AmeriScan: December 5, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - Health, consumer and public interest groups this week criticized the Bayer Corporation for not voluntarily recalling an agricultural antibiotic that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says might cause antibiotic resistance in humans. Bayer is exercising its legal right to seek a hearing on the issue, which the groups say could block the FDA's proposed ban from taking effect for months or even years. Last month, the FDA proposed to ban fluoroquinolones from use in poultry due to recent sharp increases in resistance to these antibiotics in Campylobacter bacteria. Campylobacter is the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness acquired through food in the United States. The FDA cited new evidence that the poultry antibiotics increase the risk that humans will become infected with bacteria resistant to treatment with these fluoroquinolone drugs.

Two companies have manufactured fluoroquinolones for use in poultry. In response to the FDA's proposed ban, Abbott Laboratories voluntarily withdrew its product, Saraflox, from the market. Bayer Corporation, maker of Baytril, has not. The American Public Health Association (APHA) and ten other groups have vowed to participate vigorously in the FDA process. The groups have drafted a letter calling on Bayer to comply voluntarily with FDA's proposed ban. The letter was signed by more than 180 physicians, nurses and other scientists and health professionals, as well as the American Medical Association and several other health organizations. The APHA has also adopted a policy noting that voluntary withdrawal of fluoroquinolones used in poultry would constitute the "quickest, most responsible way to address the public health threat" posed by this use of the products.

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Monday released a draft national management strategy that is intended to promote environmentally sound off highway vehicle (OHV) use on BLM managed public lands. The draft strategy, which the BLS says reflects extensive public input, is now available for a 30 day public comment period that runs until January 3, 2001. "This draft strategy is aimed at recognizing the interests of OHV users while protecting environmentally sensitive areas on the public lands," said Henri Bisson, the BLM's assistant director for renewable resources and planning.

The draft strategy offers management guidance and recommends numerous actions aimed at creating a local framework for reviewing and resolving OHV related issues. These issues include current OHV designations; signs, maps, and other public information; existing OHV regulations; route inventory needs; OHV impacts on resources; road and trail design, maintenance, and restoration; management of Wilderness Study Areas; monitoring; law enforcement; and the BLM's budgetary needs. The draft strategy recognizes that off road vehicle use is a "legitimate activity" on public lands wherever compatible with the BLM's resource management objectives and when in compliance with other federal laws. The draft strategy proposes solutions for reducing conflicts among public land user groups, and for promoting responsible OHV use that will mitigate habitat degradation. The draft strategy is posted on the BLM's website at: Comments may be submitted on the website or by sending email to the BLM at:

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MOAB, Utah, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - The federal government this week finalized the largest voluntary return of land to Native Americans in the lower 48 states in more than a century. In a ceremony at the Ute Indian Reservation in northeastern Utah, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson restored more than 85,000 acres of land to Ute ownership and control. The land was taken from the Ute Tribe by the U.S. government in 1916 for use as a potential source of fuel for the Navy's oil-burning ships. "Today we're doing the right thing, because land and the environment have always been the essence of Native American identity," said Richardson. "With the cooperation of the United States Navy, which is commemorating the 90th anniversary of the federal law that established the Naval Oil Shale Reserves, we are fulfilling a pledge made 113 years ago to the Ute people by returning their land."

In a deal proposed by Secretary Richardson in January, the Energy Department (DOE) asked for authorization to begin cleaning up the Moab site in southern Utah and to return to the Utes the land some 65 miles to the north. As part of the land return, the Ute Tribe has agreed to establish a quarter-mile land corridor along a 75 mile stretch of the Green River that will be protected as environmentally sensitive. The Green River, one of the nation's most scenic and famous rivers, winds across eastern Utah through miles of undeveloped backcountry and ancient canyons. As part of the deal, the U.S. government will retain a nine percent royalty from future energy production on the land to help fund the clean-up of the nation's fifth largest pile of uranium mill tailings near Moab, Utah.

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - The Navajo Nation and the federal government have agreed to work together towards renewable energy for Navajo communities. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and one of its national laboratories will work with the Navajo Nation to promote collaboration on critical energy related technical, economic and educational initiatives. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed this week by Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Navajo Nation president Kelsey Begaye, along with Joan Woodard of the Sandia National Laboratories. "This agreement is the Department's latest step toward building a stronger partnership with the Navajo Nation in which our science and technology can most benefit the Navajo people," said Richardson. The MOU cites several potential areas of collaboration and cooperation such as promoting regional economic development and quality education; providing broad services from Sandia and using the lab's expertise and resources to address technical issues on Indian lands.

The signing of the MOU follows a directive by Richardson to Sandia and other DOE laboratories to create partnerships with tribes and pueblos. Three Navajo Nation legislative bodies approved the agreement. Earlier this year, Sandia announced an initiative with the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (NTUA) to install 200 PV power systems on reservation with the assistance of engineers from the lab. The program is the largest of its type in the U.S. and will involve a $2 million purchase and installation of solar systems at private homes. Solar energy was used because the cost of stringing wire over parts of the reservation's rural terrain was prohibitive, according to NTUA solar program manager Jimmie Daniels. "The only way for many of these people to have electricity is to provide each household its own photovoltaic unit," Daniels said. Between 10,000 and 30,000 Navajos live without electricity on the reservation that spans New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. The solar systems will bring power for the first time to many of these residents, allowing access to electric light so children can do homework and to radios, television, and computers to help reduce rural isolation.

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SAN FRANCISCO, California, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - A $60,000 fine against two developers for releasing sediment and silt runoff into tributaries of the Sacramento River has been imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency said the large amounts of silt and sediment endangered a local salmon habitat. The development firms, Jaxon Enterprises and Creative Living, were cited for poor erosion and sediment control at a 74-acre subdivision being built near Keswick Dam in northwest Redding, California. The EPA says the developers left a rough graded roadway and a large cleared area open to winter rains with no effective temporary erosion cover and minimal sediment control measures. As a result, large amounts of silt and sediment were discharged into Harland Creek, endangering a local salmon habitat.

"Our penalty could have been avoided if both effective erosion and sediment control had been implemented and maintained on this site," said the EPA's Alexis Strauss. "Land owners, developers and their contractors have a long standing legal obligation to maintain management practices for both erosion control, the primary means of keeping soil in place, and sediment control, a secondary means to ensure that sediment in stormwater does not pollute waterways during the build-out process." For sites five acres or larger, the federal Clean Water Act requires that developers and contractors maintain and implement stormwater pollution prevention plans that include erosion and sediment control measures, and an inspection program that ensures these measures are maintained and improved as needed. Sediment from construction sites often ends up in streams and rivers, choking plant and animal life and filling in salmon spawning gravels. Many pollutants such as oil and grease also bind to sediments, and are then transported into waterways along with the sediment. EPA investigators inspected the Redding site in 1998 and again in 1999 after two earlier violation notices from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board went unheeded.

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - American voters support clean diesel trucks and clean diesel fuel, according to a new national survey conducted on behalf of the American Lung Association. The survey was released as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nears a final decision on a landmark plan to require cleaner big diesel trucks and buses, starting in 2007. To enable use of advanced pollution controls, EPA also would require that refiners remove nearly all the sulfur from diesel fuel. "This survey underscores the broad and deep public support for final action this year to clean up big diesel trucks and diesel fuel," said American Lung Association CEO John Garrison.

