AmeriScan: March 4, 2002
BILL WOULD INCREASE SOME ENFORCEMENT PENALTIES
WASHINGTON, DC, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - Legislation to strengthen enforcement laws on all public lands under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service, was introduced Friday by Representative Scott McInnis, the Colorado Republican who chairs the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health.
The "Consistent Public Land Laws Enforcement Act of 2002" (HR 3808) would increase penalties for those who "knowingly and willfully" cause damage to federal lands, and create consistent standards across all agencies.
Fines and enforcement powers now vary among the three agencies.
The Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA) hailed the legislation as an important step in deterring irresponsible behavior and vandalism on public lands.
"Some extreme environmentalists have argued that the only way to protect our public lands was to close them to the public," said Larry Smith, executive director of ARRA. "Having consistent and significant penalties for irresponsible behavior or abuse will give our land management professionals a powerful enforcement tool to protect our irreplaceable public lands, as well as encourage responsible use so all Americans can continue to enjoy their natural heritage."
The increased fines would enable federal agencies to recover any costs for restoration work to public lands made necessary by illegal behavior. In addition, collected fines could be used by the agencies for educational activities to encourage responsible use of public lands.
ARRA is devoted to developing solutions to protect public lands and ensure they are accessible to responsible outdoor enthusiasts. ARRA worked with Representative McInnis and his staff to develop legislation that would empower federal agencies to do a better job of maintaining America's public lands and waterways without resorting to draconian measures such as land closures.
YOUNG ACTIVISTS VISIT CAPITOL HILL
WASHINGTON, DC, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - More than 150 students from across the nation descended on the capital today to demand protection of their natural heritage.
The students were in Washington to lobby their officials on both local and national lands issues ranging from protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to preservation of wild forests.
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC), the student arm of the Sierra Club, held a rally at the Capitol Building to call on all members of Congress to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling, as well as 9.1 million acres in Utah, the Northern Rockies, and all of the national forests.
"These lands are owned by all of us," said Myke Bybee, national director of the Sierra Student Coalition. "It doesn't matter where you live or how old you are. We all have a right to tell our public officials that these unique and beautiful places should be protected for all generations to enjoy."
The students spent the weekend at the SSC's Fourth Annual Public Lands Action Summit learning about the issues and people that surround public lands in Alaska, Utah, the Northern Rockies, national forests and local issues ranging from tribal land in Arizona to public lands in Puerto Rico.
Primary among the many issues these students discussed on Capitol Hill was protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. President Bush has pushed heavily in recent weeks to open up the refuge for oil drilling.
The U.S. Senate is now reviewing two versions of energy legislation - one of which would open up a portion of the refuge to drilling. The SSC, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups are concerned that some Senators will try to attach amendments to any energy bill that would allow for drilling.
The House passed an energy bill last summer with provisions for Arctic drilling.
"Drilling the Arctic will not solve any of our energy problems but will destroy an irreplaceable natural treasure" said Bybee. "We are in DC today to call on our Senators and Representatives to support protection for the Arctic Refuge and the other public lands endangered by energy development. These lands represent the last wild, unspoiled places in America. They're our lands, not oil lands."
Along with the energy bill, the students are lobbying for the National Forest Protection and Restoration Act, America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, the Northern Rockies Ecosystems Protection Act, as well as defending the National Forest Roadless Initiative.
NEW COMMITTEE EXPLORES KLAMATH BASIN ISSUES
WASHINGTON, DC, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - The Bush administration has established a Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group to negotiate the economic and legal issues surrounding water use in the Klamath Basin.
"A prolonged drought and complex federal and state legal issues have made for difficult times in the Klamath River Basin," said President George W. Bush in a statement announcing the formation of the new committee.
Bush said the working group will "address concerns raised by farmers, ranchers, fishermen, tribes, and others affected by these difficult conditions," and explore what immediate and long term actions may be needed "to enhance water quality and quantity, and to address the other complex economic and natural resource issues in the Klamath River Basin."
The 2001 drought in the Klamath River Basin in Oregon and California forced federal managers to make a choice between delivering irrigation water to local farmers and maintaining in stream levels needed to sustain threatened threatened and endangered fish populations in the Klamath River Basin.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation slashed the water available to farmers, forcing many to abandon crops and sell livestock.
But an interim report by the National Academy of Sciences released in February concluded that federal biologists did not have enough evidence to justify diverting the irrigation water to aid fish.
The new Klamath River Basin Federal Working Group will be chaired by Interior Secretary Gale Norton. The Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, and the chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, or their official designees will also serve on the committee.
Norton will invite the participation of other federal officials "as appropriate," Bush said. The Working Group will seek input from stakeholders, including members of the farming and fishing communities; residents of the Basin; representatives of conservation, environmental and water use organizations; the states of Oregon and California; local governments; and representatives of Klamath River Basin Tribal governments.
