The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has run out of money foradding any new species to its endangered list because of a flood oflawsuits against the agency. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s LesterGraham reports:
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it has run out of money for adding any new species to its endangered list because of a flood of lawsuits against the agency. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Fish and Wildlife Service says except in cases where a species is in imminent danger of extinction… it will not add to its threatened or endangered lists until the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. That’s October 2001. Chris Tollefson is a spokesperson for the Fish and Wildlife Service. He says lawsuits filed by environmental groups have forced the agency’s hand.
Tollefson “we’re under a series of court-ordered deadlines to list critical habitat or settlement agreements arising out of litigation. And basically we have exhausted virtually all the current year’s budget in commitments meeting these court-ordered deadlines.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has always considered protecting and re-establishing endangered species the top priority… and determining critical habitat a secondary priority. The agency says lawsuits have forced it to change and that might hurt some species in the short-term.
For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.
A new study shows people living in sprawling metro areas are payingmore for transportation than residents in other areas. The Great LakesRadio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports:
A new study shows people living in sprawling metro areas are paying more for transportation than residents in other areas. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jonathan Ahl reports.
The report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project shows that the average
American spends more money on transportation than on health care, education, or food. The study also shows urban sprawl is increasing those costs. Kelly Thayer is with the Michigan Land Use Institute. He says he hopes the report will help people realize how sprawl affects them.
“Sprawl is costing people a lot of money on an individual basis. Right in your own home, you are seeing money lifted from your budget by poor planning in your community.”
Thayer says transportation costs are getting high enough that they should play an increasing role in decisions people make on where to live and how to get to work. He also says the cost of getting around can be reduced when communities make investments in public transit systems and in safe and convenient routes for walking and biking. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jonathan Ahl.
The season of frenzied buying has begun. Retailers will ring in thebulk of their annual sales during the next few weeks from shopperswanting to purchase that perfect gift. But Great Lakes Radio Consortiumcommentator Suzanne Elston says sometimes the perfect gift is no gift atall:
The season of frenzied buying has begun. Retailers will ring in the bulk of their annual sales during the next few weeks from shoppers wanting to purchase that perfect gift. But Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Suzanne Elston says sometimes the perfect gift is no gift at all.
As a self-confessed Christmas junkie, I want the holidays to be perfect. Especially for my kids. When the boys were little we did everything to preserve the magical myth of Santa Claus. Right after Labor Day, we’d start wondering out loud what the boys wanted Santa to bring them that year. This strategy worked pretty well until the year our son Peter turned five.
Try as we might, he simply wouldn’t tell us. Peter’s always believed absolutely in the magic of things. We assumed he’d figured that if Santa knew if he’d been bad or good, then knowing what he wanted was a cinch. With only ten days to go before Christmas, the store shelves were looking pretty bare. I was getting desperate, so I finally had to tell him the facts. Santa couldn’t read his mind. He was just going to have to write his list that very afternoon.
It was clear that the news was not received well. I left him alone in his room to think about it for a little while and told him I’d be back with pen and paper in hand. He’d better be ready.
When I returned a few minutes later, I could hear his little voice out in the hall. He was singing. “I hope Christmas doesn’t get here, I hope Christmas doesn’t get here.” When I opened his door he was sitting on his bed, looking around his room in complete dismay and crying his heart out.
When I asked him what on earth could be wrong he said he didn’t need any more toys. He didn’t have time to play with the toys that he had.
I couldn’t believe it. In trying to give our children so much, we had failed to see that they already had more than they could possibly want. I held him on my knee and gently rocked him until he stopped crying. And then I asked Peter if he’d like to pack up some of his old toys and donate them to the local homeless shelter. He thought about it for a while, and then he told me that he finally knew what he wanted to say to Santa.
He wrote,” Please don’t bring me any toys for Christmas. I have lots of toys. Please give my toys to the poor kids. Have a Merry Christmas. Your friend, Peter.”
Honoring his request was one of the hardest things my husband and I have ever done. Peter’s older brother had already ordered half the Sears catalogue. We were concerned what would happen Christmas morning. But we had faith that our son knew what was best for him. We did get him a few things: some art supplies and stuff, nothing that could be classified as a toy, and he was perfectly happy Christmas
I got some special gifts that year too. I learned to not only trust what’s in my heart, but in my children’s hearts as well. I also realized that I already had more than anyone could possibly want. It was a great Christmas.
For years, the rule of thumb for dealing with industrial waste wasexplained by a simple statement — ”the solution to pollutionis…dilution.” If a substance mixed with enough water, it was thoughtit would no longer be harmful. But it’s now clear that some toxicchemicals don’t just disappear in water. In fact, they can build upover time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a phase-outof a chemical dilution process called ”mixing zones” in the Great Lakesand the St. Lawrence River. The ban will serve as a test case forsimilar standards nationwide. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s DavidSommerstein reports:
For years, the rule of thumb for dealing with industrial waste was explained by a simple statement — “the solution to pollution is…dilution”. If a substance mixes with enough water, it was thought it would no longer be harmful. But it’s now clear that some toxic chemicals don’t just disappear in water. In fact, they can build up over time.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced a phase-out of a chemical dilution process called “mixing zones” in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. The ban will serve as a test case for similar standards nationwide. David Sommerstein reports for the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.
Picture the oil slick that trails an outboard motor or jet ski. It dilutes and, if you watch it long enough, it disappears in the surrounding water. That little bit of dirty water is a small example of a mixing zone. The Clean Water Act of the early 70’s used the same idea as a compromise between environmental and industrial concerns. Under the act, factories have been allowed to release some toxic chemicals directly into water at higher concentrations than law might otherwise permit. That meant they could avoid spending money to eliminate the chemicals. The practice was allowed because it was thought the chemicals would be diluted in the mixing zone. But regulators didn’t take into account
the fact that some chemicals don’t just disappear…
(sound of waves)
On a blustery day along the St. Lawrence River in northern New York, Ken Jock stands on Raquette Point. It’s Mohawk tribal land. Jock directs the environment division of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. He says his people were once trappers and fishermen. But when toxic fish advisories began popping up, it drastically altered their livelihood. Jock looks upriver to the smokestacks of the huge factories on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. He blames the discharge pipes from these plants for disrupting his people’s lifestyle.
“The solution to controlling the pollution is not to dilute it in a mixing zone. You have to cut it off right at the source.”
Earlier this month, the EPA agreed with Ken Jock. It announced a ban on mixing zones in the Great Lakes watershed for 22 of the most toxic chemicals. They’re called “bioaccumulative chemicals of concern”, or BCCs. They include PCBs, dioxin, and mercury. The EPA singled out these pollutants because they don’t dilute and disappear as once thought, but rather build up in fish and aquatic plants over time. Charles Fox is the assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water.
“These are chemicals that might get into the Great Lakes through the air or the water, and they don’t really flush out of the system, and they can be accumulated into the food chain. So, ultimately, the fish that we eat on our kitchen tables could be contaminated with toxic chemicals.”
Most Great Lakes states have already banned mixing zones for these chemicals in an effort to protect the cleaner upper lakes — Superior, Huron, and Michigan. Only New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania still need to change.
The EPA says the ruling will reduce these toxic pollutants in the Great Lakes by 700,000 pounds in the coming years. But industry groups say the ban will have little practical effect because most BCCs, such as DDT, dioxin and PCBs, were banned years ago in all 8 Great Lakes states. The ban on Mercury, however, is where industry will feel the pinch. Mercury is a contaminant in the production process, not a raw material. Joe Mayhew, spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry, agrees it’s important to reduce mercury levels in the water, but he says the ban places an undue financial burden on the factories.
“Mercury is just a trace contaminant in a lot of things. To comply with this rule, what you do is you treat your discharges down to, essentially, zero. And that is an extremely expensive proposition.”
The EPA estimates the ban will cost industry up to 35 million dollars to implement. Mayhew puts that figure closer to a billion dollars.
Mixing zones are still permitted in the U.S. for many other chemicals. Across the international border, Ontario and Quebec allow mixing zones as well. And with tens of thousands of different chemicals being produced in both countries each year, it’s tough to predict how much the ban of these 22 will improve overall water quality in the Great Lakes.
Meanwhile, the Great Lakes ban on mixing zones will serve as a test case for a national ban that the EPA is likely to propose later next year.
(sound of water)
Standing on the shores of the St. Lawrence, Ken Jock says the St. Regis Mohawk see the river’s health over a longer term than even the EPA’s timeline.
“I think the river can rebound. I think that it’s all a matter of time. 22 chemicals right now is just a start.”
Jock says despite the polluted water, his people still derive their spirituality from the river, as they have for generations. And he expects those beliefs to outlast even the legacy mixing zones leave behind.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m David Sommerstein.
Despite some major obstacles, the trumpeter swan is making a comebackin the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reportson the restoration of North America’s largest waterfowl:
Despite some major obstacles, the trumpeter swan is making a comeback in the region. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports on the restoration of North America’s largest waterfowl.
The trumpeter swan is a long-necked graceful bird with a memorable call.
(Sound of trumpeter)
Experts say there once were 100-thousand of these birds in the Great Lakes region. By 1900 they were gone, most killed to use their feathers for hats.
Since the mid-1980’s several states have been working to restore the bird. But setbacks to the effort include accidental and vandalistic shootings, and the low-flying birds sometimes hit power lines. Sumner Matteson heads up the state of Wisconsin’s swan repopulation effort. He says there’s one more problem.
“What we’re more concerned about over the long term, the long haul, is the effect of lead poisoning on birds and that’s more of an insidious problem. It only takes one or two spent lead pellets to sicken or kill a trumpeter swan.”
Lead in shotgun shells is now banned, but there’s a lot of old lead shot in wetlands where the trumpeter swans feed. For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.
After nearly a century without them, the Great Lakes region
is seeing the return of the Trumpeter Swan. This nesting pair (white with
black bills) is caring for three cygnets (grey with orange bills) at the
Kellogg Bird Sanctuary in Michigan.
