AmeriScan: November 9, 2001


OTTAWA, Canada, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - The United States and six other countries have joined a plan to increase international cooperation in preparing for and responding to attacks of bioterrorism.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson endorsed "The Ottawa Plan" at a meeting on public health and readiness issues in Ottawa hosted by Canadian Minister of Health Allan Rock. Also endorsing the plan, which was drafted by Canada, were officials from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico, Japan and the World Health Organization.

"Diseases used in a bioterrorist attack do not respect national borders," Thompson said. "We are reaffirming today our nations' commitments to work together to strengthen our public health readiness and response to bioterrorism. We must maximize our collective resources and expertise to improve our health security - nationally, regionally and globally."

Secretary Thompson contacted health ministers from throughout the world to discuss ways of cooperating to protect their countries' citizens from bioterrorism following the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent cases of anthrax infection.

Countries supporting The Ottawa Plan agree in principle, among other things, to explore joint cooperation in procuring vaccines and antibiotics; engage in constructive dialogue regarding regulatory frameworks for the development of vaccines, and in particular smallpox vaccines; and share emergency preparedness and response plans and consider joint training and planning.

The countries will also support the World Health Organization (WHO) disease surveillance network and WHO's efforts to develop a coordinated strategy for containing disease outbreaks. The Ottawa Plan also addresses the potential for radioactive or nuclear attacks.

Each of the countries agreed to designate a senior official to be the point person to pursue the cooperative efforts.

"The Ottawa Plan underscores the urgent need to strengthen public health preparedness," Thompson said. "Most importantly, it provides countries with a framework to move forward on concrete action."

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - Senator John Kerry joined labor leaders in a press conference Thursday to call for the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), and to condemn efforts to capitalize on the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are here today to call for the truth," Kerry said at the press conference, "to say, this is a time when our nation's security needs - homeland security, economic security, our security around the world - are too pressing, too important, to be undermined by politics, or by anyone's partisan agenda."

Accompanied by representatives of the Service Employee International Union, United Steelworkers of America, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, and the Transportation and Communications Union, Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, called for lawmakers to halt efforts to open a portion of ANWR to oil and natural gas exploration.


Senator John Kerry opposes opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and natural gas drilling (Photo courtesy Office of the Senator)
"Before September 11th, we believed in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We still believe it - and we say that knowing that drilling there will do nothing to make us any safer, will do nothing to make our economy stronger for the working men and women hurting today," said Kerry. "As you all know, some are trying to pass their decade old partisan agenda - opening the refuge to oil drilling - by telling Americans it will make us safer and make our economy stronger."

Kerry noted that supporters of ANWR drilling have tried to attach riders that would open the refuge to a number of different bills before Congress.

"They say it's security; it's not. They say it's stimulus; it's not," said Kerry. "We say it's time they joined us to do the things which will make us safer and which will bring economic relief - making our airports safe, getting money into the pockets of unemployed workers and putting health insurance and unemployment benefits ahead of tax giveaways for corporations. We're asking them to stop dividing America for a partisan cause, and to start doing what is in the national security and economic security interests of our nation."

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - The Safety and Tritium Applied Research (STAR) facility at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Lab (INEEL) has been declared a "national user facility," opening the facility's resources to increased scientific research from around the world.

"By designating STAR a national user facility, the department is increasing accessing to this important research facility for scientists and researchers across the world," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. "INEEL has a reputation of being an outstanding research facility in the area of fusion safety and I am pleased to open this facility to new and different research. Supporting fusion safety research is another example of the way the INEEL applies technical expertise to support DOE's major missions in science, energy and environment."

The STAR facility houses specialized systems for investigating the consequences of accidents in fusion reactors. Scientists believe fusion can be an almost infinite source of energy, but learning to safely harness the reaction is a tremendous challenge.

The facility is designed to host a number of experiments to determine how tritium, the fuel in a fusion reaction, interacts with other materials used to produce a fusion reaction. The STAR facility is now hosting a collaboration between the United States and Japan to explore a number of fusion safety research initiatives.