In the survey, 87 percent of voters said they favor requiring the production of cleaner diesel fuel, while 84 percent of voters said it is personally important to them to require the production of cleaner diesel fuel. Nearly nine of ten voters favored requiring 18 wheelers and other big diesel vehicles to use the best available pollution control technology even if it costs them more money, the survey found. Voters also believe cleaner diesel fuel can have a positive impact on the nation's air quality. More than 75 percent of voters said cleaner diesel fuel will make a difference in cleaning up air pollution. Voters favored diesel fuel cleanup even when told it would increase costs to consumers. Sixty-five percent of the people polled agreed with the statement that "cleaner diesel fuel is necessary to significantly reduce air pollution from big trucks and buses and is worth it even if it costs consumers a little more." Only 16 percent said that "cleaner diesel fuel for big trucks and buses will be too expensive resulting in higher costs which will be passed on to consumers."

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GALT, California, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - The death last week of a baby male Asian elephant at Six Flags Marine World in Vallejo, California, will not be the last, the co-founder of a major animal welfare association warns. Pat Derby, of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is predicting that more baby elephants in captivity are going to die. As long as baby elephants are weaned from their mothers too early - before the age of six years - the accompanying traumatic stress could be enough to weaken their immune systems and seriously undermine their health, says Derby.

Kala, a two year old male Asian elephant, died on November 29 of endothelial inclusion body disease, a herpes virus specific to elephants. Derby and her partner Ed Stewart, along with other animal welfare experts, said that the stress of being separated too early from his mother compromised Kala's immune system, leading to his viral infection and death. "Elephants are extremely social, complex creatures, with males remaining with their mothers for as long as 10 years," said Derby. "Kala was less than two years old when he was taken from his mother and the trauma of it must have been devastating." Derby and Stewart visited Marine World in August, after Kala arrived, and were concerned that the amusement park atmosphere made things worse for the motherless baby elephant. While at Marine World, Derby and Stewart videotaped Kala reacting in terror to a fireworks show, regular fare at the park. Derby said the practice was "unconscionable." Derby said, "Anyone who watches the video we shot in August can see the distress this poor animal was experiencing." Derby and Stewart's experience with abused exotic and show business animals led them to create the 30 acre PAWS animal sanctuary in Galt, California in the mid-1980s. They are in the process of building a much larger sanctuary in San Andreas.

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ATLANTA, Georgia, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - Severe weather alerts will be flashed almost instantly to every public school in Tennessee, due to a $300,000 hazard mitigation project financed by the state of Tennessee and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). "Our goal is to give pupils and teachers the time to seek shelter in the event of severe weather," said FEMA regional director John Copenhaver.

Under the program, computers in all schools in Tennessee's 95 counties will be linked to a weather alert system operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. When severe weather threatens, the alert will be flashed to computer screens in schools in affected areas. Of the $300,160 required for the project, FEMA will pay $225,120. "We hope the implementation of the weather alert system in the schools will lower that risk. The advent of the statewide school alert system will, at the very least, give advance warning of hazardous conditions," Copenhaver said. Severe weather "is no respecter of young or old. This system should give our kids timely warning," he said.

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ALBANY, New York, December 5, 2000 (ENS) - A series of roundtable discussions between the state of New York and local elected officials are being held this week to plan for the siting, funding and strategic planning of the proposed Rivers and Estuaries Institute on the Hudson River. "Our vision for a new Rivers and Estuaries Institute located along the banks of the majestic Hudson River will bring both national and global prominence to the Hudson Valley through its work to protect and preserve rivers throughout the world," Governor George Pataki said. "The opinions and suggestions of local leaders on the planning and development of the Institute are critical to ensure the success of this exciting and ambitious endeavor."

As part of his 2000 State of the State address, Governor Pataki proposed creating a new world class institute for the study of rivers and estuaries patterned after theWoods Hole Oceanographic Institute. His announcement drew support from local officials, scientists, educators, business leaders, environmentalists and community leaders. A State Task Force and Advisory Committee led by Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner John Cahill has been established to coordinate this effort with representation from various state agencies, public authorities, universities, foundations and environmental and business groups. The Task Force is expected to present its report to Governor Pataki as early as Spring 2001. For more information call John Cronin, Public Outreach Coordinator, at: 914-773-3452.