AmeriScan: November 29, 2006

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Global Warming Urgent Say Unions for 10,000 EPA Workers

WASHINGTON, DC, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - Union representatives for more than 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, scientists are calling on Congress to take immediate action against global warming, according to a petition released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER.

The petition calls for an end to censorship of agency scientists and other specialists on topics of climate change and the effects of air pollution.

Addressed to the members of the Senate and House committees overseeing the EPA, the petition stresses that time is running out to prevent environmental changes induced by human-caused pollution and urges Congress to undertake prompt actions.

"If we wait," the petition states, "we will be committing the next generation of Americans to approximately double the current global warming concentrations, with the associated adverse impacts on human health and the environment.”

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch says the petition originated among agency staff.

The letter is signed by presidents of 22 locals of five unions: the American Federation of Government Employees, the Engineers and Scientists of California, the National Association of Government Employees, the National Association of Independent Labor, and the National Treasury Employees Union.

These unions represent more than 10,000 EPA scientists, engineers and other technical specialists.

The filing of this petition coincides with today’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on a case, Massachusetts v. EPA, brought by states, cities and environmental groups seeking to force the Bush administration to regulate greenhouse gases that fuel global warming under the Clean Air Act.

"Professionals working for the Environmental Protection Agency are protesting being ordered to sit on the sidelines while we face the greatest environmental challenge of our generation," said Ruch. "Under a new Congress, perhaps the scientists at EPA can begin to directly communicate with their true employers – the American public."

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Winter and Summer, Arctic Sea Ice Is Shrinking

SUITLAND, Maryland, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - The extent of Arctic Sea ice has been declining for the past 33 years, according to a new analysis of satellite data by experts at the U.S. National Ice Center.

A tri-agency team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard, based in Suitland, say the overall trend in summer, winter and multi-year total ice extent is down.

They base their analysis on a new tool, a climatology dataset that is expected to improve seasonal and climatological sea-ice-change forecast research in the Arctic.

“The new datasets show shrinkage in the Arctic Ocean summer ice cover of more than eight percent per decade, and gives us concrete information with which to develop improved seasonal and long-term forecasts in the future,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, the ice center’s chief scientist.

The dataset, New 30-Year Arctic Sea Ice Climatology, is derived from a 1972 – 2004 series charting sea ice extent from a combination of satellite observations, measuring instruments on the surface and computer model output.

Both winter and summer sea ice extents are decreasing, although summer shrinkage is more pronounced. "The percentage of multi-year ice in the winter is also decreasing significantly," the scientists found.

The NIC’s new dataset is available at the website of the National Snow and Ice Data Center: http://nsidc.org/data/g02172.html.

The ice center is celebrating its 30th anniversary as an interagency operational sea ice service with global monitoring responsibilities.

Since 1972, the ice center has produced weekly or bi-weekly operational sea-ice charts for Antarctica, and the Arctic and other ice-covered waters for use in mission planning and safe navigation. The reports are incorporated into weather forecasts and serve as a comprehensive global record of sea-ice extent and concentration that can be used for climate monitoring.

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Al Gore Teaches Aussies to Deliver Climate Message

SYDNEY, Australia, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - Former Vice-President Al Gore, in partnership with the Australian Conservation Foundation, is training 84 Australians to deliver his climate change presentation, as featured in his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

“As I have been travelling throughout the country, it is clear to me that Australians are deeply concerned about climate change and want to know what they can do to help,” said Gore.

The Climate Project in Australia aims to equip citizens with the knowledge and skills to educate the community about the science, impacts and solutions to climate change.

“The program is designed to help the community make a difference in the monumental battle to eliminate the threat of global warming," Gore said.

More than 1,700 Australians applied to attend the first Australian training session. The selected 84 represent a diverse range of interests including business, health, agriculture, Indigenous affairs, education, arts and culture and come from all Australian states and territories.

Once trained, the volunteer presenters each will deliver at least 10 presentations over the next year.

Bruce Beatson, a retired dairy farmer from Gippsland who is now involved in the wind industry, was one of the 84 candidates chosen.

"This is the biggest privilege that’s come my way in my whole life,’ he said. “I have been concerned about climate change as a farmer for 20 years and I never dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would have a chance to be part of something that would have such a global impact."

Anna Keenan, a student from Brisbane, postponed her 21st birthday party to take part in the training. “I think that climate change is going to be the most important issue over the next 50 years. It’s really important for young people to get involved.”

Gore’s climate change slide show has been adapted for Australian audiences with additional Australian information on climate science, impacts and solutions.

Gore will lead the training on the slide show content, with support from eminent Australian scientists Professor Ian Lowe and Dr. Graeme Pearman. The trainees also will take an intensive presentations skills course.