In addition, Abraham said that the department's Environmental Management Science Program has awarded INEEL $1.5 million in grant funding over the next three years for research to support the department's Environmental Management cleanup program.

The grants, to fund research initiatives to develop new approaches to dealing with the disposition of high level waste and the deactivation and decontamination of facilities, are part of 45 research grants totaling $39 million.

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PORTLAND, Oregon, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - Much of last summer's divisive standoff over water in the upper Klamath Basin could have been avoided if the area had adopted conservation measures, a new independent economic analysis shows.

"Coping with Competition for Water: Irrigation, Economic Growth, and the Ecosystem in the Upper Klamath Basin," was prepared by economists Ernie Niemi, Anne Field, and Ed Whitelaw with ECONorthwest, the oldest and largest economics consulting firm in the Pacific Northwest.

The report examines the situation in the Klamath Basin in a larger context and shows that the events leading up to the crisis had their roots in irrigation practices that are unsustainable in today's economy. By using market mechanisms now common in other parts of the West, many problems could have been avoided, the report suggests.

"Many characterize these events as unexpected and imposed by federal bureaucrats enforcing the Endangered Species Act," explains the study. "The economic analysis in this report, the bulk of which was prepared prior to these events, places them in a larger context and offers a more fundamental explanation."

The report notes that much of the water from the Klamath Basin is not used by crops, but evaporates, seeps into the ground or, once applied to farmland, runs off unused. Elsewhere in the West, farms that have adopted conservation methods have decreased their inefficiencies to less than 20 percent.

While farmers are using the most water - about 95 percent of all surface water - they contribute less and less to the region's economy. Thirty years ago, farm sector earnings accounted for eight percent of Klamath County's total income. By 1998, this figure had plummeted to 0.5 percent.

Over the next 45 years, recreational opportunities, such as salmon fishing, wildlife viewing and hunting, are predicted to become far more valuable than the production of agricultural and timber commodities in the region.

"For decades, irrigators have used water while other, higher value uses have withered; and, for years, the economic values associated with irrigators' demands have weakened relative to those of competing demands," adds the report. "Whatever the outcome from these actions, pressure for change in how the Basin's water is used will continue to come from economic, competitive forces."

The full text of the report is available at:

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - Solar energy should be a key component of any U.S. plan aimed at creating energy independence and jump starting the economy, suggests a new study by the conservation group Greenpeace.

The study, titled "Solar Promise," illustrates the job creation and pollution cutting potential of solar energy by describing the benefits that states could realize if they install a small solar array on just one of every 100 houses.

"A small investment in solar power would light the way to energy independence, new jobs and reduced pollution for every state in the nation," said Kert Davies, Greenpeace global warming and energy campaign coordinator. "Solar power is safe, practical and clean. And best of all, you don't have to import it or plunder precious wilderness to get it."

Voters in San Francisco handed the solar industry a endorsement Tuesday by passing two ballot measures that provide funding for developing up to 50 megawatts (MW) of solar energy in the city - enough power for 10,000 average homes.

"With today's vote, San Francisco has jumped ahead of the nation in starting to build an energy future independent of the whims of the big fossil fuel companies or the utilities," said Danny Kennedy, of Greenpeace's Clean Energy Now! campaign. "California's strong step forward with renewable energy won't mean much if other states don't follow its lead."

A recent Greenpeace report shows the United States is in danger of losing the solar race to other countries in Europe and Asia where governments have taken an active roll in promoting solar energy. In the United States, Greenpeace found major differences between states in terms of the incentives they offer consumers for investing in solar power.

States in the Sunbelt were not always the most solar intensive states. For example, New York has more installed solar power than Florida; and Nevada, low on the solar power list now, has major projects planned in the near future.

The "Solar Promise" study is available at:

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SACRAMENTO, California, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed to designate critical habitat for two varieties of the purple amole, a threatened native California plant, on about 21,980 acres in Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties.

