AmeriScan: October 4, 2006

* * *

Bush, Enviros Seek Ban on Bottom Trawling

WASHINGTON, DC, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - President George W. Bush Tuesday directed two of his Cabinet officials to work for an end to destructive fishing practices, such as unregulated bottom trawling on the high seas. Scientists say the practice is destroying some of the world's most sensitive ocean habitats.

In a memorandum, the President directed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in consultation with Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, to work with Regional Fishery Management Organizations, RFMOs, other countries and international organizations to establish rules to enhance sustainable fishing practices and to end destructive fishing practices.

The memo specifies other practices that must be ended such as the use of explosives and chemicals that destroy the long-term productivity of ecosystems like seamounts, corals, and sponge fields.

The President emphasized that it remains United States policy to support protection and use of sustainable fisheries as a food source and to meet the needs of commercial and recreational fishing.

The President directed the Secretary of State to work with other countries to establish new institutional arrangements, including new RFMOs, to protect ecosystems in high seas areas where no such arrangement now exists.

Rice and Gutierrez also are directed to develop and promulgate criteria to guide the identification of marine ecosystems that are at risk because of destructive fishing practices. They are to work with other countries on enhanced monitoring and surveillance to combat unlawful, unregulated and unreported fishing, the presidential memo states.

The memo applies to areas of the high seas where there are no conservation or management measures, and no international fishery management organization or agreement that is consistent with the goals of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement or the U.S. Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which is up for reauthorization.

Bush has called on Congress to pass a reauthorized Magnuson-Stevens Act that will end overfishing and rebuild fisheries that are still depleted. The administration also has sent to the Congress proposed legislation to establish a system for offshore aquaculture.

The memo was issued a day before UN negotiations open in New York on an effort to ban bottom fishing anywhere it is not regulated. Brazil, Chile, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa and, now, the United States have expressed support for regulating bottom trawling on the high seas, but Spain, Russia and Iceland, among other countries, are opposed to regulating the practice of dragging heavy gear along the ocean floor.

Actress Sigourney Weaver Tuesday joined a coalition representing more than 60 conservation organizations from around the world at UN headquarters in New York to call for new action to confront lawless bottom trawling in deep sea fisheries.

"The oceans that millions of people around the world depend on for sustenance and livelihood are being plundered while the world sits by and watches. Some of the oldest ecosystems on Earth are being destroyed," Weaver said. "Most people think somebody somewhere is looking out for the deep oceans, but they aren't. These deep sea trawlers are operating beyond the reach of the law. It's up to all of us to change that."

"The UN has been debating this issue for three years while the problem keeps getting worse," said Lisa Speer of the Natural Resource Defense Council, a coalition member. "Fleets ply vast areas of open ocean beyond the reach of any national jurisdiction, and they are doing irreparable damage to some of the oldest and most unique ecosystems on earth."

* * *

California's Day Fire Contained At Last

OJAI, California, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - The Day Fire started by human activity on Labor Day in Los Padres National Forest was finally contained on October 2, but not before it charred 162,702 acres.

Helped by light rain over the area Sunday, crews finished a 163 mile line around the fire by evening, officials said. The Day fire is the fifth largest California wildfire on record. At its peak, some 3,500 firefighters were battling the blaze, which has cost $73 million to date.

As of this morning, about 1,500 personnel remain assigned to the fire. Ground forces are being supported by three fixed wing aircraft, 13 helicopters, 21 engines, 13 dozers and 15 water tenders.

The fire is located southwest of Pyramid Lake and West of Interstate 5, 10 miles northwest of Castaic, 12 miles south of Frazier Park, and eight miles south of Gorman.

It was started by a member of the public burning a small amount of material in the forest, officials said. An investigation is ongoing.

Work on the Day Fire continues as crews focus their efforts on mop up of remaining hot spots in the fire interior. As conditions permit, crews will expose and extinguish any hot material within 300 to 500 feet of the containment line. This work will continue until all remaining hot spots that could potentially jump the lines have been extinguished and the fire is declared "controlled."

In the days ahead, firefighters also will be rehabilitating constructed fire lines to help minimize erosion, and collecting and hauling out fire hose, pumps, portable tanks and other equipment that is no longer needed.

On the fire's north and east side alone, crews yesterday hauled out 11 miles of fire hose; they still have 29 miles of hose to remove.

A helicopter event occured at the Rose Valley Retardant Helibase. Pilots sustained minor injuries and were transported to Ojai Valley Hospital for furthur observation. The helitanker crashed as it was returning to the Rose Valley helibase to reload with fire retardant and water.

A Burned Area Emergency Response team is conducting an assessment of the burned area to determine what immediate treatments, if any, are needed to help stabilize and protect key areas.

The Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area will reopen on Thursday.

The portion of Angeles National Forest west of Interstate 5, and a large area of Los Padres National Forest in Ventura, Kern and southern Santa Barbara counties remains closed due to continued fire danger, presence of emergency equipment and hazards on trails. The closure prohibits public entry to forest lands, trails, roads and recreation sites. Forest managers hope to reduce the size of the closure by this weekend. Campfires and charcoal barbecue fires are prohibited in all areas of Los Padres National Forest except within facilities managed by concessionaires.

* * *

Hurricane Report Helps Louisiana Case Against Oil Leases

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - In a report released late last month the U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, found that during the 2005 hurricanes Katrina in August and Rita in September Louisiana lost 217 square miles of land that was washed away in the storms.

Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco today said the USGS report strengthens the state's lawsuit against another agency of the federal government, the Minerals Management Service, MMS, which proposes to sell oil and gas drilling leases in the western Gulf of Mexico - leases which the state opposes.

The governer said, "The USGS, an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior, just released an official report that 217 square miles of Louisiana's coast was turned into open water during the two days of Katrina and Rita, almost nine times the amount of land usually lost in one year in our state."

"Earlier this year, MMS, another agency in that same Department of Interior, turned in an environmental assessment in preparation for the western Gulf oil and gas lease sale, stating there was no need to assess the damage of those two hurricanes, basing it on old, pre-storm data," Governor Blanco said.

"The arrogance of MMS is outrageous and this is why I filed suit against the federal government earlier this year to demand a proper environmental assessment before any further leasing takes place off our shore. This USGS report further strengthens that argument," she said.

"We are fighting for our very survival and this is the first time in the state's history that such a lawsuit has not been thrown out of court," the governor said. "In fact, the judge has clearly indicated his concern for the process used by MMS to comply with its own laws and has stated the state's suit would likely prevail on its merits."

Governor Blanco says the state is not against the oil industry but is concerned about the environmental fragility of the Gulf of Mexico.

"This is not action against the industry," Blanco said today. "We remain a proud partner with the oil and industry as the heart of America's Energy Coast. This is about standing up to the federal government. I will continue to take every action available to me to prevent all future leasing from taking place off our coast until these critical needs are met."

In a cooperative research program, the USGS, NASA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USACE, are using airborne laser mapping systems to quantify coastal change along the entire coastline affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Elevation data from before and after the hurricane are compared to determine the patterns and magnitudes of coastal change including erosion and destruction of buildings and infrastructure. Three lidar surveys were collected using two different systems - the NASA’s Experimental Airborne Research Lidar and USACE’s Compact Hydrographic Airborne Rapid Total Survey.

NASA has created a series of dissolve animations that illustrate how major storm events can impact and change coastal areas and can be viewed on NASA TV or online at: http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/lookingatearth/katrina_poststorm.asp.

* * *

Private Landowners Funded for Habitat Conservation

WASHINGTON, DC, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - President George W. Bush today signed the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act into law to provide technical and financial assistance to private landowners who restore, enhance, and manage private lands to improve fish and wildlife habitats.

The Partners Act provides a Congressional authorization for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a private lands conservation program popular with landowners and conservationists alike.

Republican Senator James Inhofe sponsored this law and Republican Congressman Richard Pombo supported it in the House.

"This law formalizes a program that exemplifies cooperative conservation," said Department of the Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. "The program puts financial and technical resources into the hands of willing landowners to help them manage their lands for imperiled plant and animal species. Next year we will celebrate the program's 20th year. The law represents a perfect anniversary gift for this conservation success story."

Administration officials say that since the creation of the Program in 1987, it has helped conserve fish and wildlife resources on nearly 800,000 acres of wetlands, 2,000,000 acres of uplands, and 7,000 miles of riparian and stream habitats through nearly 40,000 formalized partnership agreements.

Program successes range in scale. One project led to the creation of four small, emergent wetlands and enhancement of a remnant of native prairie on a 16-acre tract of land in Texas. As a result of the landowner's efforts, and with the help of the Partners Program, thousands of migratory birds now stop over at the property each year during their annual migration.

A large corporate partnership supported by the Partners Program helped protect 13,000 acres of rainforest and wetlands on the island of Maui.

The Service is moving the program to the next phase with public input on priority areas and tasks. By identifying and restoring vital areas of habitat, the Partners Program supports recovery plans for threatened and endangered species and helps prevent future listings of species. Through the Partners Program, the Fish and Wildlife Service works collaboratively with many nonprofit conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, as well as Tribes, states, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

* * *

Drugs Found in Treated Sludge Sold for Lawns, Gardens

CHENEY, Washington, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - Treated sewage sludge sold to householders to spray on their lawns and gardens as fertilizer may be adding pharmaceuticals, flame retardants and other chemicals to the land, according to research by Chad Kinney, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Eastern Washington University.

Nine different biosolid products, produced by municipal wastewater treatment plants in seven different states - Washington, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas, Colorado, Texas and Iowa - were analyzed for 87 different organic wastewater contaminants.

The 87 contaminants represent a cross section of medicinal, industrial and household compounds that enter wastewater treatment plants and may be discharged without being completely metabolized or degraded.

Fifty-five of the contaminants were detected in at least one biosolid product sold by government agencies as lawn-and-garden enhancements. Twenty-five compounds were found in every single one of the samples.

"No matter what biosolid we looked at, there were some of these compounds in it," said Kinney, whose research on the subject was published in online edition of the journal "Environmental Science & Technology."

The U.S. Geological Survey's Toxic Substance Hydrology Program supported Kinney's work, which he began while a postdoctoral fellow with the USGS.

Although government regulators and health officials said there is no immediate risk to public health, the study's authors called for more research on the long-term impact on the environment.

"We've been using biosolids for over 30 years safely," said Peggy Leonard, biosolids program manager for King County's waste treatment division, which makes the product GroCo. "As far as I know, there is no risk."

Thomas Burke, a professor of public health policy at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said Kinney's research is a wake-up call for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has promoted biosolids for decades because they contain the same nutrients - nitrogen and phosphorus - found in fertilizers.

"I don't think people understood before this that they might be applying pharmaceuticals and disinfectants to their front lawns," Burke said.

* * *

Hawaii Explores Stormwater Reclamation

HONOLULU, Hawaii, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - The state of Hawaii has joined federal water experts in a $400,000 study to see how difficult it would be to use stormwater runoff to replenish drinking water aquifers.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, USBR, are studying the same reclamation technology in use nationwide to see how it could be applied in the Hawaiian Islands. Several successful stormwater reuse projects have been constructed on the U.S. mainland and in other countries, but this is the first effort to identify a potential project in Hawaii.

Congress is providing the funds for the Bureau of Reclamation to work with the state of Hawaii to assist the Commission in researching ways of creating additional water supply through reclaimed stormwater.

To help augment the state's potable water resources, Reclamation and the Commission are identifying and evaluating ways of intercepting stormwater runoff - which often degrades the water quality of streams and near-shore waters or causes downstream flooding - so that it can be reclaimed for local beneficial uses.

Developing new approaches to using this runoff can help conserve more of Hawaii's fresh water for use in meeting future demands for this limited resource.

