AmeriScan: September 27, 2000

BEACH BILL PASSES HOUSE

WASHINGTON, DC, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. House has passed a bill to expand water quality testing along the nation’s beaches to protect beachgoers. The Senate passed an identical bill last week, clearing the legislation for quick review and expected signature by President Bill Clinton. The Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act would require coastal states to monitor beach water quality and warn the public when these waters contain dangerous levels of disease causing microorganisms. The bill would provide about $150 million over the next five years to help states create and maintain monitoring and public notification programs. "This is a real triumph for coastal communities, ocean enthusiasts, and in fact all beach users across the country," said Representative Brian Bilbray, the California Republican who introduced the BEACH bill. "No longer will surfers, swimmers and beach-loving families and children have to serve as canaries in the coal mine."

"Today’s final passage of the BEACH bill is a major victory for the health and well being of beachgoers and coastal communities nationwide," said Ted Danson, founding president of the American Oceans Campaign. "Congress has taken a critical step toward ensuring that future trips to the beach are healthy ones for millions of Americans." Just 11 states now test their beach waters on a regular, comprehensive basis, and notify the public when contamination occurs. In 1999, states that test their beach waters posted 6,100 beach closings and advisories due to the presence of bacteria and viruses from polluted stormwater and runoff, overflowing sewage treatment facilities and malfunctioning septic systems.

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NADER CHARGES GORE WITH BREAKING INCINERATOR PROMISE

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader called on Vice President Al Gore today to honor a promise he made eight years ago by shutting down the Von Roll Waste Technologies Industries incinerator. Gore is running for president on the Democratic ticket. The hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool burns 60,000 tons of hazardous waste every year, making it one of the largest incinerators of its type in the world. The incinerator’s permits expired in 1995. The Von Roll incinerator has failed test burns and was criticized in a 1994 report requested by Gore. "Mr. Gore, after seven years of double talk and delays, the time has come to shut down this incinerator," said Nader. "Workers should be given two years full severance pay by their negligent employer, WTI."

The incinerator is located in an area with a history of environmental contamination, on a flood plain, and less than 400 yards away from an elementary school, in violation of state and federal environmental regulations. Among the toxins that the incinerator releases into the air are dioxins, furans, and metals such as chromium, mercury, lead and arsenic. "Any incinerator that emits almost a pound of mercury into the air every day can't be good for our children's ability to learn," Nader said. Campaigning for vice president in 1992, Gore called the incinerator, then under construction, "unbelievable," adding, "the Clinton-Gore administration is going to give you an environmental presidency to deal with these problems. We'll be on your side for a change."

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NORTHERN CALIFORNIA FISH CONTAMINATED WITH MERCURY

SACRAMENTO, California, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Fish in two northern California watersheds contain elevated levels of mercury that can be traced back to the Gold Rush, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists said Tuesday. The researchers have documented mercury in bass and catfish in the Bear and South Yuba River watersheds. "Liquid elemental mercury, or quicksilver, was used extensively in the Bear and Yuba River watersheds since the early gold mining days," said Charlie Alpers, a USGS research chemist and the study's chief scientist. "Our fish survey is part of the first comprehensive investigation in the Sierra Nevada region of mercury distribution in water, sediment, and biota, and the potential risks to human health and ecosystems."

The USGS report contains data on 141 samples of fish collected during September and October 1999 from reservoirs and stream environments in Nevada, Placer, and Yuba counties. The main target species in these reservoirs was largemouth bass - other species that were sampled included smallmouth and spotted bass, channel catfish, crappie, green sunfish, bluegill, brown trout and rainbow trout. Mercury concentrations in bass ranged from 0.20 to 1.5 parts per million (ppm). In sunfish, concentrations ranged from less than 0.10 to 0.41 ppm. The Food and Drug Administration action level for mercury in commercial fish is 1.0 ppm and the State of California considers mercury levels above 0.3 ppm indicative of the need for further study. "Elemental mercury, the kind you can see, is only one part of the problem," said Jason May, USGS biologist. "It is the presence of methylmercury, the organic form of mercury that accumulates in organisms, that will be of most concern." The USGS report is available at: http://ca.water.usgs.gov/mercury/bear-yuba/

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$4 MILLION PURCHASE SAVES 233 ACRES IN CALIFORNIA

MILLERTON POINT, California, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - A land conservation group has spent more than $4 million to buy 233 hillside acres along Tomales Bay in California’s Marin County. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a private group, has paid fair market value over the past four years to save the parcel from development. TPL then gave the land to the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) as an addition to Tomales Bay State Park. "TPL’s vision to protect these beautiful hills with sweeping views of Tomales Bay, conceived more than seven years ago, has come to fruition," said Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. "These lands are now permanently protected as public open space for people and wildlife."

