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IN BRIEF.

KILLING NORWAY'S WOLVES

Adding to Norway's already controversial wildlife policies regarding seal and whale hunting, the Norwegian government equipped hunters with helicopters, snow-mobiles and a budget of nearly $885,000 last February to kill 10 of the estimated 25 wolves in the country. During the hunt in Osterdalen, a valley along the Swedish border, one wolf escaped after the April 6 hunting deadline passed.

The wolves had wandered outside of Norway's "wolf zones," areas designated by the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management (NDNM) in May 2000. A hunt for another nine wolves outside the zone is expected to take place later this year. Conservationists argue that the zones are misplaced. "The most suitable habitats in Norway are the huge forests close to the Swedish border," says Viggo Ree of the Norwegian Carnivore and Raptor Society (NCRS). "But wolves aren't allowed there."

Scandinavian wolves were granted some protection almost 30 years ago after having been hunted nearly to extinction. Today, Norway and Sweden share a wolf population of approximately 80 animals. A Scandinavian advisory panel of scientists says at least 200 wolves are needed to sustain the population.

Environmental groups World Wildlife Fund-Norway (WWF), Friends of the Earth-Norway and NCRS tried to block the hunt by taking the issue to court, citing violations of international agreements and Norwegian law. But a narrow interpretation of the law largely influenced the court's decision. Sweden and Norway had a goal of preserving eight to 10 family groups of wolves. A 1998 bilateral agreement defines a "family group" as a male and female pair (alpha mates) with pups. But the NDNM now says only one alpha wolf is needed to be considered a family group. The difference in definitions marks the difference between a protected species and a species allowed to be hunted. So depending on whom you ask, there are now between four and 12 family groups in Scandinavia.

"The big controversy about wolves in Norway is sheep," says Rufus Hansson, CEO of WWF-Norway. He says nearly 130,000 sheep die on the pasture each year, and of those, 800 are killed by wolves. Ree says sheep management is a larger problem than carnivores. "About 80 percent of Norwegian sheep owners have full-time jobs doing other things," he says. "So [the sheep] aren't looked after properly." The NCRS, WWF-Norway and other conservationist groups advocate using fences, guard dogs and herders to adapt wolves into sheep farming society. CONTACT: The Norwegian Carnivore and Raptor Society, (011)47-63909356, www.fvr.no; World Wildlife Fund-Norway, (011)47-22036514, www.panda.org; Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management, (011)47-73580500, www.naturforvaltning.no. --Katherine Kerlin

THE BLACKFEET WIND

The wind whips through the passes of the Rocky Mountains, blowing endlessly across the Blackfeet reservation in northern Montana. The land rises from the austere prairie to the towering mountain range, today comprising much of Glacier National Park, which is within the treaty area of the Blackfoot Confederacy. Borders, land ownership, neighbors and government policies may change, but one thing is certain: The wind will blow through the passes and through Blackfeet territory.

Harnessing that wind energy hopefully will put the Blackfeet squarely into the alternative energy market. A pilot wind project developed by the Siyeh Development Corporation powers Browning municipal facilities at the heart of the reservation. By the fall of next year, the Blackfeet expect to produce enough power to supply 6,000 homes. "The wind project of Siyeh represents a project which is in keeping with Blackfeet culture, and it is a resource which will provide for future generations of Blackfeet," explains Dennis Fitzpatrick, the Blackfeet tribal member who heads the project.

This past fall, SeaWest WindPower, a San Diego-based company, partnered with Siyeh to build a new wind installation. The project, consisting of 15 wind turbines, is slated to begin construction in August 2002. The turbines will provide 30 construction jobs, four or five permanent jobs in the Browning area and, once the project is producing energy (perhaps as early as next year), an estimated $250,000 per year to the tribal government.

The Blackfeet reservation is considered to have some of the greatest wind energy potential in the country. The Great Plains has enough generating power to meet a third of present U.S. electrical needs. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Montana alone has enough wind potential to produce 116,000 megawatts of electricity, and North Dakota has enough to supply 36 percent of the electricity needs of the lower 48 states.

Wind energy is now the fastest-growing renewable energy source. At the current rate of installation, the World Energy Council estimates that wind power could provide energy for 60 to 158 million people globally.

In keeping with Blackfeet and other Native traditions, wind energy is also a sustainable resource. "Generating electricity from the winds here on the reservation has been talked about for many years," says Tribal Chairman Earl Old Person. "We are gratified that it has finally become a reality." CONTACT: SeaWest WindPower, (619)293-3340, www. seawestwindpower.com. --Winona LaDuke

FRIENDS OF KELP

"SAVE OUR KELP! NO KELP, NO FISH, NO OTTERS, NO WILDLIFE, NO DIVERS, NO TOURISTS!" read one placard carried by supporters who rallied the California Fish and Game Commission to curtail kelp harvesting in the Ed F. Ricketts Marine Park near Monterey, California's historic Cannery Row.

The kelp forest off California's central coast has been a thicket of controversy for several years. Because the kelp forest is a unique ecological habitat, a popular recreational destination and a harvestable resource, users' interests range widely. Kelp is used commercially in cultured abalone, is employed to provide smooth textures in processed foods, and it is an ingredient in sushi.

In early April, nearly 100 people packed a commission meeting to voice their opinions on a statewide kelp management plan. Scuba divers came in droves with photographers, environmentalists, surfers, business owners and marine scientists. As Chuck Davis says, "People who know and love the Monterey Bay want to get into the trenches and do something about the state of the coastal areas."

Jim Curland of Defenders of Wildlife stressed the role of kelp in the marine ecosystem, explaining how kelp harvesting further threatens the already endangered Southern sea otter. Otters use the kelp forest as foraging and nursing grounds. Without the otters, the urchin population explodes. As algae-eaters, urchins feed on the holdfasts of the kelp, resulting in a sea floor completely devoid of vegetation. Failure to regulate kelp harvesting almost certainly ensures that someday there will be no kelp left to regulate.

Berkley White of the Cannery Row Business Association cited the importance of the kelp forest in terms of tourism dollars. "People come to Monterey to see the sea otters. If the [kelp] canopy isn't there, the otters aren't there. Our bottom line is dependent on that."

Speaking for the kelpers was Joe Cavanaugh of Monterey Abalone Company, who denied that the harvesting was taking a serious toll. "People think the kelp forest is being clear-cut," he said. "This is a sustainable resource, and each year it's being renewed."

The meeting convinced the commission to adopt a new plan that will be in effect for five years. Kelp harvesting will be prohibited throughout the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary from April through July. It will also be banned year-round along a portion of Cannery Row.

Mike Chrisman, the commission's president, reported, "What we've got here is a group of very committed individuals. We heard them; we really did." The new plan is a victory for recreational scuba divers who come from all over the world to dive the kelp forests in Monterey. But more importantly, it's a victory for the environment and ensures that there will be kelp forests in Monterey for years to come. CONTACT: Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, (831)647-4201, http://bonita.mbnms.nos.noaa.gov. --Camilla Mann

FIGHTING GRIDLOCK WITH "UGLY" BIKES

A ragtag fleet of bicycles is solving some environmental problems for the small city of Roseburg, Oregon. Handy racks of these colorful bikes dot the public landscape, and their use is free to everyone. People borrow the bikes and when they're through, they return them to the closest bike stand. The "ugly" bikes provide a healthy alternative to car transportation, and they help create bike awareness in the city.

Roseburg's Community Transportation Resource Committee came up with the idea. It acquired a small grant and invited the public to donate used bicycles and parts. Then the committee asked Clint Hampton, a juvenile service specialist at the Pitchford Boys Ranch, for help in getting the bikes into shape. "We have up to 18 boys at a time," says Hampton. "They're real excited and want to work on the bikes."

The fleet includes mountain bikes, three- and 10-speeds, and even single speeds with coaster brakes. Every bike gets a safety overhaul. Some are outfitted with baskets. Then they're painted--orange, green, silver, many with streaks or spots--at the whim of the painter. The result is functional bikes that are so ugly very few are stolen.

"Most people riding these bikes actually use them to get back and forth to work," says Jim Watson, a member of the Community Transportation Resource Committee. "An older lady uses one with a basket to get a small amount of groceries."

And the project is expanding. "We're hoping to put anywhere from 30 to 50 more bikes out," says Hampton. He also plans an additional element to the program. As with library books, people will be able to take a bike home for a few weeks or months and then return it.

The program uses very little money. A local business provided a professional paint job for a few of the newer bikes, and as funds are needed, these spiffy bikes are raffled off to raise money for the ugly ones. The proceeds buy tubes and cables. "Stuff you really can't take off other bikes," says Hampton.

No formal study proves that this project is making an environmental difference, but people are using the ugly bikes, and that means fewer cars on the streets. Bikes and parts donated to the project don't end up in the landfill. And bike usage encourages a bike-friendly environment that's good for any city. CONTACT: Housing Authority of Douglas County, (541)673-6548, x10. --Deanna Mather Larson

THE METHANE GOES `ROUND AND `ROUND

Every day, the 550 half-ton Holstein cows on Dennis Haubenschild's dairy farm near Princeton, Minnesota each eat 90 pounds of food, produce eight gallons of milk and create 220 pounds of waste and manure.

On another farm, cows making a quarter of their weight in waste pose a daily hazard. Manure from dairy farms festers in large lagoons, threatening ground and surface waters. It also creates global warming gases like methane, and the stench keeps neighbors indoors.

But at Haubenschild's, a family farm 10 times bigger than the average Minnesota dairy operation, each cow generates 5.5 kilowatt hours of electricity daily. That lets the neighbors smell the daisies on the windiest days and has eliminated the equivalent of 680 tons of carbon dioxide in 10 months.

Haubenschild's methane-fired electricity generator, engineered with assistance from the Environmental Protection Agency's AgStar Project, is a dream come true: "I've been interested in methane digestion since the 1970s," Haubenschild says. "I had no doubt that it would work; it just took quite a few years to tie everything together."

When federal environmental regulators' concern about the damaging greenhouse effects of methane--it's 21 times as potent as CO2--and Minnesota agriculture officials' concern for declining farm incomes coincided in the late 1990s, Haubenschild was ready to take advantage of government programs that allowed him to build the $350,000 generating plant, which began operation in October 1999.

Haubenschild's system, which captures methane created by anaerobic bacteria in a covered and heated cement manure pit, generated $62,000 of electricity and $4,000 of waste heat (used to replace propane) in its first year. He sells the electricity from his methane-fired generator to his utility for 7.25 cents per kilowatt hour. Although there are only 31 electricity-generating methane harvesters on U.S. farms, Haubenschild's numbers shouldn't have surprised anyone.

Dick Waybright, of Mason Dixon Farms near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania has operated manure digesters for 21 years. "They're an important part of our profit picture. I get 30 percent annual return on our investment," says Waybright, who milks 2,150 cows with his sons.

"This project is an opportunity to use renewable energy and promote sustainable agriculture," says Henry Fisher of the Minnesota-based East Central Energy cooperative, which buys Haubenschild's electricity. "We roll the energy into our green power program, which charges a premium over the retail rate to cover distribution costs." CONTACT: Dennis Haubenschild, www.ecenet.com/~hauby. --Tim King
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earth Action Network, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Date:Jul 1, 2001
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