In the mid-1980's, Joe
Johnson and some of his colleagues traveled to Alaska to retrieve swan eggs,
take them back to the Great Lakes region and hand rear them. Today there
are more than two-thousand Trumpeter Swans in the region.
With a wingspan reaching eight
feet, Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl in North America.
For one hundred years, one distinct sound of nature had been missingfrom the Great Lakes region. However, in recent years that wild callhas returned and is growing in numbers. The Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Lester Graham reports… about this time of year a fewdozen pairs of trumpeter swans make their way from their northernnesting areas (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario) to theirwintering grounds (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York,Iowa, and Missouri):
For one hundred years, one distinct sound of nature had been missing from the Great Lakes region. However, in recent years that wild call has returned and is growing in numbers. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports… about this time of year a few dozen pairs of trumpeter swans make their way from their northern nesting areas (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario) to their wintering grounds (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, and Missouri).
(Trumpeters trumpeting, loud and close)
Joe Johnson says this is the “clarion call of the trumpeter swan.” Johnson is a wildlife biologist at Michigan State University’s Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. Johnson says these birds have a call that fits their size. They’re North America’s biggest waterfowl. The trumpeter swan is graceful looking as it flies low and slow. Its flying tendencies probably helped lead to its disappearance in the Great Lakes region. Johnson says the first European settlers, the French, found them easy to shoot …and easy to sell.
“So these were marketed for their flesh. They were marketed for their feathers. Huge trade in feathers back to Europe through Fort Detroit, where I assume they made pillows, and quilts, and mattresses, adornments for hats, writing pens, all those things that feathers could be used for 200 years ago.”
At that time in the Great Lakes region there were an estimated 100-thousand trumpeter swans. By 1900 they were wiped out in the area. In the mid-1980’s state agencies in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario decided to try to bring the bird back to the region. Joe Johnson and many of his colleagues went to Alaska where trumpeter swans could still be found and brought back a few swan eggs to incubate and raise. Those states had good luck with hand-rearing their swans so, a few years later state agencies in Iowa and
Ohio joined the trumpeter repopulation effort. In each state the birds seem to be doing well. Joe Johnson says the birds are breeding and producing more young cygnets than expected.
“We thought if each pair produced two young per effort that we would be doing real well. That’s basically their productivity in Alaska. But if we think of the Great Lakes as sort of the premier trumpeter swan habitat because of the length of our growing season, the productivity of our soils and our wetlands, then it’s not a surprise that they’re producing on average three young per nesting effort.”
Even with those kinds of successes, the trumpeter swan faces some hurdles.
Because the birds fly so low, some of them are killed flying into power lines. Others are killed by lead poisoning. Hunters used to use lead shot to shoot ducks and geese. A lot of those lead pellets are still in the mud where the trumpeter swans forage for underwater vegetation.
A few swans are also killed in accidental shootings by waterfowl hunters. In
Illinois Dan Holm watches out for the swans for the Department of Natural
Resources. He says hunters are told through hunting regulations, news releases, and briefings at state sites to watch out for the birds. But Holm says some hunters still blast away at the trumpeter swans mistaking them for snow geese.
“Well, there is a dramatic difference between a snow goose and a swan. Really, there is no good excuse for one being mistaken. You know, it happens. Mistakes happen in all aspects of life. But they’re– snow geese are a lot smaller than swans, any species of swans and snow geese have black wing tips where the swans are all white.”
And it’s not just conservation officials who think there’s no excuse for the accidental shootings. Bruce Batt is chief biologist with the conservation group, Ducks Unlimited.
“Hunters should not mistake trumpeter swans for snow geese. Both birds are very different. The trumpeter is just much bigger and it’s all white and has a very different call. And really anybody that’s responsible should not make a mistake in shooting a trumpeter swan and mistaking it for snow geese.”
But the most disturbing shootings are vandalistic killings. In 1999 in
Illinois, five swan carcasses were found on a road, four of them with their heads cut off, possibly to remove tracking collars. Recently in Wisconsin a
17-year-old boy was convicted and fined for killing a trumpeter swan. Sumner
Matteson heads up the trumpeter repopulation effort for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“Generally, a concerted effort is made to educate hunters about the differences between swans and geese. And really it comes down to wanton acts of vandalism, if you will, regarding the shooting of trumpeters. So, in other words, in most instances in my experience, it has not been the mistaken identity, but when you have birds that are killed at a close range, it’s clearly a case of a malicious act. And fortunately those are quite few and far between.”
(Trumpeter sound, loud and proud)
At the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Joe Johnson says even with killings the trumpeter swan population has grown from a few dozen eggs in the mid-1980’s to a 1999 count of well over two thousand birds in the Great Lakes Region.
“The population is growing at about 17-percent per year despite the losses to lead poisoning, vandalistic and accidental shootings, high tension wires, they’re doing great.”
Johnson says now that nesting pairs are doinng well in northern areas, the next step is to start rearing birds in southern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, to encourage the trumpeter swan to re-establish its migratory patterns from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi, Ohio, Wabash, and Illinois rivers. For the GLRC, this is Lester Graham.