Located in western Marin County and overlooking Tomales Bay and Inverness Ridge, the ten threatened subdivision lots were the focal point of the Trust for Public Land's Tomales Bay Preservation Program since 1993. TPL used private funds to protect the parcels while seeking enough money to purchase the land outright. TPL created a private-public partnership with the help of the CDPR, state lawmakers, the Marin County Open Space District, the California Transportation Commission, Chevron Corporation, and many other private donors to secure funding to buy the land. California state Assemblywoman Kerry Mazzoni, a key supporter of the purchase, called Tomales Bay, "one of California’s most beautiful places." Ken Leigh, district superintendent of CDPR, said, "The purchase of this magnificent property not only protects breathtaking views of Inverness Ridge and Tomales Bay, it also protects the bay’s water quality."

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FEDERAL, STATE EPAS TACKLE LEAD POISONING IN COLUMBUS

COLUMBUS, Ohio, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio EPA (OEPA) have signed an agreement with the City of Columbus to carry out an innovative project to reduce lead poisoning. Under the agreement, EPA and OEPA will allow the city to use an alternative treatment technique that is as effective as the EPA’s required technique at controlling lead in drinking water. In return, Columbus will provide long term funding for a lead poisoning prevention program. The program will be run by the Columbus Departments of Health and Trade and Development which collaborate on the Lead Safe Columbus Program (LSCP).

The Columbus Division of Water will give LSCP $300,000 a year for 15 years to provide free blood tests, public education, medical intervention to lead poisoned children, and grants and loans for lead abatement to city residents in high risk areas. Columbus will also consult with EPA, OEPA, and other drinking water experts to reduce the chances that any future water treatment changes will raise lead levels in drinking water. "Lead poisoning can be prevented and it is our goal to help transfer the lessons we learn here in Columbus into better health for families living all across the country," said Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Francis Lyons, EPA’s Region 5 administrator, said, "Childhood lead poisoning is one of the greatest environmental health threats to American children. Columbus already does an excellent job of controlling lead in its drinking water. With this project the city will use a comprehensive approach to the city with the highest blood lead levels."

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IDAHO GROUND SQUIRREL GETS SAFE HARBOR

NEW MEADOWS, Idaho, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Idaho residents Bob and Peggy Mack and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have signed an agreement to benefit the northern Idaho ground squirrel. The ground squirrel was listed as threatened in May. The agreement, known as a Safe Harbor Agreement, includes a permit which authorizes some impacts to the ground squirrel. Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating private landowners undertake management activities to enhance, restore or maintain habitat benefiting species listed under the ESA. Safe Harbor Agreements assure property owners they will not be subjected to increased property use restrictions if their conservation efforts attract or increase numbers of the listed species on their property.

Under the northern Idaho ground squirrel Safe Harbor Agreement, the USFWS can implement a variety of conservation measures on the Macks’ property near New Meadows. Northern Idaho ground squirrels now occupy about five acres of the private land. By enhancing ground squirrel habitat within this area, biologists hope the squirrel numbers will increase, providing a stable population with surplus individuals for transplanting to other sites. Threats to the ground squirrel include habitat loss, fire suppression, competition from the larger Columbian ground squirrel, and recreational shooting. "We are extremely pleased to have entered into this Agreement with the Macks," said Bob Ruesink, Snake River Basin Office supervisor. "This is a fine example of the Service and private landowners working cooperatively, with the mutual goal of conserving listed species while minimizing disruption of the landowner’s land use activities." The Mack Safe Harbor Agreement is the first agreement in the USFWS Pacific Region.