“We have been overwhelmed by community support for the program and the desire to drive real action on climate change,” said Australian Conservation Foundation Executive Director Don Henry. “As the Australian partner for Al Gore’s Climate Project, we are committed to supporting the climate presenters in their crusade to educate the Australian community about the threats of climate change.”

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$2 Million for Tigers in the Wild and on the Court

COLUMBIA, Missouri, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - Wild tiger conservation will benefit from half of a $2 million gift by an alumnus to his school, the University of Missouri-Columbia, MU, called Mizzou. The other half will go to establish scholarships for Mizzou men’s basketball.

The gift from MU alumnus Bruce Loewenberg includes $1 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources for the Mizzou Tigers for Tigers program.

"Bruce understands that the survival of our world tiger populations rests on education. His generous gift will play a major role in our ability to educate MU graduate students to aid in tiger conservation research efforts," said Tom Payne, vice chancellor and dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

"Bruce also realizes the people living in the tiger habitats are the first line for education toward tiger conservation," Payne said. "Through training programs, his support will help provide that needed education."

Mizzou Tigers for Tigers plans to use the Loewenberg gift to work for the survival of tigers by delivering professional education and training programs to enable people in tiger range countries to preserve the species.

In addition, MU students will have opportunities to participate in tiger research and international conservation.

Tiger populations have declined by more than 95 percent in the last century, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Conservation experts estimate that today, only 3,000 to 5,000 tigers remain in the wild due to habitat loss, poaching, and loss of prey.

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Lower Columbia River Terns to Be Dispersed

WASHINGTON, DC, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - Two federal agencies have agreed on a plan to redistribute the world's largest breeding colony of Caspian terns over a wider area and decrease their numbers on East Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River.

About 70 percent of the entire western population of Caspian terns in North America nests on East Sand Island.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that they have signed Records of Decision adopting the Service's plan for managing Caspian terns in the lower Columbia River.

Aimed at reducing the number of young salmon eaten by terns, the plan is expected to benefit the terns by dispersing a large breeding concentration where the population is vulnerable to disease, human disturbance, predation and storms.

Under the plan, Caspian tern nesting sites of one or two acres will be developed in Oregon at Fern Ridge and Summer Lake, and Crump Lake.

Three locations in San Francisco Bay will become tern nesting sites at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Brooks Island, and Hayward Regional Shorelines.

All of the alternate sites are on public land and most already have some terns nesting.

The redistribution project is expected to cost about $2.4 million in first year construction and habitat enhancement costs.

Monitoring costs will range from $100,000 to $269,000 a year, depending on alternate site development and tern nesting activity.

The redistribution is expected to be completed between 2010 and 2015. The plan, once implemented, would substantially improve survival of juvenile Columbia River salmonids through the estuary, according to Corps biologists.

At full implementation, an estimated 2.4 million to 3.1 million additional juvenile salmonids annually would survive their passage through the estuary.

Snake River and Upper, Middle, and Lower Columbia River steelhead would benefit most from the proposed action. Other listed and non-listed Columbia River salmonids also are expected to benefit.

The Corp's ROD and the interagency developed FEIS that was released in January 2005 are available on the Internet at https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/pm/e/en_plan_avian.asp.

The Fish and Wildlife Service's ROD, the FEIS and associated documents are located at http://www.fws.gov/pacific/migratorybirds/CATE.htm.

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How Many Animals Are Too Many?

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2006 (ENS) - Setting population target levels for wildlife species can be a tricky business - especially when there are 18 distinct approaches currently in use.

All 18 are cataloged in a new paper appearing in the journal Bioscience authored by Wildlife Conservation Society ecologist Dr. Eric Sanderson.

Sanderson says "minimum viable populations," the goal commonly used by wildlife managers aiming for self-sustaining populations, should be seen as "the beginning, not the end, of conservation."

"Having animals acting like animals in the fullest sense, seems the standard conservationists should seek, whether it's bison on the Great Plains or Asia's forests with tigers and their prey," he said.

Sanderson proposes a simpler, four-tiered system to measure conservation success.

Once "demographic sustainability" has been achieved, he says, the next level of conservation effort should aim next for "ecological functionality," which means a species will serve its role in ecosystems.

"Sustainable human use" is the next tier, where animals are sufficient for human use - either for consumption or for viewing and enjoyment.

Sanderson's highest standard for animal populations is achieving "historical baselines" where species are restored to a time when humanity had less impact on the planet than it does today.

Sanderson writes that achieving this goal can be difficult due to lack of baseline data, though well-managed protected areas, with all the species present, can provide the examples that scientists and managers need.

"People want much more from wild animals than to see them just persist," he said. "We want animals to interact with their environment, evolve over time, be beautiful and useful to us, and to satisfy ethical teachings regarding respect for nature."

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