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AmeriScan: April 7, 2005

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EPA Extends Attainment Areas for Fine Particle Pollution

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wednesday added 12 areas in nine states to the list of counties that meet the nation’s new air quality standards for fine particle pollution, PM2.5.

Fine particle pollution is a mixture of microscopic solids and liquid droplets suspended in air. Fine particles can be emitted directly in smoke from a fire or formed in the atmosphere from power plant, industrial and mobile source emissions of gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

These tiny particles can aggravate heart and lung diseases and have been associated with serious health problems including heart attacks, chronic bronchitis and asthma attacks.

In December 2004, the EPA designated 30 states as “in attainment” of the fine particle standard based on 2001-2003 air quality data. The addition of these 12 new attainment areas updates these designations.

The 12 new attainment areas are based on updated, quality-assured, certified air quality data for 2002-2004 considered by the EPA because, the agency says, it originally designated PM2.5 nonattainment areas so close to the end of 2004.

The agency says the 12 additional newly designated attainment areas are inhabited by more than five million people and "represent continued progress toward cleaner air and improved public health."

In addition to the 12 areas, the EPA found that eight areas previously identified as not meeting the national air quality standards "should be designated as in attainment.” This decision is based on a review of the 2002-2004 air quality monitoring data provided by the states,

These eight areas include: Columbus, Georgia and Alabama; San Diego, California; Athens, Georgia; Elkhart, Indiana; Lexington, Kentucky; Toledo, Ohio; Youngstown-Warren, Ohio and Pennsylvania; and Marion, West Virginia.

Also based on updated 2002-2004 air quality monitoring data, EPA is designating as in attainment four areas identified in December 2004 as “unclassifiable.” These single county areas include: Dekalb County, Alabama; Etowah County in Gadsden, Alabama; Delaware County in Muncie, Indiana; and McMinn County, Tennessee.

The 39 final nonattainment areas remaining after the latest round of designations, inhabited by more than 90 million people, are required to attain clean air as soon as possible but no later than 2010.

EPA may grant attainment date extensions of up to five years in areas with more severe PM2.5 problems and where emissions control measures are not available or feasible.

Meeting the PM2.5 standards will prevent at least 15,000 premature deaths, the EPA says, as well as preventing 75,000 cases of chronic bronchitis; 10,000 hospital admissions for respiratory and cardiovascular disease; hundreds of thousands of occurrences of aggravated asthma; and 3.1 million days when people miss work because they are suffering from symptoms related to particle pollution exposure.

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Climate Change May Alter Winter Use of Road Salt

DENVER, Colorado, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - Salting and sanding roads in the Northeast is a routine part of winter, but changes in climate patterns caused by global warming may alter the established policies on snow removal, incurring higher costs, influencing road safety and impacting the environment, says a Penn State geographer.

Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Tawan Banchuen is studying climate change's effect on winter road maintenance, including environmental and economic effects.

"I am working with the Consortium for Atlantic Regional Assessment on a case study in New York State's Adirondack Park that investigates many aspects of climate change and land use change on local communities," Banchuen, a graduate student in geography, told delegates to the American Association of Geographers meeting Wednesday in Denver.

Adirondack Park is six million acres in Upstate New York, about the size of the state of Vermont, occupied by 130,000 people year round, but visited by several million each year. The area encompasses Lake Placid, home of two Olympics, and many other small towns and is the largest protected area in the United States.

Forty percent of the area is preserved, and 52 percent has been harvested and is currently managed.

Banchuen is investigating the use of salt and sand on both federal highways and local roads and tracking where the sand and salt end up. Banchuen would eventually like to model the climate change and consequent precipitation changes to see how it affects the amounts of salt and sand needed and how that affects the environment and economy.

"After the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, the communities in the park promised to follow a bare pavement policy in winter," he said. "Typically, state roads use mostly salt and local and town roads use sand. Salt is more expensive."

Salt has many potential impacts on lakes. Increased salt concentrations can cause a lake to stratify into lighter and denser layers. While this often happens in the summer with temperature gradients, the salt could prevent the water from remixing in the fall. Circulation would stop or slow, and oxygen would not mix into the lower layers of the lake. With oxygen depletion come fish kills and releases of heavy metals in the sediment. Saltier water would also favor salt tolerant plants and animals and decrease the diversity in the lake.

Outside the lake, increased road salt can kill vegetation at roadsides. Road salt damages automobile undercarriages and bodies. Salt can also seep into the groundwater drinking supply. Sand increases the load of suspended particles in streams and lakes. It also creates a clean-up problem on the sides of the road.

"Currently, in one county in the Adirondacks, half the road maintenance budget is spent on clearing the roads and making them safe," says Banchuen. "The rest can only repair half the damaged roads in the area."

A warmer climate does not necessarily mean less road salt use. Most researchers who look at warming agree that a warmer global climate will bring more precipitation to the area of the Adirondacks.

"If the precipitation tends toward more sleet and freezing rain, then more salt and sand will be needed to make the roads safe," says Banchuen. "But, fewer days of snow might mean less ski traffic in the park and a depressed winter economy. Policy makers will need to adapt to the changes and make decisions that minimize the impacts of the changes."

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Park Service Rejects Artificial Watering in Desert Park

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - Last month two groups filed a federal lawsuit to stop an artificial watering plan in California’s Mojave National Preserve that draws coyotes to the water where they are easily shot.

On Tuesday, the National Park Service reversed course and blocked installation of the artificial water systems, according to a letter from the park superintendent released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Mojave National Preserve Superintendent Mary Martin sent a letter to the California Department of Fish and Game, which said, “The National Park Service is withdrawing the approval, set forth in our letter of January 21, 2005, for the California Department of Fish and Game to convert four ranching well developments in Mojave National Preserve into wildlife watering devices."

"Upon further review, the National Park Service has determined that additional NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] compliance is desirable before a decision is made,” Martin wrote.

The position taken by Martin this week reflects the same stance that she had communicated in a June 17, 2002 memo to Paul Hoffman, a former aid to Vice President Dick Cheney who is serving as the deputy assistant secretary of interior for fish, wildlife and parks.

But Hoffman disregarded Martin’s concerns and ordered her to set up artificial water sources, called "guzzlers," in order to enhance "coyote and varmint hunting" according to an email he sent to a sportsmen’s group.

“This is a classic example of a Bush Administration appointee inappropriately intervening to countermand wildlife professionals for political reasons,” said PEER Board member Frank Buono, who served as deputy superintendent at Mojave National Park. “Paul Hoffman should be fired for incompetence."

The Mojave National Preserve covers 1.6 million acres of desert and is inhabited by more than 2,500 native species of which at least 100 are considered imperiled.

The two groups cited the opinions of more than 50 wildlife experts that the guzzlers would threaten desert wildlife, particularly the desert tortoise, the flagship species of the Mojave Preserve.

"Not only must the National Park Service involve the public in critical decisions that affect park wildlife, Mojave National Preserve must obey the long-established policies of the National Park Service," Buono said. "The policies mandate that artificial water sources for wildlife may be provided only in extreme conditions; conditions hardly evident at Mojave."

Meanwhile, another federal agency has placed a separate California desert area in jeopardy. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management on Friday lifted a court ordered ban on off-roading across 571,000 acres of desert washes in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

A federal judge ordered the ban in January after the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups testified that vehicles damage the habitat of the desert tortoise, a threatened species.

The federal wildlife agency, while conceding that off-roading poses the greatest risk to tortoises, said it anticipates that few tortoises would be killed or injured because of their low population in washes.

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Parasites Killing Upper Mississippi Waterbirds

LA CROSSE, Wisconsin, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - Intestinal parasites, known as trematodes or flukes, are believed to be the cause of a large scale die-off of lesser scaup, coots, and ring-necked ducks on Lake Onalaska and along the main channel of the Upper Mississippi River just below Lock and Dam 7 near Dresbach, Minnesota.

Wildlife scientists say the parasites are hosted by an invasive, exotic snail that is native to Europe.

Refuge staff at the La Crosse District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge have observed large numbers of the sick and dead water birds and say higher river flows are moving some of them through the dam and depositing them along the main channel in the upper part of Pool 8.

Waterfowl and coot deaths caused by trematodes have been documented each spring and fall on Lake Onalaska since the 2002 spring migration.

During the 2004 spring migration, about 1,060 sick and dead birds were found and total mortality was estimated at 2,400 to 2,700. Comparable losses occurred during the 2004 fall migration.

Mortality this spring was first observed on March 28 and is expected to continue through the end of April.

Carcasses are being shipped to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin for examination.

Most trematodes have complex life cycles that require two intermediate hosts in which the parasites develop before they become infective for the definitive, final bird host. At least two different species of trematodes have been found in the digestive tracts of birds involved in past die-offs. Both species are small, ranging in size from 1 millimeter to less than 2 millimeters.

Last summer and early fall, parasitologists from the National Wildlife Health Center and Minnesota State University at Mankato, Minnesota. sampled snails in selected areas of Lake Onalaska. They found an exotic snail, known as the faucet snail, Bithynia tentaculata, that serves as the first and second intermediate host for both species of trematodes. Some of the snails collected and examined from various sites on Lake Onalaska were infected with the trematodes.

Based on a review of the literature, this snail appears to be a newcomer to the Upper Mississippi River. Native to Europe, faucet snails were first found in Wisconsin in the Great Lakes basin in the early 1900s.

In 1998, these snails were documented in Shawano Lake. Die-offs of coots and lesser scaup from trematodes closely parallel locations within Wisconsin where faucet snails have been found, the wildlife scientists observed.

Depending on how heavily snail populations are infected, some birds can receive a lethal dose during less than 24 hours of feeding. Susceptible waterfowl can die three to eight days after ingesting a lethal dose of the trematodes.

Avian predators and scavengers, such as bald eagles, crows, and gulls, have been feeding on the sick and dead birds. Mammals, such as raccoons and coyotes, may also be feeding on the carcasses. Still, say the wildlife disease specialists, there appears to be no documented threat that raptors or scavengers feeding on infected carcasses are at risk.

For more information, or to report finding sick or dead waterfowl or coots in areas other than Lake Onalaska, contact the La Crosse District Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 608-783-8405.

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Humane Society Boycotts Canadian Seafood to Stop Seal Hunt

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is calling on Americans and people around the world to boycott Canadian seafood to send a message that Canada should stop the annual seal hunt. With a quota this year of 319,500 seals out of a population of about five million, the Canadian hunt has become the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world.

At the National Press Club Monday, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, announced the boycott with Rebecca Aldworth, HSUS Canadian wildlife issues director, who has witnessed the seal killings for the past seven years.

Born and raised in a Newfoundland town, Aldworth led a 10 person team from the HSUS to document this year's hunt, which began on March 29 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

"For the first time, consumers have the direct power to put a final end to Canada's commercial seal hunt," said Aldworth. "Simply by choosing not to buy Canadian seafood products, you can help us to save the seals."

The announcement comes on the same day as the deadline for U.S. retailers to implement country-of-origin labeling for seafood products, enabling consumers to easily determine whether seafood originated in Canada.

The HSUS sent an email message to supporters across the United States, urging them to sign a pledge at www.ProtectSeals.org. The message included a downloadable pocket guide to boycotting Canadian seafood.

To date, more than 100,000 individuals have pledged to boycott Canadian seafood, Pacelle said.

"Americans have repeatedly used their purchasing power to bring about significant improvements in animal welfare," said Pacelle. "By boycotting Canadian seafood products, The Humane Society of the United States and our millions of supporters are sending a strong and clear message to Canada – stop this senseless slaughter."

The HSUS has sent letters to over 5,000 seafood distributors throughout the United States, asking them to participate in the boycott. The HSUS has also contacted major seafood restaurants and urged them to avoid selling any Canadian seafood products, such as snow crabs.

Pacelle announced that Legal Sea Foods, which operates 30 restaurants on the East Coast, has agreed to stop importing seafood from Newfoundland following discussions with The HSUS about the seal hunt. Edward Taylor of DownEast Seafoods in New York was at the Washington news conference to support the boycott.

Seventy percent of Canadian seafood is exported to the United States, producing US$2.8 billion annually for the Canadian economy and making the industry what the HSUS calls "a viable target for a boycott."

Independent journalists, scientists, and parliamentarians who observe the seal hunt each year continue to report unacceptable levels of cruelty, including the dragging of conscious seals across the ice with boat hooks, shooting seals and leaving them to suffer in agony, and stockpiling dead and dying animals.

An independent veterinary report concluded that up to 42 percent of the seals studied at the hunt were likely skinned while alive and conscious.

"The hunt is undeniably cruel," says the HSUS, "targeting baby and juvenile seals primarily for their pelts."

The government of Canada, which subsidizes the seal hunt, denies that it is cruel and produces its own veterinary reports to back that claim.

The United States bans imports of seal products, but the market for seal pelts in Europe provides an incentive for the sealers to take to the ice every spring to club or shoot as many seals as they can up to the government quota.

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Virtual Earth Day March Promotes Conservation Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - Wildlife conservation organizations Care2 and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund are sponsoring the first Earth Day environmental virtual march to take place April 22, 2005.

A special website www.earthdayvirtualmarch.org, provides an organized way for people to protest the recent Senate vote to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and other anti-conservation policies of the White House and the Congress.

Randy Paynter, founder of Care2 said, "We wanted to give individuals the means to have their voices heard collectively by the politicians in Washington and see the impact of joining forces with activists across the country. Through the virtual march, our elected representatives will receive an avalanche of emails, phone calls and faxes that should help persuade them to reconsider their actions that harm our wildlife, their habitat and the environment we share."

On the website, people can sign up for the march and simultaneously send an email praising or criticizing their Senators on their Arctic vote, for final email delivery on Earth Day.

March participants are encouraged to call or fax the White House and their senators and representatives on Earth Day to urge greater wildlife conservation.

In addition, participants may spread the word about the virtual event and encourage friends to sign up by utilizing the www.earthdayvirtualmarch.org site. An individualized map shows the ripple effect of each person’s efforts as his or her activism spreads across the country.

Speaking for the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, President Rodger Schlickeisen explained, "Through this first Earth Day virtual march, conservationists can send a message to the White House and the Congress that oil drilling in America's greatest wildlife sanctuary is not the way to prepare for America’s energy future. It’s time for the President, Senators and Representatives to stop listening to oil interests, and instead build a wildlife conservation legacy for our children and grandchildren."

Care2 is an online destination and action center for people with a passion for a healthy, responsible lifestyle and supporting progressive causes. Along with its own 4 million members, Care2 is building a powerful network of online communities to collectively make a difference in the most important social, health and environmental causes of our time.

The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund is a non-profit organization that provides the wildlife conservation community with a voice in the legislative and political process and educates the public about the legislative records of members of Congress through its Conservation Report Card.

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Thousands of Volunteers Drawn to Great Pennsylvania Cleanup

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania, April 7, 2005 (ENS) - All Pennsylvanians are encouraged to register Earth Day cleanups they are organizing with the state or join existing events as part of the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup on Saturday, April 23.

“It’s not too late to join the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup,” said Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen McGinty. “No matter what your interest is, there’s a place for you in this statewide spring cleaning. Clean up your favorite stream, park, school or highway. If you are tired of looking at a trash-strewn, vacant lot near your neighborhood, get together with your neighbors and pick it up.”

This statewide effort to remove litter and trash from the state’s roadways, parks, forests, riverbanks, neighborhoods and open spaces is being supported and sponsored by a wide range of businesses, trade organizations, civic and environmental groups, as well as local and state government agencies, including the departments of Environmental Protection (DEP), Transportation (PennDOT), and Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).

Last year, during the first year of the Great Pennsylvania Cleanup, more than 182,000 Pennsylvanians took part in more than 5,100 organized cleanup projects, removing more than 233,000 garbage bags from Pennsylvania’s communities.

“The response thus far has been fantastic, with almost 300 Great Pennsylvania Cleanup groups registered and attendance estimated at almost 23,000 people,” McGinty said. “These cleanups, coupled with the thousands of people who registered with PennDOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program, promise to make the second annual Great Pennsylvania Cleanup even bigger than last year’s.”

This year, the Commonwealth is making a special invitation to sportsmen and sportswomen to join the cleanup, since litter prevention and cleanup play such an important part in the enjoyment of fishing and other outdoor sports.

Those sports in turn play a pivotal role in Pennsylvania’s economy. Recreational fishing alone contributes more than $2 billion annually to the state’s economy, supporting nearly 15,000 jobs.

DEP has created a website to assist groups and individuals with registration and promotion of local cleanups. The site also contains safety information, links to other cleanup organizations, a logo that can be downloaded, T-shirt iron-on transfers and posters, and lesson plans for teachers.

Visit www.dep.state.pa.us and click on the “Great Pennsylvania Cleanup” logo, or call toll-free 1-888-548-8372.

PennDOT will provide free work gloves, safety vests and trash bags to registered cleanup groups. PennDOT also provides a comprehensive Safety Package to groups interested in roadside cleanups.

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