Millions Pledged to Protect Congo BasinJOHANNESBURG, South Africa, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - The United States will join three environmental groups in committing millions of dollars to help protect forests in the Congo Basin.
On the last day of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the United States will commit at least $36 million over the next three years to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. The partnership will help protect the world's second largest block of intact and interconnected tropical forest.
The Congo Basin Forest Partnership is a U.S. government initiative to promote the conservation and responsible management of the Basin's tropical forests. Federal government funds will be used to protect 11 priority areas in six countries - Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Government funds will be provided through the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). CARPE will provide for up to $15 million a year, an increase of up to $12 million a year, for at least the next three years, with the hope of future commitments.
Conservation International (CI), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) plan to raise an additional $37.5 million of new money over the next 10 years for their joint efforts in the Congo Basin. The three groups worked with the governments involved to set priorities for protecting the most important landscapes in the region.
"What is significant here is that the governments of the region, as well as the U.S., have adopted the landscape conservation priorities based on good science and careful consultation with the people of the area," said Brooks Yeager, vice president of WWF. "Saving these key areas will make all the difference for the future of rainforest wildlife in Africa."
The U.S. and non-governmental organization (NGO) funds will support a wide range of activities within the 11 targeted areas, including the creation and management of protected areas, capacity building for local communities and development of an ecotourism industry. These efforts are part of a broader partnership - involving other governments, the private sector and additional NGO's - that aims to support a network of up to 10 million hectares (24,710,000 acres) of national parks and protected areas and up to 20 million hectares (49,420,000 acres) of multiple use forests, while promoting economic development, alleviating poverty and improving governance for people who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods.
"These new financial commitments help to protect one of the world's most important rain forest wilderness areas, including the watershed of the second largest river system on Earth - this on a continent that is increasingly suffering from major water shortages," said Russell Mittermeier, president of CI.
A portion of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership will fund Gabon's new, 10,000 square mile national park system, just announced by President El Hadj Omar Bongo.
"President Bongo's recent announcement is especially noteworthy and precedent setting for conservation," said Dr. John Robinson, senior vice president and director of international programs at the WCS. "It represents a sea change not just for Gabon but for the region as a whole."
The Congo Basin hosts some of the most charismatic wildlife in the world, ranging from forest elephants, bongos and chimpanzees to forest buffalos and western lowland gorillas. The Democratic Republic of Congo holds the remaining population of bonobos, or pygmy chimpanzees, considered one of the most endangered apes in the world.
The Basin faces threats from logging and bushmeat hunting. Logging feeds the bushmeat trade as roads built to gain access to forestlands become access routes for hunters. The slaughter of wild animals creates forests empty of wildlife, which diminish opportunities for local communities and threaten the forests' long term viability.
The 11 priority landscapes are:
Physicians Sue EPA Over Toxic Animal TestingWASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is filing suit today against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the agency's use of animal testing to review toxic chemicals.
The suit will be filed on behalf of a coalition of nonprofit organizations, as well as three individual plaintiffs harmed by toxic chemicals.
At issue is the EPA's High Production Volume (HPV) program, which encourages chemical companies to conduct screening level toxicity tests on 2,800 chemicals produced or imported in amounts exceeding one million pounds per year. At an estimated cost of $16 million each year for the EPA to administer, the HPV program calls for thousands of duplicative animal tests that the plaintiffs charge do not help predict the chemicals' potential for human harm.
Available alternatives that are more sensitive than animal tests, such as in vitro genetic toxicity testing, are not being required, and the program does nothing to limit human exposure to known toxins, the suit charges.
"The HPV program was developed behind closed doors, bypassing the scientific review and public comment required by the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA) and the Federal Advisory Committee Act," said Mindy Kursban, chief counsel for PCRM. "Thousands of animals are being needlessly used, generating masses of unreliable data, while at the same time the public continues to be poisoned by known toxic chemicals."
"The EPA has not banned a single toxic industrial chemical in more than 10 years using its authority under TSCA," Kursban added. "It conducts endless tests and takes no action."
The lawsuit will be filed in United District Court for the Southern District of New York. It asks the court to rule that the HPV program was illegally developed in consultation with chemical manufacturers, and without following the requirements of the TSCA.
According to the suit, plaintiffs John Gentry and Scott Mishler were exposed to toxic substances at work and both have suffered serious illnesses since their exposures.
Mishler, a former journeyman electrician, is no longer able to work due to illnesses the suit says were caused by exposure to hydraulic fluid containing an HPV chemical slated for re-testing. Tests done in 1984 and 1995 showed that the chemical, trixylenyl phosphate, does not kill rats, yet phosphate based hydraulic fluids can cause damage to workers' nervous systems.
Plaintiff Rosa Naparstek, a resident of New York City, has multiple chemical sensitivities syndrome, an environmental illness caused by toxic chemicals in the environment. Many HPV chemicals used in soaps, shampoos, perfumes, detergents, bleach, paints, glues, carpeting and gasoline cause Neparstek to experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, and muscle and joint pain.
The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, and the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation.
Enviro Groups Urge Bush to Protect OceansWASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - A coalition of environmental groups has written to President George W. Bush, asking him not to challenge existing requirements that the federal government review the environmental effects of its actions at sea.
"We are writing to urge you to reject the position, recently proposed by some members of your Administration, that federal and federally permitted activities occurring in our oceans are exempt from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)," the groups wrote in the letter, dated September 4.
NEPA was adopted more than 30 years ago to ensure that federal agencies consider the negative environmental effects of their actions.
"Adopting an across the board policy, as advocated by some, that NEPA does not apply beyond three nautical miles from shore - within the nation's so called Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) - would represent the single greatest rollback of environmental policy for our imperiled oceans ever," the groups wrote.
The letter is signed by the leaders of 14 leading conservation and public interest groups.
The EEZ, which extends 200 nautical miles (370 km) from shore, covers millions of square miles of ocean and contains fish, whales, dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life.
"Coastal communities around the country depend on the health of these resources for their livelihood," the groups state. "Fishermen, both commercial and sport, as well seafood consumers depend on healthy oceans. Beachgoers depend on clean ocean waters free from oil spills and other pollution."
Since the passage of NEPA, most federal agencies have applied the regulation to activities carried out in the EEZ including fisheries management, offshore oil and gas leasing, subsea pipeline construction, ocean dumping of waste, and other activities that have the potential to harm the health of the oceans, the groups note.
"Exempting these activities from NEPA would roll back essential protections at a time when there is more, not less, concern for the ocean environment - in light of depleted fish populations, endangered whales and sea turtles, sonar experiments that have led to the mass strandings of whales, increasing ocean 'dead zones,' and toxic algal blooms," they write.
The groups argue that exempting the oceans from NEPA would counter a 1983 proclamation by President Ronald Reagan that claimed for the United States "sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, exploiting, conserving and managing natural resources, both living and non-living" within the EEZ.
"Federal courts have consistently applied NEPA where the United States has exerted sovereign control," the letter states. "Our sovereign ocean resources, held in the public trust, are entitled to the same level of protection as the other natural resources belonging to the United States and its people. To do less is to put at risk a significant part of our nation's natural and economic heritage."
Signers of the letter include Defenders of Wildlife, National Environmental Trust, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, The Ocean Conservancy, Earth Justice Legal Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, Marine Conservation Biology Initiative, National Audubon Society, Oceana, Union of Concerned Scientists, U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and National Parks Conservation Association.
No Endangered Listing for White MarlinWASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced Wednesday that the Atlantic white marlin, a billfish that lives in the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean, does not warrant listing as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In September 2001, NMFS was petitioned to list Atlantic white marlin as endangered or threatened throughout its range and to designate critical habitat under the ESA. The ESA defines and endangered species "as any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range."
A "threatened species" is defined as "any species which is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range."
A review team was established to look at the species and review the best available science and commercial data. Based on the review, NMFS determined that the while species has declined from historical levels, it is not at a level that warrants being listed as endangered or threatened under the ESA.
White marlin are found in offshore waters throughout the tropical and temperate Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. Unlike blue marlin and sailfish, white marlin occur only in the Atlantic Ocean. Although considered to be a rare and solitary species relative to other similar fish, white marlin occur in small groups consisting of several individuals.
The U.S. fishery accounts for about five percent of the total mortality of white marlin, which is mostly caught as bycatch in international longline fisheries. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) is responsible for the international management of white marlin.
By consensus of participating nations, ICCAT adopts binding recommendations to manage for maximum sustainable catch of fish stocks. Binding measures were implemented in 2000 to reduce mortality of white marlin, but these measures have not been in place long enough to evaluate their effectiveness.
Current U.S. measures include time and area fishing closures, gear and bait restrictions, and a ban on possession of Atlantic white marlins on board commercial vessels. NMFS said it plans to continue to push for additional conservation measures "consistent with our solid commitment to rebuilding," and to monitor the results of conservation efforts already underway.
A full ESA review of the status of the species will be conducted within five years.
For more information visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/prot_res/species/fish/white_marlin.html
House Passes Bill to Clean Great LakesWASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - The House of Representatives has passed a bill to increase funding for cleanup of contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 (HR 1070) would authorize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue $50 million each year in fiscal years 2003 - 2007 for remediation of contaminated sediment, prevention of further or renewed contamination of sediment and long term monitoring of contaminated sediment. Another $2 million a year would go toward remediation research.
"Protecting the Great Lakes from polluted sediments must be a top priority," said Representative Vernon Ehlers, the Michigan Republican who authored the bill. "The Great Lakes provide us with fresh drinking water, water for agriculture, shipping lanes for economic growth, habitat for wildlife, and recreation in and on the waterways. To sit back and allow the lakes to become polluted is irresponsible, and we must continue to improve the water quality of this precious body of water."
The legislation also includes provisions to prioritize the grant selection process toward projects that are using innovative approaches for remediation of the sediment or that are already remediating contaminated sediment. The bill would also apply to those projects ready to be implemented under current remedial action plans.
The Senate is reviewing a companion bill (S 2544) introduced by Senator Carl Levin. The House bill passed on a voice vote.
Dam Removal Can Create New ProblemsMADISON, Wisconsin, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - Old, obsolete dams are being removed from rivers and streams across the country - good news for wildlife, but in some cases, the removals create unforeseen problems, find researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Emily Stanley, a river ecologist at UW-Madison's Center for Limnology, has found that dam removal allows not just fish and canoes, but also damaging nutrients, to flow through the water system. Results of the study, which focused on dam removal sites along the Baraboo River and Koshkonong Creek in Wisconsin, appear in the August 2002 issue of the journal "BioScience."
The nation's network of dams, some of which date back to the mid-1800s, generate power and help control floods. But they also transformed ecosystems by blocking the movement of organisms, worsening the water quality and altering downstream flow and channel formation.
Today, there are almost 4,000 dams in Wisconsin, and several million can be found throughout the United States. Fewer than 60 rivers in the country retain more than 62 miles of free flowing channel.
"Many of the dams are getting old," said Stanley. "Time has taken its toll on these structures and transformed them from productive sites of commerce to safety risks."
Tearing them down, rather than restoring them, may seem like the best option. In fact, 120 dams were razed last year in the United States, and, over the years, more than 60 have been torn down in Wisconsin.
"Very few quantitative studies have been done on the effects of dam removal," Stanley said. "It's surprising how little we actually know about how the system will respond."
Over the past two years Stanley collected data at dam sites, both before and after their removal, along the Baraboo River and Koshkonong Creek in Wisconsin. She says her findings show that removing dams allows excess nutrients that run off from the land to drift downstream, where they then can empty into lakes and oceans.
"When the nutrients used to fertilize crops enter these systems, they end up fertilizing them, too," said Stanley. Too much phosphorous and nitrogen in the water can create algae blooms, which turn the water green and can starve other plants and animals of oxygen.
Dams prevent most of these nutrients from flowing downstream. Each structure forms a reservoir of water behind it that often fills up with sediments, which carry the nutrients.
At one site, Stanley and her co-author Martin Doyle from the University of North Carolina found that the reservoir along the Koshkonong Creek retained 15 to 20 percent of the total amount of phosphorous carried downstream. "The sediment trapping ability of reservoirs means that topsoil and nutrients lost from farm fields are now stored behind dams," they wrote.
After removal, the nutrient poured into the water system: Phosphorous concentrations downstream jumped from 0.3 to 2.7 milligrams per liter. Two years later, the amount has decreased, but it is still about 30 percent greater than the amount found in the water entering the former reservoir.
Based on these findings, Stanley concludes, "Removing dams may not be the best way to manage how rivers handle nutrients."
"There are always going to be tradeoffs, and what we want to do is maximize the gains," she added. "When the day is done, I'd much prefer to see the dams go."
New Cars Drive Cleaner, GreenerRIVERSIDE, California, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - Early results of ongoing three year study show that new vehicle designs produce very low emissions under real world driving conditions.
Emerging internal combustion engine technology can reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants to levels that were considered impossible only a few years ago, finds the University of California, Riverside study.
The university released the latest findings of its ongoing Study of Extremely Low Emission Vehicles (SELEV) program during the first Clean Mobility Symposium, "Cars, Fuels and the Future of Air Quality," held on its campus on Wednesday.
