AmeriScan: September 28, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - The National Research Council (NRC) has identified the eight most important areas for environmental research for the next decade in a report entitled "Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences." The council chose these eight broad topics of research based on their potential to provide a scientific breakthrough of practical importance to humankind if given major new funding. The committee that wrote the report recommended that the National Science Foundation (NSF), which requested the report, focus on four topics: biodiversity and ecosystem functioning; hydrologic forecasting; infectious disease and the environment; and land-use dynamics. With regard to infectious disease, for example, the report said researchers can take advantage of new technologies in genetics and computing to better monitor and predict the effects of environmental changes on disease outbreaks.

The other four environmental challenges are biogeochemical cycles, climate variability, institutions and resource use, and reinventing the use of materials. The NRC solicited nominations for "grand" challenges in the environmental sciences in a letter circulated to thousands of scientists in the U.S. and abroad. After receiving more than 200 responses, the committee selected the eight major areas of focus. The committee did not prioritize the challenges, described below, saying that they were of equal importance. But it did recommend that the NSF focus its resources on the four areas where immediate action can have the most impact. The committee estimated that each of the four areas would require several hundred million dollars - at a minimum - over a 10 year period, for a total of perhaps $1 billion to $2 billion. Investing several hundred million dollars a year is well within the $1 billion per year budget increase that NSF's National Science Board recommended for environmental sciences over the next five years, the committee noted.

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BOISE, Idaho, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - In a major victory for Wild and Scenic River protection, a federal court has ruled that three resorts on the Wild and Scenic Salmon River in central Idaho must be removed. The ruling by U.S. Circuit Judge Sidney Thomas found that, "the law is clear: the construction of permanent resort lodges is not permitted in the Wild River corridor" and is "inconsistent with the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA)." Wilderness Watch, the national wilderness organization that brought the lawsuit against the resorts, hailed the 51 page decision as an unprecedented triumph for wild rivers. "It's a great victory for wild rivers and upholds Congress' clear direction that they remain 'vestiges of primitive America'," said the group's attorney Jack Tuholske.

The primary issue before the Court was whether the U.S. Forest Service's (USFS) decision permitting permanent developments on public lands was consistent with the mandates of the WSRA, which requires that the river and its shorelines must remain "essentially primitive." The Court rejected the agency’s claim that "essentially primitive" is ambiguous and subject to the agency's interpretation. The Court also rejected the USFS argument that the Central Idaho Wilderness Act (CIWA) that established the Salmon Wild and Scenic River allowed the resorts. "You can't underestimate the importance of this victory," said George Nickas, Wilderness Watch's executive director. "The Forest Service argued in Court that it had the authority to approve similar resorts along any one of our nations 57 Wild rivers that it is entrusted with protecting. Let's hope they got the message and now know better."

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SACRAMENTO, California, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - The National Park Service has approved $2,686,835 for 17 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grants for outdoor recreation projects in California. This is the first time in five years that Congress has approved funding for state grants under the LWCF. About $2.1 million of California’s funding will be used to help buy 2,675 acres for additions to Anza Borrego Desert and Cuyamaca Rancho State Parks. The total cost to acquire those properties is $5.5 million. The other 15 projects will receive between $30,000 - $100,000.

"The LWCF helps to support federal protection of natural treasures, but also to help states and communities protect urban parks, farmland, forests, battlefields, coastland, and other green spaces," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes. "To ensure strong conservation efforts in the years ahead, the President has called for the creation of a permanent endowment to protect America's critical lands." The National Park Service has a total of $40 million in FY 2000 funds to administer for state and local projects, and applications are coming in to the states and territories. "Governor Davis is delighted that the Clinton-Gore administration is matching the new funds he has provided for California Parks with these significant expansions of some of our best loved parks," said Mary Nichols, California Secretary for Resources. Congress enacted the LWCF in 1964 to provide conservation funds derived from receipts from oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. Although the law authorizes up to $900 million a year in LWCF funding, Congress most often has appropriated far less than that amount.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - On Monday, the Sierra Club will launch a month long drive to inform Americans where their Presidential and Congressional candidates stand on the environment. The campaign will include television and radio ads, Internet banner ads and websites, direct mail and door to door canvassing. "Using new technology and old fashioned shoe leather, the Sierra Club will help millions of Americans learn where their candidates stand on the environment," said Sierra Club political director Daniel Weiss. "With the Sierra Club's all out effort, Americans won't have to look far for environmental information about their candidates."

