More of the McCain/Palin/Bush approach to fish and wildlife habitat protection.
FISHERMEN’S RALLY FOR COLUMBIA SALMON RECOVERY SET FOR PORTLAND ON 8 SEPTEMBER: With a new Columbia River Salmon Plan due 31 August, commercial, recreational and Tribal fishermen from all over the Pacific Northwest will be rallying on Wednesday, 8 September, in Portland, Oregon, demanding a better salmon recovery plan from the Administration of U.S. President George W. Bush. Under the Bush Administration the federal government has done next to nothing to protect Columbia River salmon runs, most of which are now listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The new salmon plan is expected to be a major step backwards, holding that the Columbia and Snake River dams “do not pose a jeopardy” to the species, in spite of the fact that these dams kill millions of fish, in some cases more than 80 percent of the whole run (see Sublegals, 10:03/04; 10:01/01).
The new plan is also expected to allow for curtailing “spill” and to rely more heavily on a trap-and-haul trucking-and-barging program that is a proven failure. Instead of addressing impacts of the dams, the plan will instead call for additional restrictions on commercial and sport fishing, in spite of the fact that all Tribal, recreational and commercial fishing on Columbia stocks combined accounts for only about 5 percent of all human-induced mortality. Since the last plan came out in 2000, the Northwest has seen repeated failures by the Bush Administration to adequately fund its own plan, repeated efforts to jettison required and effective measures such as “spill” around the dams, and efforts to undercut salmon protections in various other ways. For examples of the Administration’s failures to protect west coast fishing interests see, “Speaking Truth to Power: A Look at the Administration’s Abysmal Fisheries Record,” in the June 2004 issue of Fishermen’s News, available on the web at: http://www.pcffa.org/fn-jun04.htm
. “We don’t need terrorists to destroy our fisheries when we’ve got George W. Bush,“ said PCFFA Northwest Director Glen Spain, referring to the inadequacies of the new plan.
The fishermen’s gathering follows a political rally held by the President three weeks before in an exclusive gated community in Portland. The Fishermen’s rally on Wednesday, the 8th, begins at 1000 HRS at Holladay Park, 11th and Holladay Street, Northeast Portland (next to the Lloyd Center). Parking opens at 0845 HRS at the Lloyd Center outdoor cinema parking lot (13th and Multnomah). For more information contact: Erin Barnes, Save Our Wild Salmon, at (503) 230-0421,or Aaron Bouchane, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, (503) 631-8859. For more on the Salmon Plan and the Administration’s history of failing Columbia River salmon, see: http://www.wildsalmon.org
Whistleblowing Florida Biologist Could Still Lose His Job Despite Favorable Court Ruling
Biologist Andrew Eller is still facing dismissal from his job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, even though a federal judge has upheld his scientific findings on protecting the endangered Florida panther. 
Late last month U.S. District Judge James Robertson threw out a permit for a rock mining operation near Fort Myers, Florida, ruling in favor of a coalition comprised of the National Wildlife Federation, Florida Wildlife Federation and Florida Panther Society, which filed the case against the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers.
Judge Robertson found that the Service had erred in its finding that the mine was no risk to the Florida panther, saying the agency should have considered the cumulative impact of varied developments in panther habitat, rather than the mine as an isolated project.
"The environmental groups who challenged this permit had to show that the agency action was 'arbitrary and capricious' -- one of the heaviest burdens in jurisprudence," said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which has been assisting Eller legally.
When Eller, a 17-year veteran of the Service, and fellow biologists were ordered to give the mine a pass -- along with several other projects sited in vital panther habitat -- Eller publicly charged the Fish and Wildlife Service with knowingly using bad science on panther demographics, habits and habitat needs to support policy decisions.
Eller filed formal charges in May. In July, he received a letter from his supervisor notifying him that his employment with the Service might be terminated for unacceptable performance. 
While Eller continues to work, and has filed a 53-page response to the termination notice, "we anticipate that he'll be fired," Jeff Ruch. "We think the decisions [to fire Eller] are being made by political appointees in Interior, not the Fish and Wildlife Service."
Ruch says that other Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, after being forced to sign off on development projects harmful to the Florida panther, have largely transferred out of the agency. "Some of the saddest people I've met are employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service. They feel like they're Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the mountain."
"There are only 78 Florida panthers left in existence, 19 of them females of breeding age," Ruch tells BushGreenwatch, "and they're sitting foursquare in the middle of Florida's development boom.
"The Bush administration has indicated it doesn't want to do anything to get in the way of development in southwest Florida," adds Ruch, "and the endangered Florida panther is not likely to survive it." ###
Go to PEER's website for action alerts and campaigns on the integrity of science and the Florida panther.
 PEER press release, Aug. 24, 2004.
 "Judge refuses mining permit near Fort Myers; ruling seeks to protect wildlife habitat," Florida Sentinel, Aug. 21, 2004.
Bush Administration Plans to Relax Toxic Controls -- Again
The Bush administration, which has unswervingly favored the chemical and power industries on environmental and health protections, plans to once again relax government regulation of toxic substances in favor of weaker standards being promoted by industry.
At issue are national standards regulating the amount of selenium that can be discharged into waterways by power companies, farmers and mining operations. The current standards for selenium were established after the toxic metal caused mass deformities of waterfowl in California's Central Valley during the 1980s.
Now the administration has drafted a plan, supported by industry scientists, that would weaken current standards in two ways, according to an August 31 story in the Sacramento Bee. 
According to the Bee, EPA plans to switch from a water-based to a fish-based standard, meaning the government would stop measuring how much selenium was getting into the water and start looking at how much had been absorbed by local fish. The draft calls for a concentration of 7.91 parts per million in fish, whereas current standards allow no more than 5 parts per million in water.
Scientists in other federal agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, oppose the plan to weaken the standards. They say the higher levels of selenium will cause birds to lose more than 50 percent of their offspring, the Bee reports. They also say the proposed standard is based on a flawed analysis of a study that vastly overstated survival rates for contaminated fish.
Selenium comes from a variety of sources around the country, including phosphate mines in Idaho, copper mines in Utah, mountaintop coal mines in West Virginia, coal-burning power plants and farms. It is the latest in a series of toxic substances for which the administration has sought to weaken regulations.
Earlier the Bush administration weakened the U.S. position on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), substantially reduced efforts to clean up mercury pollution, and sought to replace the Clean Air Act with its far less effective, "Clear Skies" program, which experts say would actually increase the number of deaths from air pollution each year.
NOTE: Thanks to an outpouring of citizen protests (BushGreenwatch, Sept. 8), the U.S. Forest Service announced on Wednesday that it will extend the public comment period to November 15 on its plan to rescind the Roadless Forest Conservation Rule. The rule calls for 58.5 million acres of America's National Forests to be protected from logging, mining and drilling. The Service had earlier set a deadline of September 14 for public comments. Comments may be sent to: http://ga1.org/campaign/roadless?source=hp
 "Battle Over Toxic Metal: EPA Appears Set to Relax Standards for Selenium, Which Led to Deformities in Waterfowl in 1980s," Sacramento Bee, Aug. 31, 2004.
For America's sportsmen, there is nothing more conservative than protecting habitat and nothing more radical than destroying it. C. B.
For Immediate Release
Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004
Andrew Fahlund, Eric Eckl, American Rivers, (202) 347-7550 Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9406
News: Proposed Hydro rules enshrines energy industry access
(Washington, DC) The Interior Department is poised to hand the energy industry another favor at the expense of fish restoration, outdoor recreation, and public lands protection, conservation and recreation advocates warned today. A new departmental rule, released for public comment today, provides electric utilities exclusive rights to appeal environmental and recreational requirements at hydropower dams. This policy provides hydroelectric dam owners with direct access to upper echelons of the Interior Department - but not other interested parties such as states, tribes, conservationists, anglers, boaters, local governments, and irrigators.
The groups called on the Interior Department to either drop, or substantially modify, the proposal, warning that in its current form it will intimidate fish biologists and field experts and politicize resource decisions affecting thousands of miles of rivers over the next ten years.
"This is plainly a double standard, and it is another step towards enshrining energy industry dominance along public lands and waters," said Andrew Fahlund, vice president for protection and restoration at American Rivers. "This policy will obligate future administrations to provide the same degree of access to corporate lobbyists that the current White House does."
"This policy will ensure that decisions are made on the basis of politics rather than science," said Steve Moyer, Vice President of Government Affairs and Volunteer Operations for Trout Unlimited. "Any fish biologist that sticks up for the resource can expect an invitation to Washington to chat with a political appointee."
Electric utilities must consult with Department of the Interior through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs when seeking new operating licenses, or renewing existing licenses, for their hydroelectric dams. During these negotiations, agency field staff assess the environmental, recreational, and cultural consequences of the hydro project and identify steps to ensure that other public needs from the river continue to be met. Under current law, river conservation and recreational stakeholders have equal access to all major decision-making processes. Establishing a one-sided administrative appeals process is a stark departure from all prior federal law and policy through which fish and river resources are conserved.
Conservationists fear that this policy will intimidate agency field staff that might otherwise call for such measures as:
* Installation of fish ladders and other devices to allow fish to safely move up and downstream
* Dam operations that ensure river flows and reservoir levels conducive to recreational use and environmental health
* Construction of boat ramps, camp grounds, and other facilities that provide public access to a public resource
* Restoration of wildlife habitat that has been degraded by the existence of the power project
There are several "hot spots" around the nation where the consequences of this policy will most frequently manifest themselves. Utility-owned hydroelectric dams affect the abundance of salmon runs and other migratory fish along the East and West Coasts and the Great Lakes. In California's Sierra Nevada, hydroelectric dams determine the productivity and accessibility of dozens of rivers and hundreds of trout streams. Along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, striped bass and shad fisheries will never fully recover unless utilities take steps to ensure these fish can move safely between coastal and inland waters.
"Several recent and successful hydropower licensing agreements show that such a harmful, one-sided appeal mechanism is not needed, said Moyer. Working cooperatively with agencies of the Department and some conservation-minded electric utilities, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited have developed some fantastic new accords to restore fisheries and improve river flows in places such as Hat Creek, California, the Penobscot River in Maine, and the Deschutes River in Oregon."
"The consequences of this policy will be measured in fish that are never caught, boats that are never launched, family trips that are never taken, and fond memories that are never shared," Fahlund said.
Bush Administration Directs Agencies to Ignore Clean Water Act
Using a back-door route to deregulation, the Bush administration has removed clean water protections for 20 million acres of American wetlands and tens of thousands of miles of streams, lakes and ponds, according to documents obtained through the federal Freedom of Information Act. 
The documents, used to produce the report "Reckless Abandon: How the Bush Administration is Exposing America's Waters to Harm," outline the consequences of a 2003 federal policy directive that encourages regulators to routinely avoid enforcing Clean Water Act protections for American rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands unless otherwise directed.
The report was produced by nonprofit environmental groups Earthjustice, the National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club. It can be found online at www.cwn.org
"For the first time in over 30 years of cleaning up our waters, we're going backwards," said Paul Schwartz, national policy coordinator for Clean Water Action. Schwartz noted that after the Clean Water Act took effect in 1972, the percentage of the nation's waters deemed clean enough for fishing and swimming nearly doubled. But recent state reports now show those numbers declining, he said.
"The water is getting dirtier, and the Bush administration is leading one of the most fundamental attacks on a law that has arguably done more to protect the environment and public health than any other environmental law," Schwartz told BushGreenwatch.