A study completed by the Bureau of Reclamation in 2005 identified potential opportunities for stormwater reclamation and reuse. The agency has now awarded the engineering firm Brown and Caldwell a contract worth nearly $400,000 to further this research by identifying challenges to reclaiming stormwater for future use, determining the viability of recharging the caprock aquifer with runoff and treated wastewater, and investigating creative methods for stormwater capture, storage and use that are suitable for implementation in Hawaii.

"New uses and innovative applications of Hawaii's stormwater flows can extend the state's fresh water supply," said John Johnson, USBR's project manager. "We are pleased to be participating in these cooperative efforts with the Commission on Water Resource Management to help meet the state's future water demands."

Given Hawaii's limited water resources and high population growth projections, stormwater reclamation and reuse are being appraised as a method to augment the state's water resources.

Increased demand for water in a state with finite underground aquifers is at the core of the project, Neil Fujii, drought coordinator for the state Commission on Water Resource Management, told the "Honolulu Advertiser."

"Over 99 percent of our drinking water is ground water," he said. "Any way we can reduce the withdrawals from our aquifers protects our resources."

Fujii said stormwater that could be redirected to grassy areas and from there into aquifers could amount to billions of gallons.

"Usually what they do now is channel the water off the parking lot and into a storm drain and then into the ocean," Fujii said. "They have been doing that for years, but what people are doing now is looking at ways to actually keep this water on site. Maybe put in some infiltration basins."

Over the next 21 months, the Honolulu office of Brown and Caldwell will determine if purifying this potentially toxic runoff is too costly.

The study will recommend which reclamation methods would work best in Hawaii and explore how they can be used on Oahu's arid Ewa Plains, where homes are being built rapidly to alleviate the most populous island's housing shortage.

Unfiltered stormwater can be contaminated with hazardous liquids, and as it runs off to the ocean, it could potentially contaminate coastal ecosystems.

* * *

Seals in the Spotlight for Animal Action Week

YARMOUTH PORT, Massachusetts, October 4, 2006 (ENS) - Some 1.2 million children in 15 countries worldwide, including 500,000 in all 50 states, will participate this year in the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Animal Action Week.

"Making Waves for Seals," is this year's theme. Activities during the week will focus on seals and the many threats they face such as pollution, habitat loss, climate change, entanglement in fishing nets, and commercial hunting.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare, IFAW, distributed interactive materials including student booklets, teacher's guides, calendar posters and a 15 minute educational video introduced by E.R. actor Goran Visnjic to 10,500 U.S. schools and community organizations.

In the past few weeks, the "Making Waves for Seals" video also aired on 450 U.S. cable stations, reaching a national audience of more than two million.

"Animal Action Week is the largest animal-focused educational event in the world and it is growing rapidly. In the U.S. alone, requests for our education packs have doubled since last year," said IFAW's Patrick Ramage. "Activities are not limited to the first week in October. We encourage schools and youth groups to join in and take action whenever it best fits into their schedule and curriculum."

Held annually to coincide with World Animal Day, IFAW has sponsored Animal Action Week for 14 years with topics ranging from cats and dogs to whales, elephants, seals and wildlife trade.

Each year, more and more educators use IFAW's curriculum to educate their students about animal and conservation issues. In the U.S., nearly 16,000 teachers and youth group leaders will use the "Making Waves for Seals" curriculum compared to 8,100 who implemented last year's Animal Action Week materials.

In the past, many seal species were pushed to the brink of extinction and now one-third of all seal species are listed as "at risk." Seals are still hunted in several countries for fur and other products. Canada's commercial seal hunt is the largest in the world with 335,000 seals killed in 2006 alone.

IFAW was founded in 1969 to end the Canadian seal hunt and has continued to campaign to protect seals for 35 years. Seals have been protected in the U.S. since 1972 when Congress passed the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the import, export and marketing of seals and their products. Many countries are implementing similar bans on seal products, including the U.K., Italy, Belgium, Mexico and the Netherlands.

IFAW's free educational materials can be downloaded at: http://www.animalactionweek.org.

* * *