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Norton Hears a Hoot

The Bush administration will ask Congress for $100 million to fund a program to encourage joint conservation efforts between private and public landowners. Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who is announcing the program today in Pennsylvania, called the "Cooperative Conservation Initiative" an effort to "empower a new generation of citizen-conservationists." Under the initiative, the government will dole out money for conservation projects when there are matching in-kind or financial contributions; the exact details of the budget will be revealed next week. Some environmentalists are skeptical: The executive director of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, said the program sounded like it was …

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Shark Skin Suit

Last summer, they were are our worst enemy; now they need a best friend. We're talking about sharks, of course. The much-maligned beach marauders are now the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this week against the U.S. government by environmental organizations. The National Audubon Society, Earthjustice, and the Ocean Conservancy claim the National Marine Fisheries Service has failed to prevent overfishing and rebuild coastal shark populations. The lawsuit also accuses the NMFS of caving to commercial pressure by suspending limits on catching sharks. The animals are becoming increasingly popular menu items, with the result that their numbers are falling …

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Basin and Strange

The Bush administration gave the first indication yesterday of how it would work to resolve the water wars in the Klamath Basin on the Oregon-California border -- and enviros immediately warned that the administration was kowtowing to farmers while giving short shrift to endangered fish. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has proposed that area farmers receive nearly a full supply of irrigation water over the next decade, with the option of selling some water back to the government to help fish. The plan must still be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service …

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Mess Transit

As perhaps the most famous national park in the United States, the Grand Canyon occupies an equally vast space in our national psyche as in our national landscape. Unfortunately, it is also our national bottleneck. Each year, 5 million people flock to the park, leaving 6,000 cars to battle for 2,400 parking spaces every day during the summer. Park officials have recognized the problem for decades, and for a while, a proposed solution -- a Grand Canyon light rail system -- was steaming ahead. But that was before the White House changed hands and a coterie of Republicans froze the …

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This Old Coal-fired Power Plant

Even as the Bush administration works to relax clean-air regulations on coal-fired power plants, New Jersey's biggest energy supplier agreed yesterday to spend $337 million over the next 10 years to cut emissions from two plants. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the settlement between PSEG Power showed a "continuing commitment to enforce vigorously the Clean Air Act." The Clinton administration sued PSEG Power and several other utilities for violating new source review regulations that require owners of older power plants to update pollution-control systems when making other significant improvements to their plants.

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Election Day Is Green Day

If the voting record is any measure, most Americans are green at heart when it comes to conservation. Last year, voters approved spending $1.7 billion for parks and open spaces, according to a tally released today by the Trust for Public Land and the Land Trust Alliance. Seventy percent of 196 local ballot measures in 24 states were given the thumbs up. The fine people of Massachusetts had a particularly impressive voting record, passing 68 greenspace measures last year. The numbers were down from 1999, the last off-election year, when voters across the country okayed 90 percent of land protection …

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Coal-burning Bush

In other mining news, President Bush did not mince words about his energy plan during an address in the town of Belle, W.Va., yesterday: "We need to use coal. We got a lot of it," he said. The president touted exploitation of domestic coal and other traditional energy resources as a way to avoid dependence on foreign oil and jumpstart a flagging economy. But that theory was skewered yesterday by likely 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry, a Senate Democrat from Massachusetts, who said that adopting Bush's energy plan would leave the U.S. more dependent than ever on foreign oil in …

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Garden State, Meet the Cement State

Bad news on the environmental justice front: Poor and minority residents of Camden, N.J., aren't having much luck with efforts to sue the state for allowing a cement factory to spew pollution in their neighborhood. The residents successfully convinced U.S. District Judge Stephen Orlofsky that the siting of the plant was discriminatory, but Orlofsky's decision was undermined by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case that individuals suing states for discrimination must prove that there was intent to discriminate. Now the residents are trying to get the courts to hear their case on other grounds, but so far they …

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Fairy Fairy, Quite Contrary

The U.S. Supreme Court refused yesterday to hear a challenge to the protected status of the endangered fairy shrimp, a tiny crustacean that lives in rainwater ponds in California's Central Valley. The decision was a boon to fans of the Endangered Species Act, but a blow to property-rights advocates, for whom the case was one in a series of recent legal crusades to limit the federal government's power to protect wildlife. The property-rights advocates argued that the federal government has no authority to protect species that, like the fairy shrimp, exist in only one state and have no commercial purpose. …

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