Week of June 28 , 2004

National

Regional

Michigan

Wisconsin

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National

Senate Committee Passes Migratory Bird Amendments
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, on June 23 passed S. 2547, a bill to amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to exclude non-native migratory bird species from the application of that Act.

 

 Identical to HR 4114, the House version that passed the

Resources Committee in early May, the bills seek to clarifyCongress' intent that non-native birds should not be protected under the MBTA. The bills also include a provision to re-authorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and raise authorized funding for the Act from the current $5 million to $15 million.

 


Americans Outdoors Act Introduced in Senate
Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced legislation on June 24 to provide dedicated funding for conservation projects. Based on the Conservation and Reinvestment Act that was nearly enacted in 2000, the Americans Outdoors Act dedicates $1.4 billion of outer-continental shelf oil and gas revenues for coastal conservation, state and urban parks and recreation, and state

wildlife conservation.

 

The bill is similar to legislation introduced by Congressman Don Young (R-AK) and George Miller (D-CA) in the House but does not include funding for federal land acquisition. The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where it will await a hearing.


Health Threat of Mercury Overblown, Government Scientists Say

Joint EPA/FDA Advisory:increased exposure to mercury offset by benefits of eating fish”

The USEPA and the Food and Drug Administration on March 19 announced a joint consumer advisory on methylmercury in fish and shellfish. The advisory, “What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish” aimed at reducing mercury exposure in women who may become pregnant, women who are pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children, unifies advice from the two agencies and supersedes their 2001 advisories.  The joint advisory emphasized the small hypothetical risk from increased exposure to mercury is offset by the benefits of eating fish."

 

Consumers should know that fish and shellfish can be important parts of a healthy and balanced diet," stated the advisory. "They are good sources of high-quality protein and other essential nutrients; however, as a matter of prudence, women might wish to modify the amount and type of fish they consume if they are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, nursing, or feeding a young child."

 

The advisory offered three recommendations for pregnant mothers and mothers of young children. According to EPA and FDA, women covered by the advisory should:

1. Avoid eating shark, swordfish, king mackerel, or tilefish because these species tend to contain high levels of mercury.

2. Eat up to 12 oz. (two average meals) a week of a variety of fish and shellfish―such as shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish that tend to be lower in mercury.

3. Check local advisories about the safety of fish caught by family and friends in local lakes, rivers, and coastal areas.

According to the EPA/FDA advisory, women following the advisory "will receive the benefits of eating fish and shellfish and be confident that they have reduced their exposure to the harmful effects of mercury."

 

"Research shows that most people's fish consumption does not cause a health problem," noted the advisory. "Fish and shellfish are an important part of a healthy diet. Fish and shellfish contain high-quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids.

 

"A well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fish and shellfish can contribute to heart health and children's proper growth and development," continued the advisory. "So, women and young children in particular should include fish or shellfish in their diets due to the many nutritional benefits."

Liberal Democrats Attack Bush

The EPA/FDA advisory was issued in the midst of a media blitz by liberal environmental groups opposed to the Bush administration's proposal to regulate industrial mercury emissions. In late 2003, the Bush EPA proposed a plan to cut mercury emissions from power plants by 40% by 2010, and 70% by 2018. The administration intends to announce a final regulation late in 2004. Although the Bush proposal would mark the first time the federal government has regulated mercury emissions, activist groups nevertheless are criticizing the administration for not proposing even bigger cuts in emissions.

 

While the Clinton EPA chose not to regulate mercury emissions during its eight-year tenure, then-administrator Carol Browner is now a vocal proponent of mercury regulations. She opposes any program that would not require an across-the-board 90% reduction in mercury emissions. "We had evidence that you could get there. ... It is possible. It is doable," Browner said at a recent news conference. She

argued EPA should require mercury reductions to "the lowest level achievable rather than asking industry, 'What do you feel like doing?'"

 

Said EPAAdministrator Mike Leavitt, "In the near future, will there be technology capable of getting a 90% reduction of mercury from coal-fired power plants? No. Technology is simply not there for now. Our proposed rule will achieve a 69% reduction in mercury emissions. Our preferred approach takes us away from 'command and control' and instead provides a proven, market-based emissions 'cap-and-trade' system. The EPA sets mandatory industry reduction targets emission caps and dates and gives utilities flexibility in finding the best way to meet them."

Scientists Say Little Threat

While political debate rages about what regulatory method would most effectively and efficiently reduce mercury emissions, the scientific debate is largely settled: Mercury poses little or no threat to the health and well-being of U.S. citizens.

 

Steven Milloy, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and author of Junk Science Judo: Self-Defense Against Health Scares and Scams, questioned the need for even the limited EPA/FDA advisory. Said Milloy, "There's no evidence the rules will protect anyone, and they're likely only to foster undue concern about an important part of our food supply.

