President’s Wetlands Plan Criticized

The Bush Administration has been under a lot of pressure from environmentalists, hunting groups, and state agencies to do something about wetlands protection. On Earth Day, President Bush responded by announcing a new initiative that he says will take wetlands protection to a higher level. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush takes a closer look at the President’s latest proposal:

Transcript

The Bush Administration has been under a lot of pressure from
environmentalists, hunting groups, and state agencies to do something about
wetlands protection. On Earth Day, President Bush responded by announcing a
new initiative that he says will take wetlands protection to a higher level.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush takes a closer look at the
President’s latest proposal:


In the last thirty years, urban sprawl and farming have destroyed millions of
acres of wetlands. Because of that, the past two Presidents called for a
policy of “no net loss of wetlands.” The current Bush administration says it also
supports that goal. And says it wants to go a step further.


On Earth Day, the President unveiled his latest plan to protect and restore
wetlands.


“The old policy of wetlands was to limit the loss of wetlands. Today, I’m going to
announce a new policy and a new goal for our country: instead of just
limiting our losses, we will expand the wetlands of America.”


(Applause – fade under)


The Bush administration says its policy will restore, improve, and protect a
total of three million acres of wetlands in the next five years. In his speech, the
President gave a general outline of the plan, saying he’s going to increase support for a
number of programs already in place.


Ben Grumbles is an Assistant Administrator at the Environmental Protection
Agency. He heads up the water and wetlands programs for the EPA. He says
the President has called on many agencies to implement the new plan:


“The heart of the President’s new goal and commitment is to use
collaborative conservation-based programs to gain three million acres of
wetlands and to do so through USDA, Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation programs and
partnerships with the private sector.”


While environmentalists approve parts of President Bush’s new plan, many of
them say it’s the wrong first step to take. Julie Sibbing is a wetlands
policy specialist with the National Wildlife Federation.


“Although it’s a great thing that they’re going to get a million acres of
wetlands restored, and a million acres enhanced, and a million acres
protected, it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to what’s currently at
risk due to their policies on protecting wetlands under the Clean Water
Act.”


And that’s the main criticism – environmentalists and some hunters say the
Administration is not doing its job in enforcing current federal laws. Laws that protect
rivers, lakes, and wetlands – and worse – they say the administration has
actively weakened laws that protect millions of acres of smaller, isolated
wetlands. These critics see this latest announcement by the Bush Administration
as an attempt to shore up its dismal record on the environment in general…
and on wetlands in particular.


The National Wildlife Federation’s Julie Sibbing says the Administration
would make better use of taxpayers’ money by reviewing some of its policies
and protecting wetlands that already exist:


“It’s just too hard to build new wetlands for us to ignore protecting what’s
there right now. We love the programs that restore former wetlands, but the
most important thing is to try to protect those wetlands that we still
have.”


Officials in the Bush Administration say they are serious about enforcing
the law. And they say they are protecting wetlands. They say they’re just
taking a different approach.


In his speech, President Bush said good conservation will
happen when people don’t just rely on the government to be the solution to
the problem, saying more people should look to private sector land trusts
and voluntary efforts by landowners to get the job done.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.

Related Links

Battle Plans for Asian Carp

Asian carp are the new poster fish in the campaign against invasive species. For years, foreign invaders like the zebra mussel, the round goby, and now the carp have been threatening the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Like their fellow species of concern, the carp have no natural predators to keep their numbers in check. Ecologists report that they are now closing in on Lake Michigan from the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. This has authorities in the U.S. and Canada stepping up efforts to control them. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Diantha Parker reports:

Transcript

Asian carp are the new poster fish in the campaign against invasive species. For years, foreign invaders like the zebra mussel, the round goby, and now the carp have been threatening the ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Like their fellow species of concern, the carp have no natural predators to keep their numbers in check. Ecologists report that they are now closing in on Lake Michigan from the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. This has authorities in the U.S. and Canada stepping up efforts to control them. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Diantha Parker reports:


The Asian carp now in the spotlight are the silver and bighead varieties, and they share traits that worry environmentalists.


For one thing, they’re large…sometimes reaching up to a hundred pounds in less than three years. They escaped from fish farms in Mississippi about twenty years ago, and have been making their way up the Mississippi River ever since.


