AmeriScan: August 3, 2007

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Senate Cap and Trade Climate Bill Floated for Comment

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - Senators Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, and John Warner, a Virginia Republican, Thursday unveiled a detailed proposal for the climate bill that they will introduce this fall, America's Climate Security Act.

Lieberman and Warner, who are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Subcommittee on Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection, requested comment on the proposal from Senate colleagues and all interested stakeholders.

"The ball is really rolling now," said Lieberman. "We have the bipartisan momentum to ensure that, this fall, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will report a strong, mandatory climate bill to the full Senate for the first time in U.S. history."

"In my 28 years in the Senate, I have focused above all on issues of national security, and I see the problem of global climate change as fitting squarely within that focus," said Warner. "In hearings before the Environment and Public Works Committee, and in meetings with the private sector, I have come to appreciate the challenges our nation faces in addressing this complex issue.

The senators propose a mandatory, market-based cap-and-trade program that would cover 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and that would reduce those emissions to current levels by 2012, to 10 percent below current levels by 2020, and to 70 percent below current levels by 2050.

The document describes measures to sustain U.S. economic growth, protect American jobs, and ensure international participation in emissions reductions.

The comments immediately began to fly.

"Climate change will have profound, landscape-level effects on fish, wildlife and the lands and waters they depend on for survival. The proposal advanced by Senators Lieberman and Warner to dedicate a portion of funds to fish and wildlife conservation will enhance our ability to take proactive conservation action, with benefits for fish, wildlife, and people," said Ed Parker, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and chief of the Bureau of Natural Resources for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection.

Friends of the Earth Domestic Programs Director Erich Pica said the bill falls short of solving the climate change problem.

"The Lieberman-Warner legislation is just one more proposal that won't get the job done on global warming," Pica said.

The U.S. has generated a large proportion of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, and we owe it to the planet to take the lead in fighting global warming," she said.

"We have to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, and probably more, but this legislation proposes just a 70 percent decrease - and most of its decrease comes in the distant future, even though major reductions are needed now," Pica said.

The legislation violates the polluter pays principle by distributing many emissions permits for free, and Friends of the Earth would like to see "corporate polluters pay for all of their global warming emissions and reinvest that money into renewable energy, energy efficiency improvements, and mitigation strategies for impacted communities around the world."

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Toys Made in China Recalled for Lead Paint Hazard

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - The Elmo Light Up Musical Pal is being recalled for toxic levels of lead paint, and its not the only toy that may be hazardous to childrens' health. The Sesame Street Birthday Figure Pack, Dora figures and dozens more popular toys made in China are also being recalled.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with toy giant Fisher-Price Inc., Thursday announced the voluntary recall. About 967,000 individual toys are affected.

The Commission says consumers should stop using recalled products immediately.

Surface paints on the toys could contain excessive levels of lead. No injuries have been reported to date, but lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause adverse health effects.

The recall extends to figures and toys that were manufactured between April 19, 2007 and July 6, 2007 and were sold alone or as part of sets in retail stores nationwide from May through August 2007 for between $5 and $40.

The model names and product numbers for the recalled toys, which are all marked with "Fisher-Price," are listed at:

The toys may have a date code between 109-7LF and 187-7LF marked on the product or packaging.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Fisher-Price. Consumers will need to return the product and will receive a voucher for a replacement toy of the consumer's choice up to the value of the returned product.

Contact Fisher-Price at 800-916-4498 anytime or visit

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EPA Speeds Up Environmental Chemical Testing

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - Through a combination of modern robotics, data processing and control software, liquid handling devices, and sensitive detectors, a researcher can now quickly conduct thousands of biochemical, genetic or pharmacological tests called high throughput screening bioassays.

Thursday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, announced that it will speed up toxicity testing of chemicals with high throughput screening in the agency's new ToxCast™ program.

The EPA's National Center for Computational Toxicology released a list of 340 chemicals that will be evaluated under Phase I of the ToxCast research program.

This three-phase program sets priorities for toxicity testing of environmental chemicals to more efficiently obtain critical information necessary to protect people and the environment.

"When complete, the ToxCast Program will allow EPA to test thousands of environmental chemicals quickly for harmful effects," said Dr. George Gray, assistant administrator for the agency's Office of Research and Development.

"EPA will enter a new era of environmental chemical testing, which will allow the agency to better protect human health and the environment," Gray said.

Under Phase I of ToxCast, the chemicals will be examined in hundreds of different rapid computer tests - the high throughput screening bioassays.

Phase I will be used to create chemical signatures of compounds. These chemical signatures will then be compared to known toxicity data in this proof-of-concept phase. It is expected that patterns will emerge that are predictive of compounds that could cause harm to people and the environment.

Results of Phase I are expected in 2008, and will be posted on the ToxCast Web site.

Phase II will involve a larger, more diverse set of chemicals to test the predictability of patterns identified in Phase I.

In Phase III, ToxCast will expand the list to thousands of environmental chemicals, delivering an affordable, science based system for decisionmakers.

In May 2007, the National Academy of Sciences released a report calling on the EPA and other federal scientific agencies to use advances in computers, genomics and cellular biology to speed up toxicity testing. The ToxCast Program which began in 2006, implements many of the report's recommendations.

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Conservationists Sue to Recover Endangered American Jaguar

PHOENIX, Arizona, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - The Center for Biological Diversity filed suit in federal district court in Phoenix Thursday to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for endangered jaguars in the United States.

"Jaguars are powerful but shy," said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They are retiring, elusive animals with exquisite camouflage for hiding in dappled sunlight or foliage. After more than a century of persecution, a few still survive in southern Arizona and New Mexico."

Recovery plans and critical habitat are required by the Endangered Species Act once a species is determined by the government to be endangered.

Robinson said, "Without a recovery plan and protected habitat, American jaguars just don't stand a chance."

The scientific community supports recovery planning and critical habitat. On June 10, 2007, almost 600 biologists from around the nation, members of the American Society of Mammalogists, unanimously approved a resolution calling for a recovery plan and critical habitat designation for jaguars in the United States.

The mammalogists noted that "habitats for jaguars in the United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, are vital to the long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change."

Jaguars evolved in North America and still survive in a tiny corner of the Southwest. The jaguar is the largest cat native to the New World, and the third-largest cat globally.

Since the 1990s, only four jaguars have been photographed in southern Arizona and New Mexico. Jaguars have been seen but not photographed further north in the Gila National Forest of New Mexico, including one daylight observation by two biology professors from New Mexico's Highlands University.

A recent report in the scientific journal "Wild Cat News" suggests that the long tenure of two confirmed male jaguars indicates the presence of one or more mates for these animals, female jaguars that as yet remain undetected.

The last confirmed female jaguar in the United States was killed in Arizona's Apache National Forest in 1963.

The Fish and Wildlife Service listed the jaguar as endangered under the predecessor law to the 1973 Endangered Species Act, but through what the agency termed an "oversight" failed to place the jaguar in the United States on the modern endangered species list, Robinson says.

In 1979, the agency pledged to "take action as quickly as possible" to list the jaguar, but did nothing.

In 1992, Dr. Anthony Povilitis petitioned the federal agency to place the jaguar on the endangered species list. But it was not until July 22, 1997, in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking action on that petition, that the jaguar was finally listed as an endangered species.

In 1997 the Fish and Wildlife Service said it would not designate critical habitat, and no recovery planning is underway.

With the help of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Arizona-led Jaguar Conservation Team identified and mapped more than 62 million acres of potentially suitable jaguar habitat in New Mexico and Arizona. But neither the team nor anyone else has protected any jaguar habitat anywhere.