The October campaign includes $2 million for broadcast voter-guide ads and another $1 million for printed voter guides with side by side comparisons. The Sierra Club will spread the word in 12 Congressional contests and the Presidential race to provide people with printed and broadcast voter guides about their candidates' environmental positions. The Sierra Club's October drive caps its $8 million, year long Environmental Voter Education Campaign. "People are hungry for the facts about their candidates, and the environment provides a clean, bright, defining line between many candidates," Weiss said. "By turning on their TVs, logging onto the Internet, or simply opening their front doors, people can learn where these candidates stand on protecting our clean air, clean water and favorite parks." Ads in Montana began airing last week to take advantage of high viewership during the Olympics. More information is available at:

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PANAMA CITY, Florida, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Three subspecies of beach mice in the Southeast may get more critical habitat than is now designated, but they could also get less. After a year long review, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has determined that revision of critical habitat for three endangered beach mouse subspecies in Alabama and Florida is warranted. The USFWS will reassess habitat for the Alabama, Perdido Key and Choctawhatchee beach mice, prepare a proposed rule to designate new critical habitat and draft an economic analysis of the proposal at some point in the future. "Once we determine what critical habitat changes are needed, we will invite the public to comment on them before we reach a final decision," said Sam Hamilton, USFWS Southeast regional director.


An Alabama beach mouse (Photo by Nicholas Holler, courtesy U.S. Geological Survey)

The agency’s action came in response to a petition filed last year by the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and the Biodiversity Legal Foundation. The petitioners stated that the area now designated as critical habitat is inadequate and part of it is being destroyed by coastal development. The three beach mice subspecies were listed as endangered in 1985. The existing critical habitat for the three beach mouse subspecies covers 2,890 acres, dispersed along 34 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline in Alabama and Florida. Most of this critical habitat is on Federal or state managed lands. The USFWS decision is available at:

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GAINESVILLE, Florida, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Some new species of snails discovered by a University of Florida (UF) scientist may be able to provide clues about water quality. Fred Thompson, a UF mollusk expert, has found six tiny new species in springs at the Seminole State Forest near Apopka and two in Holmes Creek in the Florida Panhandle. "It’s fascinating that there’s so much about our world in our own back yard about which we know so little," said Thompson, a zoology professor who studies mollusks at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "One reason they haven’t been discovered until now is they’re too little for the average person walking along the spring or creek to notice," he said. "We’re talking about very small snails - approximately a tenth to a quarter of an inch long." All the snails live inside a 100 yard long area.


Some of the newly discovered snail species, photographed on top of a dime (Photo by Ray Carson, courtesy UF)

Many species in this particular family are important ecological barometers of water quality because they are very sensitive to temperature, oxygen levels, sediments and unnatural contaminants, Thompson said. Their presence often signals a pristine spring or creek that has not been harmed by environmental threats. "It would not take much of a disturbance to hurt these snails," said Thompson. "If you went back to that same place later and did not find them, you would have serious cause to worry that something terrible had happened." Many water bodies in Florida should have the snails, but do not. They may have been eradicated by agricultural and industrial pollution, and by urban runoff, Thompson said.

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - National conservation group American Forests and specialty retailer Eddie Bauer have created a national fund to help communities and organizations to restore forests damaged by the wildfires of 2000. The first area to benefit from tree planting funds from Wildfire ReLeaf is the community of Los Alamos, New Mexico, where a fire set to reduce forest fuels burned out of control, destroying hundreds of homes last May. To launch the Fund, Eddie Bauer officials presented American Forests with a check for $500,000, half of its $1 million commitment for Wildfire ReLeaf. The contribution is part of Eddie Bauer's long time "Add a dollar, Plant a tree" promotion that urges customers to add a donation for tree planting to their merchandise totals.

"Working with Eddie Bauer we have established an easy and effective way for people and corporations to help restore forests damaged by some of the most extensive and intensive wildfires in decades," said Deborah Gangloff, executive director of American Forests. "Every dollar donated to Wildfire ReLeaf will plant a tree to prevent further damage to fish and wildlife habitat." In the first Wildfire ReLeaf project in Los Alamos, organized by the nonprofit group Tree New Mexico, 4,000 trees will be planted as part of a planting and community education and information effort. Six other sites hit by wildfire in recent years were also included in the first round of projects announced for planting in 2001. These projects total 281,000 trees including 94,000 in California's Tahoe National Forest, 10,000 conifers in Nevada's Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and others on sites in Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Jersey.

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota, September 28, 2000 (ENS) ­ This Saturday, the National Audubon Society will launch the "Audubon Ark," an paddlewheel boat that will take a 28 day journey up the Mississippi River to celebrate river culture and raise awareness about the role a healthy river plays in the lives of the communities and wildlife. The Ark, part of Audubon’s Upper Mississippi River Campaign, will kickoff its 480 mile tour in Cairo, Illinois. "The Ark’s journey is a way to get people thinking about the river, about its health, and about how a healthy river affects them," said Dan McGuiness, director of Audubon’s Upper Mississippi River Campaign. "It is a means of bringing communities together to discuss how they can live in harmony with the river and the ecosystems it supports." Stopping in more than 20 communities along the way, the Ark will share its message at river festivals, school programs and other events.

McGuiness and other crew members, will be on hand for a press conference at each location to discuss the environmental issues surrounding the river, the impact of one hundred years of human intervention, and the best hope for the future. The Ark will also carry environmental exhibits about the river. "The river is an internationally significant migratory bird flyway," said McGuiness. "It is critical fish and wildlife habitat and many of us drink its water. We want to hear what people have to say about the importance of this river in their lives and help them to make it not only a working river but a living river." More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman today inducted four champions of American agriculture - including a cartoon character - into the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new Hall of Heroes. The four honorees are the international symbol for forest fire prevention Smokey Bear; former U.S. Senator Robert Dole, a pioneer in children's food and nutrition legislation; agricultural chemist George Washington Carver; and soil scientist Hugh Hammond Bennett. "The USDA Hall of Heroes will be a living, permanent tribute to the contributions of distinguished pioneers of agriculture, past and present," said Glickman. "Today's charter inductees will be joined by other honorees in future years. All will be honored by plaques in the entry hall of USDA's Jamie L. Whitten Federal Building."

Two U.S. Forest Service artists, Rudolph Wendelin and Harry Rossoll, are responsible for Smokey Bear's character. "Their commitment to Smokey Bear, whose campaign has taught generations of children that preventing forest fires is each individual's responsibility, has helped save thousands of acres of our nation's forests," says the plaque honoring Smokey Bear, along with the character’s famous quote, "Remember, Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires." Senator Dole was chosen for his work to offer nutrition assistance to poor Americans. George Washington Carver was recognized for creating industrial applications from farm products, a science known as chemurgy. Hugh Hammond Bennett helped make soil conservation a national priority and spark a worldwide conservation movement. He triggered the establishment of the Soil Erosion Service in 1933 and the passage of legislation in 1935 to create the Soil Conservation Service. More information is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Saturday is National Estuaries Day, to be celebrated nationwide with events at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Estuary Program and National Estuarine Research Reserve System units. The theme of this year’s celebration is "Estuaries - Cradles of the Ocean." Local communities have planned educational activities, exhibits and festivals to highlight the importance of the nation's bays and coastal waterways. Estuaries are transitional coastal areas where freshwater from inland streams and rivers mixes with the seawater from the ocean. They are among the most productive ecosystems in the world. Estuaries are more productive per acre than the richest Midwestern farmland.

Almost fifty percent of Americans - 110 million people - already live in coastal areas. By the year 2010, the U.S. coastal population is projected to rise to 127 million. Americans spend about $75 billion on coastal recreational activities each year. Coastal waters provide about 28.3 million jobs and each year generate $54 billion in goods and services. Estuaries serve as nursery grounds for two thirds of the nation's fish and shellfish, provide habitat, resting and feeding sites for thousands of birds and other wildlife, serve as buffers against storms, and filter ollutants. Coastal ecosystems are threatened by growth and development, and associated problems such as nutrient overloads. The National Estuary Program is working with state and local governments, environmental and business groups, and citizens to protect and restore the living resources and improve water quality of 28 estuaries around the country. The general public can find more information about National Estuaries Day, the National Estuaries Program, and about estuaries at: