AmeriScan: June 20, 2006

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Senate Reauthorizes Fishery Conservation and Management Act

WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - The Senate has voted unanimously to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which governs fishery management activities within the 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. Piloted through the Senate by Senators Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat, Monday's vote reauthorizes the law through 2012.

The bill maintains current protections and advances conservation incentives, including limited access privilege programs (LAPPs), that allocate shares of the annual catch to individual fishermen. They can buy and sell these shares with other fishermen.

Upon its passage, Senator Ted Stevens said, “The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the most successful federal-state management program ever devised. The reauthorization passed today builds upon 30 years of success. I am particularly pleased we were able to incorporate many of the practices employed by our North Pacific Regional Council, which have served our Alaska fisheries well.”

The bill passed today implements some of the council’s “best practices” nationwide, said Stevens.

The measure strengthens the role of science in fishery management plans and decisions by enabling greater collaboration between the councils and their scientific and statistical committees, improving data collection and management, and requiring fishery management plans to set annual catch limits at or below the optimum yield.

The bill also strengthens management in international waters, particularly on the high seas. To help prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, the bill strengthens U.S. leadership in international conservation and management.

It directs the secretary of commerce to establish an international compliance and monitoring program and allows the use of measures authorized under the High Seas Driftnet Act to force compliance in cases where regional or international fishery organizations are unable to stop IUU fishing.

Environmental groups were supportive of the reauthorization.

"Environmental Defense commends the Senate for working actively with fishermen and the conservation community to design a bill that improves fishery management," said Environmental Defense Oceans Program Director David Festa. "This bill will help lead to economically viable fishing communities, better recreational opportunities and supplies of fresh seafood."

The bill maintains current protections that help curb overfishing and restore fish stocks, and integrates the National Environmental Policy Act with Magnuson-Stevens in a manner that maintains public participation and allows consideration of alternative proposals.

It establishes fishery catch limits – a maximum number of fish allowed to be caught within a certain timeframe, with a system of accountability, a key tool in maintaining and restoring healthy fish populations and improves recreational fisheries data to better inform decisionmaking.

The measure creates a fund for improving investment in fisheries conservation and management.

"Now that the Senate has unanimously passed a good bill, it's time for leaders in the House to grab the helm and work together as the Senate did to navigate us to an improved and broadly-supported House bill - one that maintains current protections and provides conservation and economic tools that offer incentives to protect our fisheries," said Leland.

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Argentine Company Penalized $335,000 for Chilean Sea Bass Trafficking

BOSTON, Massachusetts, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - Estremar S.A., an Argentine company, Thursday pleaded guilty to violating federal anti-fish and wildlife trafficking law by importing and attempting to sell Patagonian toothfish, often marketed by the trade name Chilean seabass, without the documentation required to show it was legally harvested.

Estremar, formerly known as ASC South America S.A., admitted that in March 2002, it knowingly imported into the United States and attempted to sell over 30,000 pounds of Patagonian toothfish.

The company admitted that it reasonably should have known that the toothfish had been harvested and transported in violation of federal law because the amount imported was in excess of the amount it could legally import with the documentation accompanying the shipment.

The guilty plea was entered to charges under the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in fish and wildlife that has been taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of a state, federal or foreign underlying law.

After accepting the plea, U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Collings immediately sentenced Estremar to the terms of its plea agreement with the United States.

The plea agreement requires Estremar to pay a fine of $75,000, which it has already paid, and to make a community service donation of $10,000 to a nonprofit organization working on toothfish conservation within the next 30 days.

In addition, as part of a proposed civil action, Estremar will forfeit assets of $250,000, including more than $158,000 that represents the value of unlawfully imported toothfish seized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Fisheries Enforcement in the Boston area during the investigation of this case.

Patagonian toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides, and Antarctic toothfish, Dissostichus mawsonii, marketed worldwide as Chilean seabass, are slow growing, deep sea species of fish found throughout large areas of the sub-Antarctic oceans. They can live about 40 years and breed relatively late in life.

The smaller Antarctic toothfish is found only in very southern latitudes and alongside the Antarctica icepack.

Both species have been the subject of international conservation efforts in the face of increased fishing pressure from both legal and pirate fishing.

The harvest and trade of Chilean seabass is regulated under the international Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, implemented in the United States through the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act.

The investigation of this case was lead by Special Agents of the NOAA, Fisheries Enforcement. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts and the Environmental Crimes Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Home Depot to Upgrade Nationwide Hazmat Practices After Connecticut Deal

HARTFORD, Connecticut, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has reached a $425,000 settlement with Home Depot for numerous violations of environmental regulations at its stores in the state. The retailer also has agreed to make improvements in its environmental practices in Connecticut and its stores across the nation.

The violations found at 13 Home Depot stores in Connecticut involved the improper display, handling and disposal of products, such as pesticides and fertilizers, that contain hazardous materials. Home Depot was also cited on a statewide basis for failing to comply with the state’s hazardous waste, pesticide and stormwater management programs.

Under terms of a consent order signed with DEP, Home Depot will pay a civil penalty of $99,000 and pay $326,000 to an agency fund for special environmental programs.

Under the settlement, Home Depot is putting Environmental Management Systems in place that improve outdoor display and storage of chemicals and pesticides, fertilizers, swimming pool additives, bags of concrete, deicing materials and pressure treated wood.

The changes are designed to prevent spills and breakage that result in hazardous materials being caught up in stormwater runoff.

The retailer will improve indoor displays to prevent shopping carts and hand trucks from breaking open packages of products that contain hazardous materials. New procedures, such as patches for broken bags, will be implemented to prevent the unnecessary dispersal of products.

Staff training on proper handling and disposal of hazmat products will be increased and store design will change to allow environmentally safe management of hazardous materials.

Governor M. Jodi Rell said, "This agreement serves as a national model and demonstrates that retailers of all sizes can operate profitably in our state while respecting our environment."

DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy said, "The positive aspects to this settlement are that Home Depot is changing its ways – not only here in Connecticut, but around the nation. It is also bringing real change to practices at other major retailers."

The world's largest home improvement retailer, Home Depot operates more than 1,500 stores across North America.

Curt Johnson, senior attorney, Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said, "This action, is a shot across the bow for all major retailers in the state. Torn bags of pesticides and fertilizers unnecessarily expose our children to dangerous chemicals. And when left exposed to the torrential rains we have experienced this spring, the exposed chemicals end up polluting our rivers, streams and lakes."

The settlement stems from violations cited at Home Depot stores in North Haven, Berlin, Norwalk, Fairfield, Southington, Danbury, West Hartford, Enfield, New Hartford, Lisbon, Derby, Middletown and Waterbury.

Some of the violations date back to inspections conducted during 2001. Negotiations on the consent order signed by Home Depot and DEP started in 2004. The consent order covers noncompliance with Connecticut’s hazardous waste and pesticide management programs as well as the stormwater management program.

In a previous enforcement action against a major national retailer, DEP, with assistance from the office of the Attorney General, reached a $1.15 million settlement with Wal-Mart covering stormwater and other environmental violations at 23 stores in the state.

State stormwater regulations enforced by DEP are designed to prevent chemicals, sediments, oils and metals from being picked up by rain or snow because they are then carried into rivers, streams and into Long Island Sound through storm drain systems.

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Managing Nebraska's Platte River for Endangered Species

LAKEWOOD, Colorado, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - Four federally listed endangered and threatened species that use the Platte River in Nebraska can be protected while allowing on-going water uses in the Platte River basin to continue, two federal agencies have concluded after 12 years of negotiations with states and stakeholders.

The endangered whooping crane, pallid sturgeon, and interior least tern, and the threatened piping plover are expected to benefit from water use management in the Platte River basin upstream from the Loup River confluence in Nebraska.

In 1997, the governors of Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and the secretary of the interior signed a cooperative agreement to jointly pursue a basin-wide effort to improve and maintain Platte River habitats for the four target species.

The cooperative agreement established a Governance Committee with representatives from the three states, water users, environmental groups, and two federal agencies - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The Committee's task was to formulate a detailed program to improve and maintain habitats for the four species, and to provide compliance with the Endangered Species Act for existing and future water uses in each state.

