AmeriScan: December 29, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - The Personal Watercraft Industry Association (PWIA) is contesting the settlement of a lawsuit filed by the Bluewater Network against the National Park Service (NPS) that could result in a total ban of personal watercraft from all national parks by 2002. "This underhanded settlement reached behind closed doors in the 11th hour of a lame duck administration is sneaky, discriminatory and patently unfair," said Monita Fontaine, PWIA's executive director. "We had formally petitioned the court to allow us to intervene in this lawsuit before this one sided settlement was reached. We cannot remain silent when personal watercraft are threatened with total bans, yet all other types of motorboats are still allowed on public waters. This unfair settlement was reached without any input from personal watercraft operators. Someone's got to debunk Bluewater's propaganda and protect the public's interest."

The Bluewater Network, a national environmental organization, reached a settlement last week with the NPS over use of personal watercraft, better known by the trade name jet ski. Environmental groups cite studies finding that jet skis damage air and water quality and disturb wildlife. In March, the NPS adopted regulations which banned jet skis from about two-thirds of all national parks. The rule exempted 21 parks from this ban, and in August, Bluewater Network filed suit claiming that the new regulations violated a federal law requiring the NPS to leave park resources unimpaired for future generations. Last week's settlement requires these 21 parks to ban jet skis unless they undertake environmental reviews. "The group that filed the lawsuit, the Bluewater Network, isn't some kindhearted, grassroots scientific group trying to save the earth for all," charged Fontaine. "It's a small, narrowly focused fringe group that mangles science, misstates facts, manipulates the judicial system and pressures public officials into advancing its anti-access agenda, which is ultimately bent on the restriction of all forms of motorized recreation." Fontaine said the PWIA would support "legitimate environmental studies" of jet skis, and "quite frankly, think any 'real' environmental research will prove today's new personal watercraft are the most environmentally friendly motorized craft on the water."

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - The Puerto Rico Medical Services Administration (Administration) has agreed to pay $65,000 in penalties and to undertake a $100,000 asthma study, treatment and intervention project involving asthmatic children in San Juan. The Administration operates a health care facility in San Juan called the Puerto Rico Medical Center. The agreement settles allegations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the Administration failed to monitor sulfur dioxide emissions at two newly reconstructed boilers at the Puerto Rico Medical Center. For more than a year, the boilers burned fuel with about 1.5 percent sulfur content, violating a law requiring that the fuel contain less than 0.5 percent sulfur. The facility also failed to submit excess emissions reports as required by law.

"While the true cause of asthma is still not clearly understood, air pollution can certainly contribute to asthma attacks that send kids to the emergency room. In recent years, EPA has been working with the Puerto Rican government and hospitals, as well as others to help ameliorate thus major health problem in Puerto Rico," said EPA regional administrator Jeanne Fox. "The asthma intervention program included in this settlement will benefit some of the many children in Puerto Rico who suffer from asthma. Civil penalties are an important deterrent to violating the law, but projects such as this one directly benefit the community in which the violations occurred." The facility has switched its boilers to fuel containing less than 0.5 percent sulfur. The Administration will create a childhood asthma program offering clinic visits, interdisciplinary evaluation by specialists, allergy testing, asthma education and indoor home environment assessments.

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - Ford/Firestone, Glaxo Wellcome, Lockheed Martin and Smithfield Foods were among the most irresponsible corporations of 2000, says the Ten Worst Corporations of the Year list released each year by "Multinational Monitor" magazine. Other companies on the list include Aventis, BAT, BP/Amoco, Phillips Petroleum and Titan International. "The nation is beset by an epidemic of corporate crime and misconduct," says Russell Mokhiber, editor of the "Corporate Crime Reporter" and a co-author of "Multinational Monitor's" Ten Worst Corporations of the Year list. "The ten worst corporations are just the tip of the iceberg." Robert Weissman, editor of "Multinational Monitor" and co-author of the story, said "The 'Ten Worst Corporations of the Year' highlight in stark terms the consequences of corporate power run amok. These include despoilment of the natural environment, infliction of preventable disease, smashing of unions, invasions of privacy, corruption of democracy and more."

The Ten Worst Corporations of the Year appears in the December 2000 issue of the "Multinational Monitor," founded by consumer advocate and two time Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The companies appearing on this year's list earned their spot for the following reasons:

"The Ten Worst Corporation of the Year" is posted at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 20, 2000 (ENS) - The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says that 2000 was a pivotal year for animal protection, with animals winning big at the ballot box, in corporate board rooms, in state and local legislatures, in the U.S. Congress and in courtrooms. The international picture, however, is more challenging, with whales, elephants and other endangered species fighting for survival as animal use interests battle to legalize trade in meat and parts from endangered animals even as illegal trade in animals is flourishing. "The accelerating pace of progress for animals in the United States and Europe demonstrates that public support for animal protection is at an all time high," said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president for The HSUS. "However, attitudes towards animals are vastly different in many parts of the world. Animal protection advocates face an uphill battle in the effort to protect animals worldwide."

The just concluded 106th Congress set a record for passing the most pro-animal legislation of any Congress in U.S. history, including:

State and local lawmakers also acted to improve the lives of animals: Major corporations are also recognizing the public's concern for animals, as witnessed by McDonald's landmark announcement that the fast food giant will refuse to purchase eggs from producers who do not meet minimum standards for animal care.

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WASHINGTON, DC, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - The National Park Service (NPS) has released the agency's new policy manual, Management Policies. The policies are derived from laws that have been enacted to establish and govern the NPS and the National Park System. This is the first update of Management Policies since 1988. This document serves as the basic, service wide policy manual used by park superintendents and other NPS managers to guide their decision making. A draft of the new policy document was distributed for a 60 day public review and comment period that closed in March. All comments received by the NPS were considered, the agency says, and those considered appropriate were incorporated into the final document. "The policies are vitally important to the future of the National Park System, because they give us the tools to be consistent in our approach to decision making and problem solving," said NPS Director Robert Stanton.

The manual prescribes policies that enable the NPS to preserve park resources and values unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations, as required by law. "We believe this update of Management Policies will improve the Service's ability to protect park resources and values as Congress intended when it passed the 1916 NPS Organic Act and the 1978 amendment to the General Authorities Act," Stanton said. The policies have been updated to keep pace with new laws that have been enacted, changes in technology and American demographics, and new understandings of the kinds of actions that are required to best protect the natural and cultural resources of the parks. The policies stress the importance of:

The new "Management Policies" is available at:

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COLUMBUS, Ohio, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - A record number of new and rare wild plant species were spotted in Ohio this year, says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). "It was a spectacular year for Ohio botany - perhaps the best on record," said Stu Lewis, chief of ODNR's Division of Natural Areas and Preserves (DNAP). "It's been the best year ever for finding rare plant species in Ohio - at least since we've been keeping records." In a typical year, Ohio might record the discovery of one wild plant species new to the state. During 2000, three new species - all previously unknown in the state - were verified by ODNR. In addition, another five species thought to have died out more than 20 years ago were rediscovered. These extirpated plant finds were encouraging to biologists because the discoveries mean habitats necessary for the plants to thrive still exist in Ohio, Lewis noted.


A Lake Erie sand dune produced the first wild bearberry recorded in the state since 1939 (Photo courtesy Ohio DNR)

New plant species discovered in 2000 were the Missouri rock-cress, the cuspidate dodder - both found in northwestern Ohio, and the Robbin's spikerush found in the northeastern part of the state. Rediscovered species included the creeping aster and villous panic-grass in southern Ohio, bearberry in northeastern Ohio, the long-bearded hawkweed in northwestern Ohio and Gattinger's foxglove in central Ohio. An informal network of professional and amateur botanists, including several ODNR employees, made most of this year's notable discoveries. Adams County resident Barb Lund and her friend Dan Boone, a Kentucky botanist, rediscovered the creeping aster, a 12 inch tall plant that produces lavender flowers in the fall, along a roadside in Shawnee State Forest in Scioto County. It was last spotted in Ohio in 1954. "We each figured it was something special," Lund said. Lund was also responsible for discovering villous panic-grass, a prairie plant that had not been reported in the state for 65 years. She discovered it in Adams County on a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy.

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DENVER, Colorado, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - Nitrous oxide is an atmospheric trace gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect and the destruction of ozone. Researchers hypothesize that one important source of atmospheric nitrous oxide is ground water, yet few studies have tested this hypothesis. Concentrations of nitrous oxide in ground water from the central High Plains aquifer - located in parts of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas - are increasing, a new study reveals. Well pumping for irrigation, public supply and domestic uses is the primary mechanism for ground water discharge from the aquifer, and pumping is one mechanism for transferring nitrous oxide from the aquifer to the atmosphere.

"The average concentration of nitrous oxide in water that recharged the aquifer since the 1950's is about twice as large as the average nitrous oxide concentration in water that recharged the aquifer prior to the 1950's," said Peter McMahon, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist and lead author of the report. About 80 percent of the water samples collected for the study contained nitrous oxide above background concentrations. The ground water most enriched in nitrous oxide occurs near the water table, whereas deep water from the aquifer is relatively old and contains less nitrous oxide. Despite the increase in nitrous oxide concentrations in the central High Plains aquifer, the aquifer is not thought to be a significant source of atmospheric nitrous oxide at this time because most pumping wells in the study area remove the deeper water that is not enriched in nitrous oxide. The report, "Occurrence of Nitrous Oxide in the Central High Plains Aquifer, 1999," was published in the December, 2000 issue of the journal "Environmental Science & Technology."

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SANTA FE, New Mexico, December 29, 2000 (ENS) - After spending the last nine months traveling by foot, ski, kayak and bicycle, "Pole To Pole 2000," the first ever journey of its kind, will reach the South Pole on December 31. The polar visit will complete the first leg of a three year journey around the world. The eight member team hails from seven different countries: the United States, Canada, France, South Africa, Korea, Japan and Argentina. The 22,000 mile journey began at the North Pole on April 5, and has crossed through the Arctic, Canada, the United States, Central and South America and is now traveling through Antarctica. The purpose of "Pole To Pole 2000" is to focus attention on fostering community action and environmental and humanitarian awareness around the globe, challenging millions to take action for a more liveable world. Throughout their nine month trek, "Pole To Pole 2000" has participated in a variety of local and community based activities.

Dylan Spencer of Canada, a current team member, said that "through 'Pole To Pole' we have been able to show people that through simple steps, we can do amazing things, and make a big difference." The team carries with them more than 68 million pledges from people who have taken up the challenge of community service. The tour is the brainchild and is led by adventure explorer Martyn Williams - the first man in the world to lead successful expeditions to the North and South poles and Mt. Everest. On January 1, 2001, Martyn will begin the next leg of the arduous journey from the South Pole traveling north through Africa and Europe to reach the North Pole in May 2002, 17 months later. "Pole To Pole 2000" was conceived three years ago by Williams as a unique combination of adventure travel and community service. With a background in Eskimo and Indian youth education as well as his extended expeditions and his involvement in environmental issues, Williams is committed to finding practical ways to educate the young in the skills needed to lead a global community. More information is available at: