AmeriScan: January 25, 2000


WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - U.S. and Canadian officials have formally agreed to protect the west coast transboundary Georgia Basin/Puget Sound area to "preserve and enhance the environmental quality and sustainability of their region." The protected area extends from Seattle, Washington in the south to the northern tip of Vancouver Island. In a Joint Statement of Cooperation that outlines their "shared responsibility" for "protecting this special place." Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner and Canadian Minister of the Environment David Anderson signed the joint statement on January 19, vowing to work together to "conserve the area's fragile ecosystem while promoting sustainable development."

The joint statement emphasizes that local communities and residents have an "important stake" in helping to maintain their environment, and a "vital role" to play. This area is home to millions of migrant birds, five species of spawning salmon, whales, seals, and many types of fish. Because it offers great opportunities to farm, fish, and log, more and more people are attracted to the area for commercial and recreational purposes. The greatest threat to this environment is the rapid population growth, Anderson warned. "In the past 25 years, the population in the Basin/Sound ecosystem has more than doubled. In the next 15 years, it may double yet again, creating enormous pressures on the economy, society and environment of the region."

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BLOOMINGTON, Indiana, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has claimed responsibility for a fire on Sunday that destroyed a house at the Sterling Woods Development in the Bloomington area. An estimated $200,000 in damages was done. An ELF statement obtained by the Environment News Service says, "The house was targeted because the sprawling development it is located in is in the Lake Monroe Watershed. This is the drinking water supply for the town of Bloomington, Indiana and the surrounding area. It is already being jeopardized by existing development and roads."

The arsonists torched one house that when finished was to be worth $700,000. "No Sprawl, ELF" was painted on the developer's sign. A police investigation is underway. The Earth Liberation Front is an international underground organization that uses direct action to stop what it considers to be "exploitation and destruction of the natural environment." Other recent actions by ELF include a $400,000 fire at Michigan State University on December 31, 1999, the burning of Boise Cascade's northwest headquarters in Monmouth, OR on December 25, 1999, and the $12 million destruction suffered by Vail Resorts, Inc. in Colorado in October, 1998.

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PORTLAND, Oregon, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - Nearly 90 years of railyard operations at the former Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad site in northwest Portland left a legacy of soil and groundwater contamination. Now, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has a cleanup plan that will make the 26-acre site acceptable for commercial and residential development. Environmental investigations at the site found petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil and groundwater caused by spilled or leaked fuels as well as lead from battery servicing operations.

The railroad has vacated the property, removing most structures and railroad tracks. The area is part of the City of Portland's River District Plan which calls for residential and commercial re-development over the next 10 to 15 years. The DEQ cleanup plan calls for spending an estimated $5.1 million to haul out or cap contaminated soil, and pump petroleum contaminants from groundwater beneath the area. That plan is now out for public review. Once a final plan is in place, DEQ will identify responsible parties to implement and pay for the cleanup work. Hoyt Street Properties currently owns the 26-acre site. As proposed by DEQ, the cleanup would occur during that same timeframe in conjunction with redevelopment. All areas must be dealt with within 15 years, even if redevelopment does not happen in some locations. Review a 15-page summary document online at: . Written comments must be received by 5 pm on February 15. Contact: Jill Kiernan, P.E., Senior Project Engineer, DEQ Northwest Region, 2020 SW Fourth Avenue, Suite 400, Portland, OR 97201-4987. Tel: 503-229-6900; Fax: 503-229-6945.

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OLYMPIA, Washington, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - The state of Washington lost nearly half its funding on January 1, when Initiative 695 took effect. The initiative eliminated a $2-per-year tax on each vehicle that helped pay for the state's air quality efforts since 1992. "We're convinced voters did not intend to do away with clean air when they voted to lower vehicle taxes," said Mary Burg, who manages the Washington Department of Ecology's (Ecology) air-quality program. "But unless the legislature restores the funding, one very real outcome of I-695 will be dirtier air for everyone in Washington.

Clean air prevents hundreds of premature deaths, avoids thousands of illnesses and saves more than $2 billion in health costs each year because the air is cleaner today than it was in 1990 says Ecology after an analysis of figures from a recent report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The cost/benefit study is the most comprehensive assessment ever conducted of the nation's clean air laws. "The figures show that the benefits of clean air outpace the costs to protect air quality by more than three to one," said Burg. "It is clear that air-quality programs are a good investment from both a health and an economic perspective." This is a crucial time for air quality," said Burg. "Air pollution still exacts quite a toll in Washington. We're heading in the right direction, but without funding we cannot continue that progress."

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - The U.S. Supreme Court will not reconsider lower court decisions denying Pacific Lumber Company (PL) of Scotia, California nearly $700,000 in legal fees. The fee claim arose from Marbled Murrelet v. Babbitt, a federal lawsuit filed by The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) of Garberville, California in 1995 seeking to halt PL's "salvage" logging operations in the old growth groves of Headwaters Forest. Although PL won the case, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco rejected the company's claim that it was entitled to legal fees; the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. On January 18, the Supreme Court declined to review PL's final appeal. "Pacific Lumber obviously pursued this claim as a form of harassment," said EPIC executive director Paul Mason.