The carp voraciously consume the same microscopic organisms that native fish depend on.


They’ll out-eat anything in their midst. That means game fish won’t have as much to eat, and their populations will suffer.


And the carp are invasive in other ways, too. At a recent news conference a few yards from Lake Michigan, journalists and curious passersby inspected three enormous dead carp laid out on a folding table…glistening in the sun next to Pam Theil, a project leader at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


“It sounds sensational, but they can jump out of the water into your boat. A gentleman who works for the Illinois Natural History Survey has gotten hit four times, the last time he had to file for workman’s compensation with a neck injury. A commercial fisherman on the Caskaskia River got his nose broken. And there are reports of people on the Caskaskia, who are going out fishing, or just recreation in their boat…they’re taking cookie sheets with them to act as a shield, so that they don’t get hit.”


The newest weapon in the Great Lakes Fight against the carp is an electronic barrier.
It was built in April by the Army Corps of Engineers and the International Joint Commission, an organization that oversees the use of waterways between the U.S. and Canada.


The electronic barrier sits in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal about 30 miles downstream from the city. The Canal is a manmade link between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. This particular spot was chosen for the barrier because it’s a revolving door between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin.


The barrier itself consists of about one hundred and sixty wires, spaced a few feet apart, that lie crosswise along the bottom of the canal. The wires emit electrical impulses to deter all fish that approach them.


“There is a charge that is applied to those cables.”


Dennis Schornack is U.S. chairman of the International Joint Commission.


“Not a real strong charge, not one that would be harmful to people, if they fell into the
canal, but strong enough for fish to sense it, and when they sense this charge in the water they turn, and turn back down the river.”


Right now, the electronic barrier is only in an 18 month test phase. The authorities involved say after that time is up, funding from Congress will be needed to keep it in operation.


Some people wonder why we can’t just catch these invasive carp and eat them. But while the carp are a popular food source in Asia, they’ve been slow to catch on here, says Pam Theil.


“I think that there is a mentality that we’d rather be eating walleye or something than carp.”


But a chicken processing plant in southern Illinois has looked into processing the carp…they’ve taste tested it as a product similar to tuna, but are still deciding whether it’s marketable.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Diantha Parker.

Whoopers Prepare for Historic Flight

Ten whooping crane chicks that may go on a historic flight through part of the Midwest this fall are about to start flying lessons. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

Ten whooping crane chicks that may go on a historic flight through part of the Midwest this fall are about to start flying lessons. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports.


Public and private sector wildlife experts are trying to set up the first migrating flock of whooping cranes in the Eastern U.S. the plan is to have the birds learn their migration route this October by following ultra-light aircraft from Wisconsin to Florida. Ten two-month old whooping crane chicks have just finished the first step of the experiment at a federal wildlife center in Maryland. Joan Guilfoyle of the u-s fish and wildlife service says the chicks went through ground school.


“Right from coming out of the egg they were exposed to sounds of ultra light engines, being able to see people in costumes disguised as adult whoopers, so they would begin to associate their care and protection with those two things.”


Now the crane chicks have been brought by private plane to
Wisconsin, where ultra light pilots wearing crane costumes will give the birds flying lessons. Many of the same people worked on a test migration with smaller but more plentiful sandhill cranes last year. Guilfoyle says there are some behavioral differences between sandhills and whoopers.


“One of them is sandhills tend to migrate in groups more than whoopers…so we will learn the right number to group…may be all ten of them together or they may end up in two groups.”


A century ago, it’s believed about one thousand whooping cranes roamed parts of North America. Today, the species is endangered. The only remaining migrating flock of whoopers numbers about one hundred and seventy five. That flock spends its summers in Canada, before heading to Texas for the winter. If the human-assisted migration in Wisconsin is successful this fall, scientists hope to continue the reintroduction. And they say they could have as many as 25 breeding pairs of whooping cranes living in the Wisconsin to Florida flock within the next ten years.” For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

Migrating Birds Hurt by Communication Towers

Every year, more than 5 thousand new communications towers
are erected throughout the United States. They’re needed for cell
phones,
television and radio stations and 911 networks. But at this time of
year,
these towers become deadly obstacles. It’s estimated millions of
migrating birds are killed each year when they collide with towers in
their
flight path. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Kelly reports,
there’s a growing consensus that something needs to be done: