Nov 20

Animals and plants in danger of extinction could lose the protection of government experts who make sure that infrastructure projects don’t pose a threat, under regulations outgoing US president George W Bush is set to put in place before he leaves office.

Geogre Bush: opponents claim he will introduce a number of 'midnight regulations' before leaving office
Geogre Bush: opponents claim he will introduce a number of ‘midnight regulations’ before leaving office Photo: AP

The rules must be published on Friday to take effect before President-Elect Barack Obama is sworn in Jan 20.

The proposed change would eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, allowing the federal agency in charge of building, authorising or funding a project to determine for itself if it is likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.

Current regulations require independent wildlife biologists to sign off on these decisions before a project can go forward, at times modifying the design to better protect species.

It is among several rule changes that environmentalists say Mr Bush has or will introduce in what are known as “midnight regulations”.

Though he would not be the first president to follow the practice, environmental campaigners fear he will sneak through as many changes as possible on energy, climate change and the environment, having been unable to pass full legislation through the Democrat-controlled Congress.

He has already opened up 800,000 hectares of land in Rocky Mountain states for the development of oil shale, and is reportedly considering allowing industrial-size pig, cow and chicken farms to disregard the Clean Water Act and air pollution controls.

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Jul 07

Endangered species may become extinct 100 times faster than previously thought, scientists warned today, in a bleak re-assessment of the threat to global biodiversity.

Writing in the journal Nature, leading ecologists claim that methods used to predict when species will die out are seriously flawed, and dramatically underestimate the speed at which some plants and animals will be wiped out.

The findings suggest that animals such as the western gorilla, the Sumatran tiger and the Malayan sun bear, the smallest of the bear family, may become extinct much sooner than conservationists feared.

Ecologists Brett Melbourne at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Alan Hastings at the University of California, Davis, said conservation organisations should use updated extinction models to urgently re-evaluate the risks to wildlife.

“Some species could have months instead of years left, while other species that haven’t even been identified as under threat yet should be listed as endangered,” said Melbourne.

Related articles:
Wildlife populations ‘plummeting’
UN official: Biodiversity loss could hurts medical research

The warning has particular implications for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which compiles an annual “red list” of endangered species. Last year, the list upgraded western gorillas to critically endangered, after populations of a subspecies were found to be decimated by Ebola virus and commercial trade in bush meat. The Yangtze river dolphin was listed as critically endangered, but is possibly already extinct.

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May 17

“Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply.”
James Leape, Director general, WWF UK

Between a quarter and a third of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to data compiled by the Zoological Society of London.

Over-fishing and demand for their fins as a delicacy have hit shark numbers

Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%, it says.

Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, it says. Continue reading »

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Mar 15
AP probe found traces of meds in water supplies of 41 million Americans
A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs — and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen — in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

From California to New Jersey
In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas — from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit to Louisville, Ky. Continue reading »

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