In 1995, PL filed for a state forestry exemption allowing "salvage" of dead, dying and diseased trees without environmental or public review. PL proposed removing 10 percent of the standing volume of the groves, and all of the fallen trees on the forest floor, using helicopters and tractors. EPIC challenged the exemption in federal court, alleging that the operations would destroy habitat for the marbled murrelet, a rare seabird protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A restraining order halted logging operations in September 1995. EPIC later included a challenge to eight other logging plans that could harm the Northern spotted owl, also listed as threatened. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) allowed an "informal" assessment of harm the logging would do to the threatened birds. EPIC argued a "formal" study was required. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with USFWS, and salvage logging took place in four of the six groves in the fall of 1996. The other two groves were preserved by EPIC's litigation for long enough to be covered by a moratorium stemming from the Headwaters Forest agreement in which the state and federal government bought 7,500 acres of the Headwaters Forest from PL's parent company, MAXXAM. Headwaters Grove and Elkhead Springs Grove were never salvage logged.

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WASHINGTON, DC, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - The majority of Americans surveyed in a recent national Harris Poll said they would prefer to wear a coat made with manufactured faux fur rather than a coat made from animal fur. In a telephone survey of 1,010 adults, 72 percent said they would choose wearing a coat made from a manufactured material with all of the qualities of animal fur over a coat made from animal fur. Only 15 percent said they would choose to wear an animal fur coat. Eight percent said they would choose neither, and two percent declined to answer.

The national telephone poll was conducted January 7 to 12 by Harris Interactive. Since 1987, the fur industry reports that retail sales for fur have dropped from $1.8 billion to $1.2 billion. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that U.S. imports of fur apparel have dropped from $423 million in 1988 to $133.8 million in 1998. Imports make up nearly 60 percent of the U.S. market. Government statistics show that the number of U.S. caged mink facilities, fur manufacturers, and fur retailers have all dropped by more than 50 percent since 1987. The number of wild animals trapped for their fur in the U.S. has declined from 17 million to 2.5 million since the mid-1980s. Globally, approximately 40 million animals remain annual victims of the fur trade.

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Florida pelican hooked by a careless fisher. (Photo by Juei-Ping Chen)
MIAMI, Florida, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - In Florida's Oleta River State Park, birds are being struck by flying fish hooks and injured by other hooks discarded by fishers. One pelican that is well known to park staff, has been living with a hook in his body for some time. A recent visitor from Taiwan, touched by the plight of the pelican, asked park staff for a solution but was told they could do nothing but provide public education on the dangers of careless fishing.

Discarded fish hooks and coils of fishing line litter the dock and the surrounding land, but they apparently are not removed by park staff who said they only clean the roads, the beach and the grass. The Taiwanese visitor, Juei-Ping, Chen, would like to see a type of fish hook developed that would be strong enough to catch fish, yet dissolve under water in 24 hours. Until such a fish hook is made, he has this suggestion for the park management. "When some one wants to fish in the state park, they should buy or take hooks from the state park, and the guards could check and number the hooks. When they leave the state park, the guards could do it again, to prevent people leaving their hooks or fishline on the state park. It is more difficult for the state park, I know. But if people want to fish, they should be responsible for the whole state park."

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TALLAHASSEE, Florida, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - Florida Governor Jeb Bush said Friday that $250,000 has been allocated from a special trust fund within the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to further clean up Lake Jackson. Phase I of the Lake Jackson cleanup, which began in September after most of Lake Jackson drained into the Porter Sink, was completed early this month. It involved removing nuisance aquatic plants and about two feet of sediment from the lakebed in parts of Megginnis and Fords Arms. About 350,000 cubic yards of sediment were removed. The buildup of sediment over the years has inhibited the natural growth of plant life crucial to the health of the lake. Phase II involves cleaning sediment from the southern part of the main portion of Lake Jackson.

The grant to the Northwest Florida Water Management District will be passed to Leon County to continue cleaning up the southern part of Lake Jackson. Funds from the state may have been approved during the upcoming legislative session instead of taking them from the trust fund. But managers worried that the lake, which was drained to accomplish the cleanup, may have begun to come back by then, raising the cost of restoration. Lake Jackson was the highest ranking priority for restoration under the Surface Water Improvement and Management list of significant water bodies in the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Leon County Commissioner Dan Winchester said, "This is a statement from the Governorís Office and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection that our lakes and drinking water are important, not only locally in Leon County, but for all of Florida."

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DENVER, Colorado, January 25, 2000 (ENS) - Steve and Carol Treadway, farmers in Brush, Colorado for more than 25 years, are the recipients of the 2000 Wildlife Landowner of the Year award. A panel of judges selected the Treadways for restoring a wetlands for shorebirds and waterfowl on their 160-acre property along the South Platte River in Morgan County. "The Treadways worked meticulously to develop the shallow wetlands on what was previously cropland adjacent to the South Platte River," said Tim Davis, Colorado Division of Wildlife coordinator for private lands. "The Treadways are strong believers that habitat conservation, farming, and ranching can be and should be accomplished with mutual benefit."

Steve Treadway is president of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District and has promoted proactive partnerships to address endangered species concerns in the Lower South Platte River. He is a member of the Brush City Council and helped coordinate a partnership between the City of Brush, the Division and Ducks Unlimited. This effort resulted in the establishment of Brush Prairie Ponds State Wildlife Area that serves as a water recharge site for the cityís municipal water and a wetland complex that is open to the public for hunting and wildlife viewing.