LAWSUIT SEEKS RESTRICTIONS ON LOGGING IN SALMON HABITAT
PORTLAND, Oregon, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - A lawsuit from Oregon's fishing and environmental communities seeks to stop certain logging practices on industrial timberlands that harm coho salmon in Oregon's North Coast region.
"The state routinely authorizes industrial logging that harms coho salmon, in violation of the Endangered Species Act," said Patti Goldman, attorney with law firm Earthjustice. "All my clients want is for the state to stop handing out permits for the same kind of logging that helped bring these fish to the brink of extinction."
Earthjustice filed the complaint on behalf of Pacific Rivers Council, Audubon Society of Portland, Coast Range Association, Native Fish Society and Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations.
The lawsuit was filed against James Brown in his role as the Oregon state forester. The Department of Forestry (ODF) is responsible for approval of thousands of logging plans every year in Oregon, many of which affect water quality and coho habitat.
"Commercial coho salmon fishing in Oregon is decimated. We refuse to stand idly by and watch while state officials authorize destructive industrial logging in watershed after watershed," said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations, the largest organization of commercial fishing families on the west coast. "The Department should be protecting Oregon's irreplaceable salmon runs, not supervising their destruction."
The lawsuit targets three specific categories of logging practices on industrial timberlands:
The groups are asking the court to stop the state forester from authorizing these practices.
After catastrophic landslides in 1996 that killed five people, ODF foresters began prohibiting logging on high risk sites where landslides pose a risk to human life. Yet foresters still approve the same kind of logging on high risk slopes where landslides could bury threatened salmon.
"Clearcutting in unstable headwater areas significantly increases the risk of landslides and the risk of harm to coho downstream," said Mary Scurlock, policy analyst for Pacific Rivers Council, "More landslides plus inadequate riparian protection for small streams is a recipe for coho extinction."
More information on the lawsuit is available at: http://www.pacrivers.org
MARYLAND GROUPS INCREASE EFFORTS TO PROTECT WATERSHED
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - The Maryland land trust community has pledged to increase efforts to protect an additional 1.1 million acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Thirty-one land trusts, representing thousands of Maryland citizens in every Maryland county, signed the commitment. Their pledge was presented to Governor Parris Glendening, state legislators and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources as a call to help by ensuring continued state funding for land preservation initiatives.
Governor Glendening and other regional officials pledged to protect the Chesapeake Bay watershed under the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, which established a goal of protecting 20 percent of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2010 - an additional 1.1 million acres.
"Achieving the commitments of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement will be challenging and will require the combined efforts of farmers, watermen and all of the watershed's residents," said Governor Glendening. "I want to thank the land trust community for making this commitment, and continuing an essential land preservation partnership which protects the quality of life for Maryland's future generations, as well as the health of the Chesapeake Bay."
Through their commitment, the land trusts have pledged to help accomplish this land preservation commitment by securing permanent land and conservation easements for natural resource, forestry, agriculture, wildlife, recreation, historic, cultural or open space use, or to sustain water quality and living resource values. During the 1990s, about 21.5 percent of the land conserved throughout the watershed in Maryland was protected through private initiatives.
"If we are to meet the protection goal set out in Chesapeake 2000, we will have to better our record of the last decade," said Nick Williams of the Maryland Land Trust Alliance, a network of private nonprofit conservation organizations working to preserve and protect farmland, natural resources, wildlife habitat, scenic views, historic sites and open space throughout Maryland.
"Land trusts throughout the state provide expertise, private funding, donations of easements, and countless hours of volunteer work for land-saving transactions in the Bay watershed," added Williams.
Land trusts throughout the state are making specific plans for ways in which to carry out this commitment in their communities. For example, the Eastern Shore Conservancy has committed to double its efforts, which means protecting 50,000 acres between the years 2000 and 2010.
BIOTECH INDUSTRY CHALLENGES MEXICAN MAIZE WARNINGS
TUSKEGEE, Alabama, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - A petition backed by the agricultural biotechnology industry seeks a review of a report claiming that genes from genetically modified corn have spread into native corn races in southern Mexico.
The AgBioWorld Foundation says almost 100 prominent scientists have signed the petition, available online at: http://www.agbioworld.org/jointstatement.asp
The original research, conducted by University of California at Berkeley ecologists and published in the journal "Nature," used sophisticated techniques that the petition signers say are prone to error. Three groups of university based scientists have examined the research data and found it to be erroneous, AgBioWorld says.
Each group has submitted formal letters to "Nature" questioning the study's validity. The editors of the journal "Transgenic Research" also examined the data and have determined it to be "fundamentally flawed."
AgBioWorld acknowledges that gene flow from bioengineered corn "is most likely occurring at some frequency and will certainly be demonstrated and accurately characterized through further studies."
"However, if indeed gene flow is demonstrated, there is no reason to believe that it will threaten the diversity or vitality of Mexican landraces, and labeling gene flow as 'contamination,' as activists have done, is a misnomer and is a deliberate attempt to provide an emotional tone to a benign natural phenomenon," the group said in a statement.
Conservation groups have warned that contamination of native corn varieties with genes from engineered crops could reduce the genetic diversity of the world's maize crops.
"The world is at risk of losing unique diversity of maize to genetic pollution. Mexico is the steward of the global maize diversity. It is Mexico's responsibility to take all necessary measures to protect this crop," said Raul Benet, executive director of Greenpeace Mexico. "This diversity ensures global food security now and in the future."
But AgBioWorld says native Mexican maize varieties have always been crossed with modern maize varieties.
"Far from being a threat to biodiversity, as has been claimed by activists and the flawed study authors, it instead promotes diversity by allowing for the development of additional new varieties," the group says. "Furthermore, there is no reason to believe that transgenic hybrids would affect biodiversity more than any other hybrid."
"If anything, gene flow would aid diversity by increasing variation," said C.S. Prakash, Tuskegee University plant genetics professor and president of the AgBioWorld Foundation.
BLACK LEGISLATORS MORE LIKELY TO VOTE PRO-ENVIRONMENT
ANN ARBOR, Michigan, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - Black legislators play an important role in shaping the fate of national environmental policy, suggests to a University of Michigan study that examines the long term trends in the environmental voting behavior of the House of Representatives.
"For the entire period between 1981 and 1998 the environmental voting scores of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have been consistently higher than either White Democrats or Republicans in the House of Representatives," said Paul Mohai, associate professor at the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment.
The study by Mohai and former U-M graduate student David Kershner appears in the March issue of "Social Science Quarterly." Their research examines environmental voting trends between 1981 and 1998 and provides the first systematic analyses of hypotheses that try to explain racial differences in the voting behavior of the House of Representatives.
Sources of data in the study include environmental voting scores from the League of Conservation Voters, reported in the Leagues' National Environmental Scorecard, and data from the American Conservative Union and U.S. Census Bureau.
In addition to challenging the myth that Black Americans care less about the environment than Whites, the study suggests that the role of Black legislators as shapers of environmental policy will only increase as they gain seniority and additional seats in Congress. The number of Blacks in the House has more than doubled since the early 1980s, from 18 in 1981 to 39 in 1999.
An earlier study by Mohai found that contrary to conventional wisdom, Black Americans are just as concerned, and often more concerned about environmental issues than their White counterparts. The present study places the focus on the influence of Black members of Congress on environmental policy.
Gaps in pro-environmental voting between southern CBC members and their White Democratic colleagues were found to be particularly large. For example, during the 105th Congress, the pro-environmental voting scores for southern CBC members averaged 69 percent compared to just 48 percent for White southern Democratic members.
"Perhaps the environmental conditions in Black districts in the South are especially bad," suggested Mohai. "A lot of the major environmental justice controversies have originated in the South. Or southern CBC members may identify more with issues of CBC members outside the South than they do with issues of their southern White Democratic colleagues. Solidarity between CBC members overall may pull up the southern score."
Pro-environmental voting scores for CBC members outside the south averaged 82 percent compared to 78 percent for White Democratic colleagues during the 105th Congress.
WASHINGTON STATE BANS SUSPECT HERBICIDE
OLYMPIA, Washington, March 4, 2002 (ENS) - The Washington Department of Agriculture has banned the use of the herbicide clopyralid on lawns.
The purpose of the ban, which took effect Friday, is to keep the long lasting herbicide from contaminating compost. The ban is in effect for 120 days. At the end of the four months, the department plans to make the ban permanent and will consider additional restrictions on the use of the herbicide.
"This ban is meant to keep clippings from grass that has been treated with clopyralid from being sent to municipal and commercial compost facilities," said Cliff Weed, manager of the Pesticide Compliance Program for the Department of Agriculture. "We focused on grass clippings because they are the major source of contaminated materials."
Clopyralid kills broadleaf weeds such as dandelions, clover and thistles and has been registered for use in Washington state since the late 1980s. Evidence has been growing that when clopyralid tainted compost is used to enrich soils, it can harm certain flowers, such as asters and sunflowers. Damage also has been found with vegetables, such as beans, peas and tomatoes.
The new restrictions make products containing clopyralid "state restricted use" pesticides when labeled for use on lawns and turf, including golf courses. This means they can be sold only by licensed dealers and bought only by licensed pesticide applicators.
Pesticide dealers and applicators licensed by the state Department of Agriculture are being notified of the new restrictions.
Clopyralid products will still be able to be used on golf courses if no grass clippings, leaves or other vegetation are removed from the site and sent to composting facilities that provide product to the public.
"These restrictions are our first step in resolving compost contamination issues," Weed said. "We'll continue to work on the issue with our stakeholders and advisory committee."
For the past four months, Weed has led an advisory committee on clopyralid involving the agricultural community, composters and government regulators.
Information on clopyralid in compost is available at: http://www.wa.gov/agr/clopyralid.htm
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