said University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists. The soybean aphid also has turned up in northern Illinois and may soon be reported from Michigan. "This is an unprecedented situation," said David Hogg, who chairs the Department of Entomology in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. "The soybean aphid is a native of China and hasn't been reported from the United States until now."

Researchers from Illinois and Michigan have also found soybean plants covered with aphids. "We just haven't seen aphid problems on soybeans before," said John Wedberg, a UW-Madison extension entomologist who has studied the insect problems of Wisconsin's corn and soybean crops since 1978. Based on its wide distribution, the soybean aphid may have been living in the Midwest for several years, Wedberg said, emerging as a problem now because the conditions this summer have been favorable to many aphid species. The researchers say it is too soon for them to predict how the new pest will affect yields this year. "Although we've seen some fields that are severely affected, it does not seem to be causing widespread losses this year," Hogg said. "We're trying to learn as much as we can from the problem now because we are concerned the situation may become more serious in coming years."

* * *

SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES SHOWCASED AT PARK SERVICE CONFERENCE

ST. LOUIS, Missouri, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - The National Park Service (NPS) is using its first general conference in 10 years to celebrate environmentally friendly practices. "Discovery 2000: The NPS General Conference," being held in St. Louis, Missouri this week, will showcase sustainable practices and projects taking place throughout the agency. The highlight of the exhibits will be an Ecology tent, which will demonstrate how habitats can teach people to live more sustainably. Artists will demonstrate how glass and other trash can be used to create valuable artwork. The conference, convened by NPS Director Robert Stanton, is an opportunity for more than 1,100 present and future leaders of the almost 400 national parks and programs across the country to focus on sustainability as a key vision of the NPS for the 21st century.

In addition to the four program tracks covering cultural resources, natural resources, education, and leadership, "Discovery 2000" will promote the NPS Environmental Leadership and sustainability message throughout the entire week. More than 20 vendor exhibits will offer "green" products and services for sale to the NPS and other agencies. Sample products include environmentally preferable maintenance chemicals and pesticides, "green" office furnishings, and renewable energy products. Visitors can view these exhibits, as well as the Ecology tent, at the Regal Riverfront Hotel from 6 to 8 pm today, from 9 am to 6 pm on Tuesday, and from 9 am to 1 pm on Thursday. For more information, visit the NPS Environmental Leadership website at www.nps.gov/renew, or the "Discovery 2000" website at: www.nps.gov/discovery2000.

* * *

CALIFORNIA STUDENTS COULD WIN RIDES IN FUEL CELL CARS

SACRAMENTO, California, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - California students will be among the first people to take a test ride in a fuel cell vehicle through a contest sponsored by the California Fuel Cell Partnership. To qualify, California students in grades 7-12 can write a short essay or create a picture that expresses why fuel cell vehicles are an important future technology. Up to six entries will be selected, one from each grade level. The winners will be featured at a ceremony sponsored by the California Fuel Cell Partnership this November in Sacramento, and will get to take the first official rides as part of the festivities.

The essays should be no more than 500 words. The picture may be drawn or painted by hand, a computer generated design, or a photograph. Complete rules and fuel cell information may be found on the Partnership's website: http://www.fuelcellpartnership.org; by sending an email request to: fcdriver@arb.ca.gov; or by writing a postcard or letter of request to: CaFCP, PO Box 2815, Sacramento, CA 95812. Entries must be received no later than Tuesday, October 10, 2000. The Partnership - which began in April 1999 - includes auto manufacturers, energy providers, fuel cell companies, and government agencies. The California Fuel Cell Partnership aims to place more than 70 fuel cell passenger cars and fuel cell buses on the road between 2000 and 2003.

* * *

OAK RIDGE BOY SINGS PRAISES OF WEATHER RADIO

WASHINGTON, DC, September 11, 2000 (ENS) - Oak Ridge Boy and weather buff Richard Sterban used his remarkable bass voice in recording new public service announcements for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio network, the voice of the National Weather Service. Sterban, bass vocalist for the country rock group the Oak Ridge Boys, said "I own a NOAA Radio and have found it very useful whenever severe weather moves into the Nashville area. When vacationing I listen to it every day to determine whether I want to go sailing, go out to the reef, or stay on land and go to the beach."

NOAA Weather Radio is a government operated radio system that warns the public about severe weather and natural and technological hazards, from floods to forest fires to oil spills. There are more than 550 local NOAA Weather Radio stations nationwide. NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts National Weather Service forecasts, warnings and other crucial weather information. The newest generation of weather radios can be programmed to receive alerts only for the county or parish where the listener resides. "NOAA Weather Radio can mean the difference between life and death," says retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service. "When you may only have minutes to react, NOAA Weather Radio gives you confidence to take the appropriate action when severe weather or other hazards are at hand." More information about NOAA Weather Radio is available at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/nwr/. To hear Sterban's public service announcements, visit: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/pa/psas.htm.