AmeriScan: March 22, 2002
One Year Deadline Holds for All Species Listings
One Year Deadline Holds for All Species ListingsSAN FRANCISCO, California, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) must decide within a year of receiving a listing petition whether a species warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act.
In a ruling issued Thursday, Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote that the Act gives the USFWS a firm, one year deadline for determining whether a species needs the government's protection.
Under the Act, any "interested person," such as an environmental group, may petition the USFWS to list a species as threatened or endangered. The USFWS must then make an initial finding as to whether the petition "presents substantial scientific or commercial information indicating that the petitioned action may be warranted."
The deadline for this initial finding is 90 days after receipt of the petition, "to the maximum extent practicable." If the initial finding is that listing is warranted, the USFWS has one year from the date the petition was received to make a final determination regarding whether to list the species as threatened or endangered.
The USFWS had argued that the words "to the maximum extent practicable" mean that the agency can delay its initial finding for months or years.
A coalition of conservation groups and individuals sued the USFWS over its delay in listing four species - Spalding's catchfly, California population of the mountain yellow-legged frog, Great Basin redband trout and yellow-billed cuckoo - for which listing petitions had been filed as far back as 1995.
A lower court in Portland, Oregon had ruled that the USFWS has the authority to take longer than 90 days - even longer than 12 months - to make its initial findings. A delay in an initial finding could legally allow the agency to take more than a year to make its final decision whether to list a species, the district court said.
The appeals court reversed that finding, stating that the USFWS is bound by the one year deadline for a final listing determination.
"The current state of the law is that the Service has discretion to extend the initial determination beyond 90 days; however, the Service is required to make a final determination on positive petitions within twelve months of receipt," wrote Judge Rawlinson. "Unfortunately, as a practical matter, if the initial determination has not been completed within twelve months, the final one has not been completed either."
"While the Service asks us to embrace an interpretation of the ESA in which listings could admittedly take years, it is apparent that Congress passed the 1982 amendments for the very purpose of curtailing the process," Rawlinson added.
"If the final determination must be made within twelve months, the only logical conclusion is that the initial one must be made within that time as well," Rawlinson concluded. "We hold that both the initial finding and the final determination must be completed within twelve months of the date the petition is received."
Coalition Wants Toxic Wood Preservatives BannedWASHINGTON, DC, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - Dissatisfied with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) plan to phase out the use of toxic wood preservatives, a coalition of environmental and public health groups has petitioned the agency to stop the use of three toxic preservatives at once.
Last month, the EPA announced an agreement with the wood preserving industry in which, "after December 31, 2003, wood treaters will no longer be able to use chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to treat wood intended for use in decks, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, gazebos, residential fencing, patios, walkways/boardwalks, and play structures. Wood treated prior to this date, however, can still be used in residential settings."
The voluntary phase out does not cover two other toxic wood preservatives - pentachlorophenol (penta) and creosote.
Today, the Washington, DC based group, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said the EPA's plan is "insufficiently protective of human health and the environment," and called for an across the board and immediate ban of CCA, penta and creosote.
According to a 1995 statistical report issued by the American Wood Preserver's Institute, creosote represents more than half of all the wood preservatives used. The report listed annual use of creosote at 825 million pounds, compared to 139 million pounds of CCA and 656 million pounds of penta.
The American Wood Preserver's Institute now estimates that about 124 million gallons (1.1 billion pounds) of creosote is used each year. Coal tar creosote, coal tar and coal tar pitch have been found in at least 59 of the current or former sites on the EPA's Superfund National Priorities List.
In a petition filed in December, Beyond Pesticides called on the EPA to cancel all uses of CCA and penta. Last month, the group added creosote to that list in a second petition.
The coalition says that the EPA has sufficient data on the health and environmental risks of all the substances to initiate cancellation and suspension proceedings for the chemicals.
"The European Union has already banned the use of creosote, and the U.S. is way behind the curve in protecting the public and the environment," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. In its petitions, the groups cite cancer and other health and environmental risks from exposure to wood treated with creosote, CCA or penta.
Beyond Pesticides cites more durable, cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternatives to most treated wood applications, such as recycled plastic, recycled steel and concrete. For example, composite railroad ties made with recycled plastic bottles and other recycled materials have been shown to outlast and outperform wooden ties.
Underwater Chute Makes Longlines Safer for BirdsHONOLULU, Hawaii, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - New technology that keeps fish hooks and bait out of sight of birds promises to protect thousands of seabirds around the Hawaii tuna longline fishery, the National Audubon Society says.
The equipment, called an underwater chute, enables longline fishing vessels to catch tuna and swordfish without killing the thousands of albatross that get caught on baited hooks and drown each year.
First developed in 1995, the underwater setting chute releases baited hooks underwater, out of sight and reach of these diving seabirds. It has been tested in New Zealand, and is now undergoing trials in Australia's tuna longline fisheries. Trials were completed off the coast of Hawaii last week.
"Preliminary analysis of the research data indicates the chute was significantly more effective at avoiding seabird deaths when compared to a control of setting under normal tuna fishing practices," said Eric Gilman, project manager for the trial of the chute and Pacific representative for Audubon's Living Oceans Program.
Snagging on longline fishing hooks is considered one of the worst of all the manmade and natural threats to seabirds. Birds most at risk from death in Hawaii's and other North Pacific longline fisheries are petrels and albatross, including the short tailed, black footed and Laysan albatrosses.
The birds get hooked or entangled when gear is being set and are dragged underwater, and drown as the fishing gear sinks.
In last week's Hawaii trial, about 6.5 percent of baited hooks set without the underwater chute were snagged by seabirds, killing 24 birds. When setting with the chute, seabirds contacted just 0.2 percent of baited hooks set, and no birds were caught or killed.
"The data indicate that the chute is effective at avoiding seabird interactions with longline gear in the Hawaii fleet," said Jim Cook, owner of the fishing vessel Katy Mary and representative of the Hawaii Longline Association. "And, equally important, the longline industry is likely to support use of the chute, as it promises to save fishers money by reducing bait loss, and does not require significant alteration of normal fishing practices."
The underwater chute does not, however, solve the problem of sea turtles, sharks and other species being caught and killed by the tuna longlines.
Clean Air Rules Proposed for Northwestern TribesSEATTLE, Washington, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - Hoping to clarify how federal clean air rules apply to tribal lands, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing new air quality rules for 39 Tribal reservations in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.
Through the Clean Air Act, Congress gave the EPA broad authority to protect air resources throughout the nation, including Indian reservations and other areas of Indian country. After consulting with the Tribes in Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and the state governments, EPA's Region 10 was concerned that a gap existed in air quality requirements in these areas.
The rules EPA is proposing would be an important step in ensuring that basic air quality protection is in place to protect health and welfare on Indian reservations in the Pacific Northwest. The proposed requirements are similar to the types of rules set by state and local air pollution control agencies in the areas surrounding the reservations.
The proposed rules include a program for identifying air pollution sources, procedures to follow during air pollution emergencies, rules for open burning, and some emission limitations for industrial sources. The industrial source rules would regulate particulates, sulfur dioxide, and fugitive emissions.
Once finalized, sources would have to comply with these new requirements upon the effective date of the final rule, and these new requirements would also be rolled into other permits issued by the EPA to larger sources.
The EPA is focusing its efforts on the sources that have been identified as causing or contributing to air quality problems on the reservations and their shared Pacific Northwest airsheds, said Barbara McAllister, EPA's regional air quality office director in Seattle.
"We are proposing these rules to protect the people who live on or near Indian reservations in Washington, Idaho and Oregon," Mcallister said. "They've been prepared in close consultation with many different stakeholders, including the tribal and state governments. We now need to hear from the public on how well we have focused on the problems and whether or not these rules will address them."
A 90 day public comment period on the proposal opened on March 15.
$5.9 Million Helps New York State RecycleALBANY, New York, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - New York state is awarding announced more than $5.9 million to assist 30 communities across the state with local recycling efforts.
The grants are being provided through the 1996 Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act, which authorized a total of $50 million for municipal recycling projects. The grants will pay 50 percent of the eligible municipal recycling cost, up to $2 million per project.
"By working together with local governments to complete important recycling projects, we are helping to improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers," said Governor George Pataki. "This funding will help communities to initiate and expand recycling programs at the local level, helping to preserve our valuable natural resources for generations to come."
The recycling grants will fund a variety of projects, which are subject to final eligibility review and approval.
For example, the town of Friendship in western New York will get $78,648 to buy a new recycling truck and a used truck with a trailer to collect recyclables from town residents and residents of the village of Cuba.
The town of Orchard Park will get $531,500 to develop a yard waste composting facility. The city of Auburn will get $400,000 to for construct a materials recovery facility at the city landfill for collecting and processing recyclables.
Delaware County will get $2 million to construct a co-composting facility to process municipal solid waste, biosolids and whey.
"Recycling has proven to be one of the most effective ways to preserve our natural resources, reducing the amount of solid waste that must be put into landfills," said state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner Erin Crotty. "Governor Pataki has been a leading advocate of waste reduction efforts, and through these grants to municipalities, the state is making it easier for people to recycle."
Pataki's commitment to recycling contradicts New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's budget for the beleaguered city of New York, which would cut all funding for glass, metal and plastic recycling. Bloomberg said the city cannot afford to maintain its recycling program in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, although it will continue the money making process of recycling newspapers.
$1.1 Million Supports Safer New England BeachesBOSTON, Massachusetts, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - New England's five coastal states will share $1.1 million in grants aimed at protecting public health at the region's beaches.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the funds are targeted to improve water quality monitoring at beaches and public notification of beach warnings or closures.
"New England's coastal beaches are unmatched for their beauty, but we also have an obligation to make sure they are safe for swimming," said Robert Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England Office. "These grants will go a long way in helping states to boost their monitoring efforts and warn swimmers when specific beaches have pollution problems. Our longer term goal, of course, is to make all of our beaches - both urban beaches and pristine beaches - always safe for swimming."
Swimming at beaches can pose a health risk if the water is contaminated with disease causing microorganisms, the EPA noted. Typical pollution sources include sewer overflows, malfunctioning septic systems and stormwater runoff.
During last summer's monitoring season, over 153 saltwater beaches in New England were closed at least one day for a total of more than 374 beach days, including more than 100 on Cape Cod alone. These totals do not include data from many municipally managed beaches.
States will use the grants to improve state programs and to fund programs to assist towns and other agencies who manage public beaches. The programs will focus on improving the quality and frequency of water quality testing and ensuring rapid notification of the public when swimming conditions are unsafe.
This year's grants follow last year's first ever grants to states to develop statewide beach monitoring programs. Each of the states received $58,000 last year. This year the grant amounts are based on criteria, including length of beach season, miles of shoreline and population.
The available grants to each state are:
Cleaner Engines Available to BoatersMADISON, Wisconsin, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging boaters to consider environmentally friendly options if they are planning to purchase a new boat or motor this spring.
While new federal emissions standards for marine engines will not kick in until 2006, some boat manufacturers are already switching to cleaner engines. However, inefficient machines are still available, and are often less expensive than more advanced two and four stroke fuel injected motors.
"Even though some lakes and rivers are still frozen over, thousands of boaters are gearing up for another season of boating in Wisconsin," said DNR boating law administrator John Lacenski. "If any of those boaters is in the market for a new motor, we'd simply like to encourage them to give the cleaner burning, fuel efficient engines some serious consideration."
Manufacturers of these new motors claim emission reductions of up to 75 percent over their carbureted models with fuel efficiency increased by as much as 40 percent. While these newer motors may cost more to purchase, with today's higher fuel costs savings in fuel can add up, Lacenski said.
The number of registered boats in Wisconsin has grown from 303,000 in 1969 to 575,920 in 2001. More than 40 percent of the registered boats in 1997-98 were between 16 and 39 feet long, compared to just 18 percent 20 years ago.
Bigger boats mean bigger engines. A Minnesota study found the average horsepower of new boats registered there in 1999 doubled from those registered in 1981.
"There are more boats on our lakes and rivers than ever before and more people are buying larger motors. It's not difficult to reason that the result is increased emissions to our water and air," Lacenski said.
"Even if you're not ready to replace your old outboard with one of the new models, there are steps you can take to make sure your motor is as friendly to the environment as it can be," Lacenski noted.
Among the steps boaters can take to protect air and water quality:
Humane Society Recommends Nonlethal Wildlife ControlsWASHINGTON, DC, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - Homeowners who are coming into conflict with local wildlife can get help finding non-lethal solutions through the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
To help besieged homeowners and gardeners resolve their wildlife conflicts, the HSUS has published a list of companies that manufacture and distribute products designed to help resolve these conflicts without bloodshed.
"The HSUS constantly hears from people looking for non-lethal solutions to conflicts with wildlife," said John Hadidian, director of the HSUS Urban Wildlife Program. "This list was created with just such people in mind."
The list, "Manufacturers and Suppliers of Products Used to Resolve Wildlife Conflicts" provides contact information for companies that sell products enabling a nonlethal resolution to wildlife conflicts. The list is divided into two sections, one listing products by category and another providing the address, and phone and fax numbers for each company, plus Web site and email information for the computer savvy.
"With development consuming more and more rural areas, contact between wild animals and humans is on the rise," continued Hadidian. "And since increased contact means an increased potential for conflict, this is the time to teach people about the alternatives to lethal methods."
The HSUS has also published "Wild Neighbors: The Humane Approach to Living with Wildlife," which details different types of wildlife common in residential areas and discusses methods of non-lethal conflict resolution tailored to each specific animal.
"I think that given the choice, most people would prefer to resolve wildlife conflicts in a humane manner," adds Hadidian. "This list provides the type of practical information that will allow them to do so easily."
The list and more information on urban wildlife are available at: http://www.wildneighbors.org
Spring Cleaning Should Include Invasive SpeciesARLINGTON, Virginia, March 22, 2002 (ENS) - As spring arrives across the United States, the Nature Conservancy is urging Americans to check their yards and gardens for plants that can escape cultivation and cause damage to the natural environment and the national economy.
Plants such as purple loosestrife, kudzu, giant salvinia, multiflora rose and tree of heaven are often used in horticulture, landscaping and erosion control, and can be found in backyards and business lots across the country. When these plants escape from yards, they can invade and alter entire ecosystems, outcompeting native plants for light, water and nutrients.
"Keeping invasive plants out of America's backyards helps the environment and the economy," said Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy. "Taking the time to remove invasive plants and replace them with non-invasive varieties is a great example of bringing new energy to the old adage: think globally, act locally."
Once free from the natural checks and balances that keep them under control in their native homes, the alien invaders are able to establish themselves in new areas, where they can proliferate and harm native species. When they eliminate native plants, invasive plants displace the animals that had relied on the native plants for food and shelter.
"Nursery growers, landscape designers and others who make their career in horticulture have become increasingly concerned with the issue of invasive plants," said Wayne Mezitt, vice president of the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), and chair of that organization's Invasive Species Task Force. "Consumers look for plants that establish quickly, withstand environmental stresses and generally grow without much care. Unfortunately, these characteristics can also be the features that make plants invasive."
ANLA, the national trade association of the nursery and landscape industry, is working with the Conservancy and other organizations to develop codes of conduct to help stop the spread of invasive plants.
Plants that escape from yards and gardens are an example of the larger threat that invasive plants and animals pose to the environment and the economy, McCormick said. Invasive species are contributing to the decline of 46 percent of the species listed as threatened or endangered in the United States.
The cost to the national economy has been estimated as high as $137 billion per year and rising, due to losses in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, as well as the cost of clearing waterways clogged with invasive weeds and mussels, and fighting fires fueled by invasive grasses and shrubs.
"Stopping the spread of invasive species is an uphill battle, but, with the combined work of organizations and individuals, success is possible," said McCormick.
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