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Chop Sticks

Old-growth trees in roadless areas of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska could soon be on the chopping block. The Bush administration announced yesterday that it plans to exempt the nation's largest national forest from the Clinton-era "roadless rule," which blocks logging and road-building on more than 58 million acres of wild land in national forests. The proposal, part of an effort to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Alaska, would double the number of acres open to logging in the Tongass; the plan will be subject to public comment and will likely be finalized in December. The …

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Green Collar Jobs

In an unusually strong gesture of blue-green solidarity, 10 major labor unions called on presidential candidates yesterday to back a decade-long, $300 billion research plan to boost energy efficiency, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, and preserve jobs. Known as the Apollo Project, the plan calls for the promotion of hybrid and hydrogen cars, energy-efficient factories and appliances; more financing of high-speed rail projects; expanded use of solar and wind power; and the creation of manufacturing jobs to replace some of the 2 million lost in recent years. Proponents of the plan hope it will forge better ties between the …

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Chop Shop

The environmental policies of the Bush administration are endangering our nation's woodlands, according to a coalition of environmental groups that yesterday released a list of the 10 most at-risk forests. The coalition, which included Greenpeace and the National Forest Protection Alliance, assessed the risks posed to water quality, endangered species, and old-growth trees. Citing road-building and timber sales as major threats to forest health, the groups strongly criticized President Bush's championing of logging projects in the name of limiting forest fires -- a move most environmentalists see as a giveaway to the timber industry. According to the group, the 10 …

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Air Care

With the feds having fallen down on the job, the California state Senate stepped in yesterday to keep up the fight against air pollution. The state Senate voted to add New Source Review rules to the state's clean-air regulations -- the same type of rules that the Bush administration did away with on a national level in December 2002. The federal rules had required older power plants and factories to install state-of-the-art pollution controls if they made upgrades that would boost production. The decision by the Bush team to loosen the rules set off a firestorm of protest in the …

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Wallowing in the Myers

Environmentalists are up in arms over President Bush's nomination of William Myers III to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Based in San Francisco, the famously liberal court has long been a friend to the environment. But not so Myers, the top lawyer in the Interior Department and a longstanding supporter of ranchers, the livestock industry, and other for-profit sectors that use public lands. His supporters say he would bring balance to a court they claim is out of step with the interests of many of the areas it covers (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, …

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The Endangered Endangered Species Act

The federal Endangered Species Act is so cash-strapped that it is effectively "broken," the Interior Department announced yesterday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blamed the financial trouble on the act's "critical habitat" provision, which requires federal agencies to consult with the USFWS before embarking on any activity in areas set aside for wildlife recovery. The agency claims critical habitat designations are redundant, unnecessary, and lead to expensive lawsuits (often by environmentalists) that siphon money away from more important aspects of species protection. According to USFWS Assistant Secretary Craig Manson, critical habitat funds will run dry in July, but the …

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Hunger Strike

The backlash has begun against President Bush's comment last week that a European Union ban on genetically modified (GM) foods is contributing to world hunger. The reality, critics say, is that the dispute over GM crops is an international agricultural battle with billion-dollar stakes, and that concern about famine in the developing world is a sideshow at best and a smokescreen at worst. They point out that of all industrialized nations, the U.S. gives one of the smallest proportions of its gross domestic product to global development; that the real problem with food production in Africa is soil fertility, which …

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Go, West, Young Man

Jason West, a 26-year-old member of the Green Party, is shaking things up in New Paltz, N.Y., where he was elected mayor earlier this month -- an outcome that has the local political establishment in a tizzy. West ran on an ambitious environmental platform that rallied support from many students at the State University of New York at New Paltz, of which West is an alumnus. On June 1, West and his two running mates will take control of the village's five-member board. West's agenda: curb sprawl, promote solar energy, power government vehicles with soy-based fuel, and purify sewer water …

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Data Dumping

Think the U.S. EPA is keeping tabs on water pollution around the country? Think again. The agency's computer system for tracking and controlling water pollution is outmoded, riddled with bad data, and lacks information on thousands of sources of serious pollution, according to a report released last week by the EPA's inspector general. Efforts to fix the computer system have been slow, underfunded, and mismanaged, throwing into question the efficacy of the agency's entire system for administering permits for water discharges, the main tool by which it enforces the Clean Water Act. Shortcomings in the system could be allowing mining …

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Crop Dustup

Speaking before the United States Coast Guard Academy yesterday, President Bush accused the European Union of undermining efforts to end widespread hunger in Africa by banning genetically modified (GM) food. Bush praised "high-yield bio-crops" as key to increasing productivity and ameliorating hunger in developing nations, and claimed the E.U. ban was based on "unfounded, unscientific fears." The speech, which marked the first time the president has explicitly drawn a connection between world hunger and prohibitions on GM food, is likely to exacerbate the already tense relations between Bush and his European colleagues. Last week, the Bush administration filed a challenge …

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