The Governance Committee has proposed a program to improve habitat conditions along the Platte River from Lexington to Chapman, Nebraska for the three bird speciessdr. This would be accomplished by reducing shortages to the Service's recommended target flows in the central Platte River for the species by roughly 130,000 to 150,000 acre-feet on an average annual basis, by retiming of river flows to improve habitat conditions in the spring, summer, and early fall.

The Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed the program developed by the Governance Committee prepared a biological opinion outlining the expected impacts for the first 13 years of the program. The Service concluded that the proposed program would not likely jeopardize the long-term survival of the species. The Environmental Impact Statement upon which the Service's biological opinion is based was issued on May 26.

"This has been an extremely complex issue, and the biological opinion is a result of 12 years of discussions beginning in 1994 between the federal government, the states, and represented stakeholders," said Mitch King, the Service's director of the Mountain-Prairie Region. "We believe such a program is the most efficient and equitable way to protect the species while allowing hundreds of water projects in the basin to continue in compliance with the Endangered Species Act."

For the program to be implemented, the secretary of the interior and the governors of the three states must sign a program implementing agreement. The state legislatures and the U.S. Congress will make decisions on funding the program.

During the first phase of the program, costs are estimated at $157 from the federal government, $20 million from the state of Colorado, $6 million from the state of Wyoming.

Nebraska will contribute the Cottonwood Ranch habitat area and the Lake McConaughy Environmental Account - a block of water set aside in Lake McConaughy to supplement flows in the Platte River.

Most of the Program funds go toward leasing or purchase of 10,000 acres of land in the Central Platte Habitat Area from willing sellers, restoration and management of lands, and monitoring and research related to the effects of management on the target species and their habitats.

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Florida Governor Enacts $310 Million Purchase of Babcock Ranch

PUNTA GORDA, Florida, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - Governor Jeb Bush Monday signed the Babcock Preservation Act, taking the state a step closer to completing one of the largest conservation purchases in Florida’s history.

The new law provides $310 million to acquire nearly 74,000 acres of the Babcock Ranch property, which spans Lee and Charlotte counties in southwest Florida. The governor was joined at the bill signing by members of the Florida Legislature, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Colleen Castille and community leaders.

Part of the state’s Florida Forever land conservation program, the 74,000 acre acquisition brings to near completion a natural land corridor stretching from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Placing Babcock Ranch into public ownership preserves in perpetuity a vast expanse of wildlife habitat, a valuable water-recharge area and an historic working ranch,” said Governor Bush. “This massive endeavor was made possible because of the unwavering commitment of partners at every level of government and a community united by a desire to expand its economy and protect a truly unique part of Florida’s landscape.”

Inhabited by Florida panthers, black bears and crested caracaras, Babcock Ranch encompasses pine flatwoods and scrubby flatwoods and a freshwater swamp system, Telegraph Swamp.

In partnership with real estate company Kitson and Partners, LLC, the purchase preserves the single largest tract of contiguous conservation lands in the state’s history.

Nearly two years ago, Kitson and Partners, LLC, reached an agreement to purchase the 91,000 acre ranch from the Babcock family and worked with the state to preserve more than 80 percent of the land.

Once the property is purchased, Kitson and its new management company, Babcock Ranch Management, LLC, will manage the ranch to meet its commitment to the Babcock Family to maintain operations of the ranch for 10 years. v As outlined in the Babcock Preservation Act, the state of Florida will establish a not-for-profit agency with nine board members to manage the land and working ranch after Kitson’s management term expires. The not-for-profit will develop a management plan which both preserves and protects the property while allowing increased public access.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will be the lead state agencies responsible for management.

“For more than 80 years, Babcock Ranch has thrived under the stewardship of the Babcock family and their outstanding management team,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners. “I am very proud of the fact that, with the governor’s signing of this important bill today, we are able to honor and extend that legacy by preserving this land for generations to come.”