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Groups Plead for Black-tailed Prairie Dog Protection

DENVER, Colorado, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - Forest Guardians and three partner conservation groups have formally petitioned Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne for federal protection of the black-tailed prairie dog under the Endangered Species Act.

The request, submitted Wednesday, follows a February lawsuit filed by the groups challenging the 2004 determination by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the species does not warrant Endangered Species Act protection.

The petition documents flaws in the Service's 2004 decision and shows that threats to the black-tailed prairie dog have increased.

The other petitioning groups are the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Center for Native Ecosystems, and Rocky Mountain Animal Defense.

Earlier this month, the Service promised to reconsider federal protection for two other species of prairie dogs, the Gunnison's prairie dog in the Four Corners area, and the white-tailed prairie dog in the Northern Rockies.

For both of these species, there is evidence that Julie MacDonald, a high-level Interior official who resigned amidst scandal in May, meddled with petition determinations.

Political interference in prairie dog protection decisions is of special concern given the dramatic decline of these animals, their important ecological roles, and intense hostility toward prairie dogs from ranchers and developers.

"The black-tailed prairie dog is caught in a death spiral – it is under increased assault, despite remaining in only 1-2 percent of its historic area," said Dr. Lauren McCain, director of Forest Guardians' Deserts and Grassland Program. "This species desperately requires the safety net the Endangered Species Act provides."

The petition reports increased threats from poisoning and habitat destruction, as well as continued threats from shooting, plague, and the failure of government agencies to protect the black-tailed prairie dog.

Those who wish to eradicate prairie dogs as pests say they create towns which can cover thousands of miles and include several million animals. One website that sells toxicants to eradicate prairie dogs says, "At this time prairie dogs are ever increasing and with this population increase they are coming in conflict with man more and more."

Ranchers say they deplete local vegetation needed by livestock. Prarie dog burrows lend to rapid soil erosion, they point out. Burrow holes can trip and injure animals or damage farm equipment.

Prarie dogs have been found to carry many types of bacteria including plague. Abandoned burrows become homes to rattlesnakes and poisonous insects, they claim.

But conservationists say the prairie dogs are not increasing, they are being systematically wiped out. Since the Service's 2004 decision not to protect the species, South Dakota has executed a state-wide poisoning plan and pressured the U.S. Forest Service to poison prairie dogs on federal land.

Colorado recently approved use of the Rodenator - a device that blows up prairie dogs in their burrows, along with other wildlife that might be in the burrow such as burrowing owls, and rabbits.

Prairie dogs are commonly poisoned with zinc phosphide, which causes an agonizing death by internal hemorrhaging over three days, says McCain.

"We are losing what's left of these crown jewels – the last few remaining large black-tailed prairie dog complexes," said Dr. Rich Reading, associate research professor of biology at the University of Denver. "If we lose prairie dog complexes we lose wildlife biodiversity. The endangered black-footed ferret, for example, will go extinct without large concentrations of prairie dogs."

The Service acknowledges that this species is gone from 98 percent of its historic area but has refused to protect the species, arguing that more acres of occupied habitat exist than previously thought.

"The prairie dog is what's known as a keystone species," said Dr. Reading. "When prairie dogs disappear, with them go the hawks, owls, foxes, ferrets, songbirds, and other animals that depend on them. Many of these animals are already imperiled. Protecting the black-tailed prairie dog will help restore the natural balance."

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Federal Court Ruling on Dolphin-safe Tuna Will Stand

SAN FRANCISCO, California, August 3, 2007 (ENS) - The Bush administration will not go to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals order prohibiting the weakening of the Dolphin-Safe tuna label.

The deadline for a Supreme Court appeal has passed, said Earth Island Institute's International Marine Mammal Project, IMMP, which has been advocating and litigating on behalf of dolphin-safe tuna for years.

"At long last the Dolphin Safe label for tuna is safe from the Bush administration's legal attack," said IMMP director David Phillips.

"After six years of litigation, the administration has realized it must follow the law and cease efforts to allow dolphin-deadly tuna from Mexico onto U.S. supermarket shelves."

On April 27, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a unanimous judgment against the Bush administration. The panel ruled that the Commerce Department based its efforts to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna standards on political issues, not science.

In the tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and Central America, large yellowfin tuna swim together with several species of dolphins. This association of tuna and dolphins is not clearly understood, but it has had two consequences - it has formed the basis of a successful tuna fishery, and it has resulted in the deaths of a large number of dolphins. This is the heart of the tuna-dolphin issue.

Earth Island and its environmental allies have been litigating the issue of protecting dolphins from the tuna fleets for more than 18 years.

U.S. District court Judge Thelton Henderson has issued two major rulings on the Dolphin Safe label, including this statement, noted in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

"This court has never, in its 24 years, reviewed a record of an agency action that contained such a compelling portrait of political meddling," wrote Judge Henderson.

"This portrait is chronicled in documents which show that both Mexico and the United State Department of State ... engaged in a persistent effort to influence both the process and the ultimate finding, and that the high ranking officials (sic) in the Department of Commerce were willing to heed these influences notwithstanding the scientific evidence to the contrary."

Organizations suing the Bush administration to protect dolphins include Earth Island Institute, biologist Samuel LaBudde, The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Defenders of Wildlife, the International Wildlife Coalition, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, the Animal Fund, and the Oceanic Society.

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Legal Live Animal Imports Place Americans at Risk

WASHINGTON, DC, August 3, 2007 (ENS) – Burmese pythons imported as pets and released into the Florida Everglades are preying on U.S. native species. Gambian giant rats, imported from Africa in 2003, brought the highly contagious monkeypox virus. Pet birds carry Exotic Newcastle disease, which could devastate the poultry industry.

The most detailed analysis ever done of the legal trade in live animals, released Wednesday by Defenders of Wildlife, shows that nearly one in seven non-native animal species legally imported pose a potential risk to native wildlife, human health or domestic animals, and some species could pose multiple risks.

The group discovered that the federal agencies charged with overseeing live animal imports are failing to take simple, inexpensive steps that could reduce these risks.

"Broken Screens: The Regulation of Live Animal Imports in the United States," details the proactive steps that these federal agencies "could and should take to reduce our risk," said the nonprofit group.

"The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of live, wild animals," said author Peter Jenkins, director of international conservation at Defenders of Wildlife. "Yet none of the agencies responsible for overseeing this trade conduct comprehensive risk screening of non-native species before they are allowed into the country."

Jenkins says the information needed to conduct preliminary screening is readily available, requiring minimal labor and financial investment to identify potentially harmful species.

After reviewing 2,241 non-native animal species intentionally and legally imported between 2000 and 2004, the investigators conclude that at least 302 of those species could cause environmental disruption, economic harm or threats to human and animal health.

"The species that we identified as potentially risky have already come to the attention of scientists or regulators in the United States and around the world as known or potential invaders or as carriers of disease," said Jenkins. "Yet our current regulatory system fails to address the vast majority of those 302 species."

A number of legally imported animals are already wreaking havoc on U.S. ecosystems, and efforts to control these species costs the United States tens of millions of dollars every year, the report notes.

"In the wake of the 2003 outbreak of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome], monkeypox, West Nile virus and concerns over avian influenza, it is unacceptable that the United States still has not put in place a more comprehensive system that reduces the risks of these and comparable new diseases entering our country," said Dr. Katherine Smith, a research fellow with the Consortium for Conservation Medicine.

Broken Screens makes 11 recommendations to the government agencies responsible for monitoring and regulating the international live animal trade - the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Later this year, Defenders of Wildlife will convene a meeting of stakeholders in the live animal trade, including the pet industry, regulatory agencies and public health experts, to begin exploring solutions to these problems.

To read the full report, visit

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.