 

"It's certainly true such larger fish tend to have higher levels of mercury in their tissue, since mercury levels tend to accumulate up the food chain," Milloy added. "But unless women are consuming fish that have been exposed to industrial-level concentrations of mercury for extended periods of time, as Japanese women in the vicinity of Minamata Bay did during the 1950s, it's not at all clear that consuming large fish is any sort of health risk."

 

More than half the mercury in the Earth and its environment comes from natural sources. Man-made sources, primarily power plants, produce the remainder of environ-mental mercury. U.S. power plants account for only 1% of global environmental mercury, according to the Center for Science and Public Policy, and those emissions are already in steep decline.

 

According to Harvard-Smithsonian physicist Dr. Willie Soon, "Recent findings by the Centers for Disease Control show that the level of mercury found in humans is far below the threshold of health risk, even for sensitive populations." Added Soon, "Placing heavier regulatory burdens on already-clean U.S. power plants that will drive up energy prices makes little economic sense."

 

"It's quite possible we could spend $4 billion per year reducing mercury and end up with nothing to show for it but higher electricity bills," concurred Joel Schwartz, contributing author to Tech Central Station and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

 

Indeed, activist claims that women and children are being harmed by mercury are "a whole lotta baloney," according to an April 8 editorial in the Wall Street Journal. "About the only thing (such claims) prove is that trusting 'environmentalists' in a political debate is harmful to your health and the national well being," stated the Journal. "There's no evidence to suggest that cutting emissions will reduce mercury in fish. There's also no credible science showing America faces any health threat at all from current fish consumption." ²

Courtesy: Heartland Institute’s Environment & Climate News


Regional

Senate boosts plan to build carp barrier

The U.S. Senate late last week moved along legislation that could help fund completion of an electrical barrier near Chicago that is designed to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan.  The legislation, whose supporters include U.S. Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, both Ohio Republicans, would help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finish building the $6.8 million project in the Illinois River. Species of that carp have been spotted nearby in the

Mississippi River.

 

Illinois has contributed $5 million. The legislation would provide the other $1.8 million. If approved, the legislation could help relieve pressure on Ohio Gov. Bob Taft. The International Joint Commission has asked Taft to use his role as chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors to help Illinois raise the money.


Boating and Fishing Truck – it’s coming your way

The DISCOVER BOATING AND FISHING TOUR presented by WATER WORKS WONDERS is a six-month event with an 80 ft truck that is touring in the Great Lakes region and other states. It is promoting boating and fishing.

 

On July 25, the truck will be at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton, IL.

Other locations and dates are:

Fair St. Louis                                    July 2-4                   St. Louis, MO
ESPN Great Outdoor Games            July8-11                  Madison, WI

Ozark Empire Fair                             July 30 – August 1  Springfield, MO
Ohio State Fair                                 August 4-15            Columbus, OH
Kentucky State Fair                          August 19-29           Louisville, KY
Minnesota State Fair                        September 2-6        St. Paul, MN
Puyallup                                           September10-19     Puyallup, WA
Texas State Fair                               Sept. 24 – Oct. 5     Dallas, TX
National Shrimp Festival                  October 7-10           Gulf Shores, AL
IBEX                                                 October25-27          Miami, FL


Anglers to profit from Whitefish Study 
Great Lakes fishermen can collect  $5  for every tagged whitefish they catch. Biologists are collecting data for two studies on whitefish. If they prove the fish are in danger - that could reduce the number of animals fisherman can reel in.

 

Great Lakes Fishery Commission Fish biologist Mark Ebener says zebra mussels in the Great Lakes have caused a severe reduction in the primary food source for whitefish - a tiny crustacean known as diporeia. He says many of the whitefish he's seen have been emaciated.

 

The first study will determine the distribution of the fish 

throughout the Great Lakes Basin. The second will study the natural mortality rate of whitefish and how it affects the Total Allowable Catch, for commercial fishermen. “One of the things we need to really quantify well is the natural mortality rate because it also has a big effect on your estimates of TACs, and we're sure that their natural mortality rate has changed since zebra mussels came into the lakes and diporeia abundance declined."

 

The two studies will continue until 2006. Fishermen who catch tagged fish can collect a five-dollar reward for calling in the tag number.   Contact the GLFC at 734-662-3209


Great Lakes Water Level Update for June 25, 2004

Current Lake Levels: 

Lake Superior is currently 6 inches above last year’s level, but 4 inches below its long-term average for June.  Lake Michigan-Huron is 13 inches above its level of a year ago but is still 9 inches below long-term average.  Lake St. Clair is currently 10 inches higher than this time last year and 1 inch below long-term average.  Lakes Erie and Ontario are 2 and 4 inches, respectively, above their long-term average.  Lake Erie is 8 inches above last year’s level, and Lake Ontario is at the same level as a year ago.

 

Current Outflows/Channel Conditions: 

The Lake Superior outflow through the St. Marys River into Lake Huron is expected to be near average during the month of June.  Flows in the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers are expected to be below average during June, while Niagara and St. Lawrence River flows are expected to be near average.

 

Temperature/Precipitation Outlook: 

Pleasant conditions are expected in the Great Lakes basin this weekend and into next week.  Sunny skies and seasonable temperatures will be the norm as a dome of high pressure sets in.

 

Forecasted Water Levels: 

Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron will continue their seasonal rise over the next month, increasing by approximately 2 inches.  Lakes St. Clair and Erie will begin their seasonal decline during the next month.  Lake Ontario is continuing it’s seasonal decline and is expected to drop 3 inches over the next month.

 

Alerts:

Users of the Great Lakes, connecting channels and St. Lawrence River should keep informed of current conditions before undertaking any activities that could be affected by changing water levels.  Mariners should utilize navigation charts and refer to current water level readings.


Michigan

Granholm approves token dove hunting in state- agrees to 3-year pilot program

OKs six Michigan counties that border Indiana and Ohio, remainder of state in limbo

LANSING -- Hunters could begin shooting mourning doves in six Michigan counties that border Indiana and Ohio as early as this fall.

 

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a bill on June 25 that changes the dove’s classification to a game bird. Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for the Democratic governor, said Granholm signed it based on a promise made by Natural Resources Commission Chairman Keith Charters to recommend that the seven-member commission approve a three-year trial mourning dove hunt in six counties -- Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Branch, Hillsdale and Lenawee. Mourning dove hunting would be banned elsewhere.

 

By signing the bill, Granholm quieted critics of the Democratic Party who would have come to believe that hunters can get a better shake from Republicans.  She discredited critic’s assertions that she is anti-hunting, while if she had vetoed the bill she would have firmly cemented that notion.  Even so, authorizing only six counties the right to allow dove hunting is a bit of tokenism on her part.

 

At the end of the three-year trial period, Charters said the commission will study the effects of the season on mourning dove populations and use it to evaluate future hunts. “As chairman, I believe there would be strong support from the members of the commission to proceed with this type of approach,” Charters said in a letter to Granholm. “If you were to sign this bill, I assure you this commission will be sensitive to public concerns about dove hunting.” He said the commission will insist on strict enforcement of safety regulations, including the 450-foot safety zone around homes

and the ban on hunting in cities and trespass laws.

 

Despite the compromise, the Humane Society of the United States sharply criticized Granholm for signing the bill.  “We’re absolutely furious,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of HSUS. “It’s really so disheartening to see her flip flop in such dramatic fashion.”

 

Interestingly, Granholm’s Chief of Staff, Rick Weiner, has been accused of  catering to his former lobbying firm Weiner and Associates, now operated by his wife. One of the firms many clients is HSUS, the chief opponent of dove hunting in Michigan and across the country.

 

The legislation didn’t include an appropriation, which leaves the door open to a petition-gathering effort to put the law before voters in a referendum. Pacelle said it’s too late collect signatures to put off a hunt this fall, but added that the group may consider it in the future.

 

Charters said information from the USFWS and other state wildlife agencies show that dove hunting in Michigan won’t harm dove populations.  At least 4 million mourning doves migrate from Michigan each year, according to conservative estimates. There are an estimated 450 million mourning doves in North America, according to the USFWS.

 

Michigan is the 41st state to allow a mourning dove hunt. The shooting of mourning doves has been prohibited in Michigan since 1905.

 

The new law requires dove hunters to obtain a $2 dove stamp fee as well as the state’s regular small game hunting license to hunt doves. Some of the revenue will be set aside for the state’s non-game wildlife fund.


Wisconsin

Wisconsin legislators kill pier rules
A legislative committee in Wisconsin has halted DNR emergency regulations that imposed strict limitations on docks and piers, according to a published report.
 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules took the action after six hours of testimony from a standing-room-only crowd in Minocqua late last week. The rules set strict standards for piers on the state’s lakes and rivers, requiring that none be wider than 6 ft or extend beyond the 3-ft water depth level. Many people

reportedly were concerned about what the rules meant for their own docks and piers.

 

“There are 2,600 lakes in my district, and the horror stories are all too common,” said State Rep. Dan Meyer. “If someone builds a home or a pier and it’s legal when they build it, then it should remain legal, even if some bureaucrat wants to change the rules somewhere down the line.” The committee action suspends the DNR rules until a permanent set of regulations is developed later in the year.


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