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Small Nonprofits Served Katrina Survivors With Little Support

WASHINGTON, DC, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - Overwhelmed by the task of providing relief to hundreds of thousands of Hurricane Katrina survivors, national responder groups were unable to cope, leaving small relief agencies to attempt to fill enormous needs.

But these local groups received limited support and coordination from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross, according to a new report on the response to the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.

The report by Tony Pipa, "Weathering the Storm: the Role of Local Nonprofits in the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort," was commissioned by the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program of the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit organization.

"Hundreds of churches and soup kitchens stepped in to fill the service gap created by such a huge catastrophe," said Aspen Institute president and CEO Walter Isaacson, who also serves as vice-chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

"In planning for future disasters we must find a way to better integrate all nonprofits into the response and ensure that they have the resources necessary to serve their communities," he said.

To address the problems related to real-time coordination between nonprofits and local, state, and federal government agencies, the report recommends the formation of a high-level coordinating body that would assist in defining roles and resolving coordination issues.

"Hurricane Katrina showed that there is no central disaster planning and coordination entity that connects the local to the national," said Alan Abramson, director of the Nonprofit Sector and Philanthropy Program of the Aspen Institute. "The coordinating system recommended in this report could provide that link."

Tony Pipa, author of Weathering the Storm: the Role of Local Nonprofits in the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort, is the former executive director of the Warner Foundation and a former executive on loan at the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation. Pipa spent several months interviewing government, nonprofit, and foundation leaders about their experiences during the period immediately following Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005.

With more than one million people left homeless, shelters opened across the Gulf Coast, many under the auspices of a small church or human services provider. But neither the outpouring of charitable support from across the country nor the supplies of the federal government filtered down to these organizations, leaving them vulnerable to closing or reductions in services, the report found.

"With a disaster of this scale, every nonprofit becomes a disaster responder," said Melissa Flournoy, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations. "It's the smaller organizations that are so vital but that also need the most help."

The participation of experienced international relief organizations was helpful. Oxfam America and Mercy Corps successfully applied many of their standard methods. Working in partnership with local intermediary organizations, they channeled funds and resources quickly to local agencies, Pipa found.

Pipa also recommends the creation of a special Congressional designation - to be used during exceptional crises only - that, once invoked, mandates the American Red Cross to contribute five percent of its overall fundraising for that disaster to locally-based agencies.

"Weathering the Storm: the Role of Local Nonprofits in the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort" is online at: http://www.nonprofitresearch.org/katrina

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UPS Green Fleet Hits 100 Million Miles

ATLANTA, Georgia, June 20, 2006 (ENS) - The world's largest package delivery company has a fleet of alternative fuel trucks that has racked up 100 million miles in delivering packages to homes and businesses.

UPS has invested more than $15 million in its alternative fuel fleet, which currently operates hydrogen fuel cell, liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas, electric and propane-powered trucks in the United States, Canada, Mexico, France, Germany and Brazil.

UPS began to use alternative fuel vehicles in the 1930s with electric vehicles in New York. Still, UPS did not begin isolating mileage data for its green fleet until 2000.

UPS also has partnered with government agencies and corporations to help advance the state of vehicle technology, including two such partnerships with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

UPS, the EPA and DaimlerChrysler are working together to obtain practical knowledge about operating hydrogen fuel cell vehicles in a commercial delivery fleet.

In 2004, UPS was the first company in the U.S. to deploy hydrogen fuel cell technology in a commercial fleet. Since then, the vehicles - which emit only water - have driven 34,000 miles making deliveries.

UPS's second partnership with the EPA includes building and testing the world's first hydraulic hybrid urban delivery vehicle. This multi-phase project includes two UPS truck prototypes with different full-series hydraulic hybrid drivetrains.

The company will begin testing the first vehicle later this year and another next year.

UPS also recently announced it will add 50 hybrid electric vehicles to its fleet over the next year. These electric hybrids will feature third-generation technology and are expected to deliver a 35 percent improvement in fuel economy over the vehicles being replaced. In addition, UPS will add 4,100 low emission vehicles in 2006 to the more than 8,000 such vehicles already in its fleet.

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