On January 15, 2003, the Bush administration published guidelines in the Federal Register directing field staff at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing protections for millions of acres of wetlands, streams and other waters unless they first obtained permission from national headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The directive further stated that no permission was required to ignore Clean Water Act protections for these waters and that no records would be kept of decisions not to invoke the Clean Water Act.
The directive severely narrowed the types of waterways considered protected under the Clean Water Act to those that were navigable year-round by commercial vessels, a major departure from every previous administration's policies since 1972. 
At the same time, the administration announced it would take steps to codify these guidelines through federal rulemaking procedures. It later backed off the rulemaking process in response to a massive public outcry. But the guidelines were left in place and have had the same impact, Schwartz said.
In response, 219 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 senators have signed on to letters to President Bush asking him to rescind the policy directive and restore protections to American waters. A bill has also been introduced in both the House and Senate that would make clear that all waters of the U.S. should fall under the protections of the Clean Water Act. 
"The Bush administration's policy is based on the fantasy that if you let polluters dump sewage, oil and other toxic waste into small wetlands and streams, it won't ultimately wind up in our lakes, rivers and coastal waters," said Daniel Rosenberg, an NRDC senior attorney in the group's August 12 press release.
 "Reckless Abandon: How the Bush Administration is Exposing America's Waters to Harm," CWN, Aug. 12, 2004.
 Federal Register, Jan. 15, 2003; EarthJustice, NRDC, NWF, Sierra Club press release, Aug. 12, 2004.
 Clean Water Authority Restoration Act HR 962 and S 473
Bush Administration Cuts Clean Water Spending; Hurts Jobs, Health, Environment
This week the Senate is scheduled to take up a bill that calls for reducing spending on clean water programs by almost $500 million – a rollback that could lead to nearly 50,000 lost jobs as well as a rise in sewer overflows, polluted water, and disease outbreaks, according to a new report. 
"All Dried Up: Clean Water is Threatened by Budget Cuts," was released this morning by a broad coalition of state and local governments, construction, labor, environmental and public health groups.
The report provides a state-by-state breakdown of lost federal dollars, the number of jobs the lost money would have created, the number of projects at risk of being held up if the cuts go through, and the percentage of waters in each state that are already polluted. It can be found at www.nrdc.org
The House has already passed a spending bill that includes the $500 million in clean water cuts called for in President Bush’s budget. The cuts come out of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which gives money to communities to rehabilitate aging sewer plants and reduce raw sewage overflows and storm water runoff.
The Senate may take up the bill as early as today.
"That Congress would even consider slashing federal funding for communities to help ensure clean water for all Americans is mind-boggling," said Nancy Stoner, clean water director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is leading the coalition. "This White House repeatedly has pushed for massive cuts in clean water spending, but this is the first time Congress appears willing to go along," she said in a press release.
Cutting federal funding for sewer systems can have serious health implications. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that between 23,000 and 75,000 sewage overflows occur across the country each year, releasing 3 billion to 10 billion gallons of untreated wastewater.
Raw sewage can carry e.coli, salmonella, dysentery, hepatitis and other diseases. Every year, millions of Americans get sick from swimming in or drinking water contaminated by these bacteria, viruses and parasites.
There are also financial implications. Clean water programs provide jobs for engineers, contractors, manufacturers, administrators and construction workers. Communities need clean water to attract tourists and maintain recreational uses of their rivers, lakes and beaches.
The report also finds that many communities already have a backlog of projects, such as aging pipes that need replacing, and the need to improve control of wet weather sewage overflows. It cites EPA figures estimating at least $388 billion is needed in communities across the country for new and repaired equipment to meet current clean water infrastructure needs. 
 NRDC press release, Sep. 14, 2004.
 "All Dried Up: Clean Water is Threatened by Budget Cuts," NRDC report.