About 17,210 acres of critical habitat are being proposed for the purple amole variety and 4,770 acres for the Camatta Canyon amole variety.

"The purple amole is a unique part of central California's oak woodland and grassland ecosystems," said Steve Thompson, acting manager of the USFWS California/Nevada operations office. "Critical habitat highlights the habitat needed by the purple amole to survive. The more people are aware of the needs of the species, the greater the odds that the plants will make a comeback."

About 68 percent of the acreage proposed for critical habitat for the amole species is on federal lands, while private land accounts for 32 percent. State lands comprise less than one percent of the proposal. The plants have small populations with limited distribution, making them vulnerable to extinction from manmade and natural causes.

The purple amole was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in March 2000. The loss or alteration of habitat, livestock grazing, and displacement by non-native grasses have contributed to the decline of the purple amole.

On March 17, 2000, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the USFWS and the Secretary of the Interior for failure to designate critical habitat for the purple amole. On March 24, 2000, the court ordered the USFWS to propose critical habitat for the species by September 30, 2001. The final rule is due by May 1, 2002.

The USFWS will accept public comments on the proposal through December 24.

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COLLEGE STATION, Texas, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - Texas A&M University at Galveston researchers are studying the otolith - the ear bone about the size of a dime in the bluefin tuna - to see why the numbers of the great fish have been dwindling for the past 25 years

The bluefin is the largest and most prized of all tuna types, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds. One bluefin can fetch as much as $50,000 on Asian markets, where its meat is a precious commodity.

"That's one big reason why its stock has decreased. It's probably been overfished," said Dr. Jay Rooker, an assistant professor of marine biology who has a multi-year grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service to study the bluefin's habits.

One study shows the number of bluefins in the western Atlantic Ocean has dropped almost 90 percent since the 1970s.

Rooker said what he and his research team want to undercover is the mixing rate of bluefin tuna - the number that spawn in one area and then travel great distances, sometimes thousands of miles. Some bluefin spawn in the Gulf of Mexico and travel as far as the Italian coast, while in the Pacific it is not uncommon for bluefin to spawn near Japan and be found near Mexico.

Each year, bluefins add a new layer of bone to their otoliths. Distinguishing the otoliths of the Mediterranean bluefin from those from the Gulf of Mexico will tell Rooker several things, among them the age of the fish and its nursery areas.

"The otolith provides age and growth information and will tell us about the bluefin's environment," Rooker explained. "We can learn a lot about the entire fish and its habits from this one piece of small bone."

The mixing rates of the bluefin will tell researchers more about its future.

"If there is a 10 or 20 percent mixing rate of the Gulf bluefin and the Mediterranean bluefin, stocks present off the U.S. may be strongly influenced by fishing activities in the Mediterranean," Rooker added. "What tuna fishermen in the U.S. seem to think is that the bluefin is being highly overfished in the Mediterranean, and this study should give us some answers. If the mixing rate is high, it will help us determine how we can manage the stock of bluefins in the future."

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PORTLAND, Oregon, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has awarded about $6.2 million in grants to the states of Washington and California for coastal wetland restoration projects.

The awards are part of the annual National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program competition, which awarded more than $14 million to 20 projects nationwide. The grants include about 10,500 acres of coastal wetlands and about 10 miles of coastal riparian habitat in California, and about 1,200 acres of similar habitat in Washington.

Under the national grant program, states or U.S. territories must compete for the grants by submitting project proposals to the USFWS regional federal aid coordinators. Grant money comes from a portion of revenue generated from excise taxes on small engine fuels.

These taxes are deposited into the Service's Federal Aid Sport Fish Restoration account, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury's Aquatic Resources Trust Fund.

Grants are awarded based on how well the proposals benefit wildlife and habitat . The selected grants are then matched with federal and non-federal money from a project's supporting partners.

The money is used to purchase land from willing sellers for ecological restoration and management as wildlife areas. The projects often link with and complement a state's larger conservation plan for the area.

"Our coastal program managers from Puget Sound, the Pacific Islands and California have a fine track record providing technical assistance and creating partnerships to get these proposals implemented on the ground," said Paula Levin, the region's coastal program coordinator.

In Washington, wetlands and riparian habitat in Island, Whatcom, Pacific and Snohomish counties will be expanded, restored and managed for wild salmon, steelhead, cutthroat trout and bull trout as well as migratory waterfowl and shorebirds.

In California, grants totaling more than $3.3 million were awarded for projects in Mendocino, Del Norte, San Louis Obispo and San Diego counties. The money will help purchase and restore wetlands and contribute to the recovery of protected species such as salmon, bald eagles, Steller sea lions and southern sea otters.

Shorebirds such as the threatened Western snowy plover, the endangered California clapper rail and other sensitive migratory song birds, waterfowl and amphibians will also benefit from the grants.

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JAMOS, Chihuahua, Mexico, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - On Thursday, more than two dozen endangered black-footed ferrets from New Mexico, Virginia, and Wyoming were released into the wild in Mexico.

The newly released animals joined 34 ferrets released on October 2 as well as four others released a few weeks earlier as a test in the effort to restore this rare species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico released the ferrets in the vicinity of Janos, located about 140 miles southwest of El Paso, Texas. The ferrets released in Mexico were born in captivity at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center near Laramie, Wyoming; the Smithsonian National Zoological Park's Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, Virginia; and the Turner Endangered Species Fund breeding facility in Raton, New Mexico.

"Today we celebrate a major step in wildlife conservation history as we continue our groundbreaking joint efforts to restore a species that has disappeared from Mexico," said USFWS acting director Marshall Jones.

Just over 20 years ago, most people thought the black-footed ferret was extinct. Their historic range is believed to have extended from Canada to Mexico, along the great plains, grasslands, and shrub lands of the mid-continent, but until this series of releases they were no longer believed to exist in Mexico.

The black-footed ferret is North America's only native ferret. The species suffered tremendous declines in numbers as a result of rural development and disease, which impacted not only black-footed ferrets, but also prairie dogs, a species vital to their survival.

By 1987, there were just 18 black-footed ferrets remaining in the world. These were captured and transferred to captive breeding facilities. Today, there are 700 black-footed ferrets in existence, with about half of those living in the wild.

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 9, 2001 (ENS) - Interior Secretary Gale Norton and several environmental groups are urging Americans to seek solace and inspiration from nature this weekend as a way of coping with the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Norton kicked off the Veterans Day Weekend of Unity, Hope and Healing on Thursday at the Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, Maryland.

"This weekend all Americans are invited to visit our national parks, national wildlife refuges and other public lands," said Norton. "These grand areas remind us of the beauty of nature and the greatness of our cultural and historic heritage. They remind us of the sacrifices that so many have made - and are making - to protect the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Thousands of parks, historic sites and recreation areas are waiving their entrance fees this weekend. The Nature Conservancy, a private, national conservation group, says it will also waive its fees.

"We share Secretary Norton's desire for Americans to connect to their lands and waters - our country's precious wildlands and natural areas - as a way of promoting national unity, hope and healing," said Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "At a time when the dark side of humanity is so starkly revealed, it is worth remembering that Earth abides."

Most Conservancy preserves are free and open to the public throughout the year. Some preserves, however, are closed to visitors due to scientific research or threats to endangered species. Fees will be waived at the few locations that normally charge admission.

The Sierra Club this week launched a series of newspaper ads encouraging Americans to explore and enjoy the great outdoors to relieve stress. The ads guide readers to an website called "A Special Place" ( where Sierra Club members share their favorite recreation spots to help people locate outdoor treasures.

"Since September 11 people have been trying to cope with the uncertainty of terrorism, and Mother Nature can help us heal," said Sierra Club president Jennifer Ferenstein. "In an effort to return to normalcy, Americans are looking to the outdoors for comfort. They feel safe getting back to nature - back to hiking, hunting, fishing and biking."