Initial results from the study indicate that, for the vehicles tested, the emissions of criteria pollutants - pollutants for which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set national standards - are "significantly below" California average standards. The vehicles, certified to California's cleanest standards, are producing "extremely low emissions" under real world driving conditions, resulting in improved air quality.
The university's Bourns College of Engineering - Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) established the SELEV program in partnership with industry and government agencies in June 2000 with the purpose of measuring and modeling the impact that new generation vehicles with extremely low emissions have on overall air quality.
"This study is designed specifically to determine how engine technology can continue to decrease emissions while delivering the performance consumers expect from their cars," said Dr. Joseph Norbeck, director of CE-CERT. "The SELEV study is significant because most people will continue to drive internal combustion engine vehicles for many years."
CE-CERT's measurement technology is now being used to test Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) and Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (SULEVs). ULEV and SULEV are both emissions standard created in California, and now adopted by several other states as well.
"Ten years ago, nobody thought gasoline ULEVS and SULEVs would be possible," said Norbeck. "Now they're becoming common, and it's clear the emissions reductions they offer are significant."
Dr. Alan Lloyd, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, noted that the goal is to have LEVs emitting less than 0.05 grams/mile each of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides by the year 2010.
"The LEV program has challenged manufacturers to develop advanced vehicle technologies, and manufacturers have gone a long way toward meeting the challenge," Lloyd said. "We're seeing progress toward even cleaner and more efficient technologies, and that is exciting. Fuel cells are fast becoming a reality and hybrid electric vehicles are already being sold today."
Conservation Awards Honor Lifetime AchievementsWASHINGTON, DC, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - Three U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) employees and three of the agency's partners were given Departmental Honor Awards on Wednesday for their career accomplishments and support of the agency's mission.
"From Alaska to Mississippi, these dedicated Fish and Wildlife Service employees have committed themselves to the conservation of our nation's fish and wildlife throughout their careers," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who presented the awards on Wednesday. "They have earned the Distinguished Service Award, and the gratitude of all of us who have benefited from their hard work to ensure both the current and future generations enjoy our wild creatures and wild places."
The Distinguished Service Awards went to:
"I am also pleased to recognize private citizens and organizations who have contributed to the mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service," Norton added. "The success of our conservation work depends on the contributions of our partners. They exemplify what I call the Four C's - communication, consultation, and cooperation, all in the service of conservation."
The Conservation Service Award for Private Partners went to:
The Distinguished Service Award and the Conservation Service Award are the highest honors the Interior Department can bestow on employees and private citizens.
Accident Kills Chris Byrne of Black Beauty RanchMURCHISON, Texas, September 5, 2002 (ENS) - Chris Byrne, longtime manager of the Fund for Animals' Black Beauty Ranch animal sanctuary, died in a motor vehicle accident while checking on the sanctuary's animals late Sunday evening. He was 52.
Since 1990, Byrne was responsible for the daily care of the sanctuary's hundreds of animals - from elephants, horses, burros to chimpanzees - all rescued from abuse or abandonment.
Under his supervision, Black Beauty Ranch increased from 600 acres providing sanctuary for 400 animals to 1,480 acres for more than 1,000 animals.
"We are shocked and saddened by this tragic loss," said Marian Probst, president of The Fund for Animals. "Chris was completely dedicated to the welfare of the animals at Black Beauty Ranch, and he died checking on the animals at sundown on a holiday. He knew and loved every animal at the ranch, he was respected and admired by the local community in Henderson County as well as the international animal protection community, and he is very close to irreplaceable."
Originally from Wimbledon, England, Byrne held a variety of positions in the animal care and conservation fields before coming to The Fund for Animals in 1990.
He cared for the Dupont family's horses in Pennsylvania, worked with animals in films in Hollywood, fought forest fires in California, lived in the Australian outback, and started Hawaii's first eco-tourism business in the mountains of Kauai.
"We will never find another ranch manager with the versatility and resourcefulness of Chris," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals. "Whether caring for elephants rescued from abusive circuses, chimpanzees rescued from laboratory research, mustangs and burros evicted from public lands, or exotic animals rescued from trophy hunts, Chris gave the greatest care and attention to each individual animal at Black Beauty Ranch. We will miss him dearly."
The Fund for Animals was founded in 1967 by the late author and humanitarian Cleveland Amory. The Fund started Black Beauty Ranch in 1979 by purchasing 80 acres of land in Murchison, Texas, as a home for burros rescued from the Grand Canyon. More information is available at www.blackbeautyranch.org.