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ILLINOIS OFFERS $5 MILLION IN CONSERVATION GRANTS

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS, September 27, 2000 (ENS) ­ Illinois is giving out more than $5 million in grants to 30 local private­public partnerships for natural resource protection projects under the Illinois Conservation 2000 program. "Local citizens and private property owners working together are the keys to the success of Conservation 2000," said Governor George Ryan. "These grants, combined with local matching funds and other support, provide important land management, habitat enhancement, and resource conservation projects in watersheds throughout Illinois."

The partnerships receiving grants are matching the state funding with $10.1 million in cash, in­kind and other contributions. Conservation 2000 provides technical and financial assistance to landowners interested in improving and enhancing the ecology in sensitive watersheds throughout the state. The program provides funding for habitat protection and restoration, environmental education, planning and research projects proposed by the local watershed partnership organizations. One of the largest projects is work by the American Bottom Conservancy to preserve the entire Horseshoe Lake oxbow of Horseshoe Lake, Canteen Lake and Indian Lake, which will get $238,050 in state funds. The Northwest Illinois Prairie Enthusiasts will get $392,360 to buy conservation easements to protect the natural resources, including prairie, savanna and woodland, of the Hanover Bluffs, creating a buffer for this nature preserve. Multiple grants valued at more than half a million dollars will go toward planting native seedlings in the Cache River watershed. A full list of funded projects is available at: http://www.state.il.us/gov/press/00/sep/conservation2000925.htm

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YUBA NATION TREE SITTERS ASCENT SIERRA PACIFIC PINES

GRANITEVILLE, California, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Just before dawn this morning, Yuba Nation anti-logging activists began a treesit in the controversial Marsh Mill Timber Harvest Plan (THP), north of Graniteville, where 2,685 acres are slated to be logged. Suspended between two old growth Sugar pine trees on Sierra Pacific Industries property, Yuba Nation activists vow to stay to protect "one of the few remaining islands of fragmented habitat" left on the heavily logged THP. Citing the corporation with timber theft, bribery, polluting waterways, numerous Forest Practice Rules violations, and endangering smaller timber operations and mill owners, the tree sitters will remain until their demands on behalf of the Northern goshawk, Pacific fisher, California red legged frog, California spotted owl, American marten and all old growth dependant mammals, raptors, and amphibians known to be suffering population declines are "honored." The activists aim to stop all logging in the Marsh Mill THP pending review of violations of forest practices rules. They want to halt all clearcutting, all logging in habitats of threatened species, all logging of old growth and all logging in areas of archeological significance.

Sierra Pacific, based in Redding, California, says its mission is to "conserve the productive basis of the land and associated resources by maintaining the integrity of biological and ecological processes while producing commodities and other services through the concept of sustainable forestry." Sierra Pacific is a "proud participant" in the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a national program sponsored by the American Forest & Paper Association. Sierra Pacific says it plants over five million conifer seedlings each year on company land.

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IDAHO WOLF MANAGEMENT PROGRAM INCLUDES EUTHANASIA

BOISE, Idaho, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - In the past two years, the USFWS has killed two wolves and relocated three more in an attempt to prevent the Stanley, Idaho wolf pack from preying on livestock. Since 1997, the Stanley Pack, made up of about 10 to 12 adults and seven pups, has killed at least 40 sheep and four calves grazing on public lands shared by the pack. On September 20, biologists captured the pack’s alpha male and relocated it to an area in northern Idaho. On September 22, a subadult female wolf from the Stanley Pack was trapped and euthanized. Another subadult female wolf was relocated from the pack earlier this year. In 1999, one pup was trapped, collared and released on site; one subadult male was trapped and relocated; and another subadult wolf was euthanized.

"I hope that we can get through the rest of the grazing season without any more livestock losses from the Stanley Pack," said Carter Niemeyer, Idaho Wolf Recovery coordinator. "Through the efforts of Wildlife Services, the Nez Perce Tribe and private citizens, we have attempted to minimize the impacts of wolf depredation on livestock in the Stanley area. Hunting seasons are opening, calves are being shipped, and the grazing season on public lands is winding down - which will help reduce depredation opportunities on livestock by the Stanley Pack. We will work to provide an opportunity this winter for federal agencies, the Tribe, livestock producers, and members of the public to work together on long-term solutions to resolve some of these issues."