• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

April 11, 2003

Air Date: April 11, 2003



Green Tanks?

View the page for this story

The Army is working on improving its fuel efficiency, both to cut costs and to increase its mobility. Host Steve Curwood talks with Paul Skalny of the Army’s National Automotive Center, on how the military plans to use hybrid and fuel cell technologies – and how its partnerships with Detroit could affect consumer vehicle options, too. (05:40)

Garden State Shines / Brian Zumhagen

View the page for this story

It may come as a surprise, but New Jersey is second only to California when it comes to solar energy use. As Brian Zumhagen reports, the one billion dollar Clean Energy program gives large rebates to homeowners and businesses who are interested in installing solar energy. The hope is that it may transform the energy industry, and the marketplace, in the Garden State. (05:35)

Environmental Health Note/ Poisoned Artifacts / Diane Toomey

View the page for this story

Living on Earth’s Diane Toomey reports on pesticide residues found on Native American ceremonial items that have been repatriated to tribes. (01:20)


View the page for this story

This week, we have facts about the oncomouse. Fifteen years ago, the first patent was granted for a living creature, a mouse genetically engineered to be susceptible to cancer. (01:30)

Avoiding Armageddon

View the page for this story

Hundreds of nuclear stockpiles around the world are subject to poor security, volatile politics and the threat from terrorist groups. Host Steve Curwood talks with Martin Schram, who explores the issue of nuclear security in his new book and PBS series called Avoiding Armageddon: Our Future, Our Choice. (08:20)

News Follow-up

View the page for this story

New developments in stories we’ve been following. (04:00)

Birdfeeder Jeopardy / Mark Spreitzer

View the page for this story

Mark Spreitzer, a high school sophomore in Chicago, used to celebrate the beginning of spring by filling up birdfeeders and watching for the mourning doves to return to their flower pot nest on his back porch. But now Mark has realized this may not be the best way to help his feathered friends. (03:00)

Emerging Science Note/Colorful Beaks / Cynthia Graber

View the page for this story

Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on a new study showing why male birds with brighter beaks get more girlfriends. (01:20)

Shoshone Sisters Fight for Land / Clay Scott

View the page for this story

The Western Shoshone’s traditional lands stretch over two thirds of the state of Nevada. But since the late 1800s, the tribe has lost possession of millions of acres of that land to the government through the gradual encroachment of settlers. Two Shoshone sisters, Carrie and Mary Dann, have been fighting over ownership of their grazing land for decades, and for the sovereignty of the Western Shoshone people. Clay Scott reports from northern Nevada. (10:00)

Lewis & Clark Trail

View the page for this story

The Blackfeet Nation produces some of the best wildland firefighters in the world. Producer Barrett Golding traveled the Lewis & Clark Trail for its 200th anniversary, and he ran into one crew of Blackfeet smokejumpers in Idaho’s Clearwater Forest as they prepared for work. (04:00)

This week's EarthEar selection
listen / download

Show Credits and Funders

This Week's Music

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve CurwoodGUESTS: Paul Skalny, Martin SchramREPORTERS: Brian Zumhagen, Clay Scott, Barett GoldingCOMMENTARIES: Mark SpreitzerNOTES: Cynthia Graber, Diane Toomey


CURWOOD: From NPR, this is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The U.S. government says two Native American sisters are violating the law by grazing their horses without permits on federal land. But the Shoshone women say it's the Feds who are trespassing.

FEMALE: I'm not going to get a grazing permit from the Bureau of Land Management because this is not their land. This is Western Shoshone land. And it's not an overgrazing issue. It's not a horse issue. It's a land issue.

CURWOOD: Also, the U.S. military has a major program to use hybrid and other new technologies to save fuel for its tanks and trucks. But fuel economy isn't the only benefit.

SKALNY: The technology will also allow us to gain the advantage of being able to run, let's say, on battery power, which means that you can run silently. That's good from a stealth capability.

CURWOOD: And war at the backyard bird feeder. That and more this week on Living on Earth right after this.


FEMALE: Support for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation and heritageafrica.com.

Back to top


Green Tanks?


CURWOOD: Welcome to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. Okay, so you think you’re paying through the nose to fill up your vehicle at the pump. Well, consider the bill for the U.S. military. The cost of moving fuel to a war theater can boost its price to about $10 dollars per gallon. And if it has to be airlifted in, that price tag can reach $400 dollars a gallon or more.

And think about how much fuel the Army burns up. Just keeping the 3rd Infantry Division moving in Iraq, for example, takes about one million gallons of fuel everyday. And at times, it's had to slow down its advance for fear of running out. Paul Skalny is the Deputy Director of the National Automotive Center of the U.S. Army. The Center partners with the civilian car and truck industry to bring innovations to military vehicles.

One goal is to reduce fuel consumption by improving efficiency. Mr. Skalny, aside from cost, what's the Army's interest in decreasing its fuel needs?

SKALNY: There has always been a recognition that we had to be more fuel efficient. But now, as we're taking a look at conflicts where we need to get quickly into where we are, we really need to be able to take our vehicles, and all of the support equipment that we need, there very quickly. And it makes more sense not to have to take as much fuel if your vehicle are more fuel efficient. Plus, in battle, what you want to be able to do is sustain yourself for longer periods of time without refueling, because then you can stay in the fight a lot longer.

CURWOOD: How much of what the Army has to haul around is fuel?

SKALNY: In certain situations, 70 percent of the bulk tonnage that we would take to war would be fuel. If you're less fuel efficient, you certainly have to take more fuel in battle, which means you have to have a lot more of what we call a logistics tail. We have to take a lot more support equipment to be able to support the soldiers that are in the fight.

CURWOOD: What's the baseline here? What kind of mileage do the vehicles you're looking at get right now? I understand that a tank gets what, a mile a gallon, a half a mile a gallon, something like that.

SKALNY: It's anywhere from a half mile to a mile a gallon. At least that's my understanding. And it depends on where you've run the vehicles. But, for example, in a Humvee, it might be anywhere from about nine to 11 miles per gallon. And then when you start looking at the bigger trucks, they certainly go down from there.

CURWOOD: You're working on a number of alternative fuel technologies there. I'd like you to explain to me the advantages of each of these. First, what about hybrid electric? We already see that in passenger cars.

SKALNY: Yes, you do see that in passenger cars. And, from the standpoint of the hybrid electric, you have the opportunity to both work on maybe having a smaller engine, because you're assisted from your battery standpoint. A hybrid electric solution also allows us to give us better acceleration, to be able to generate power on board and, therefore, not effectively have to bring some of the generator sets that we have to bring into the battlefield.

Dodge Ram COMBATT (Commercially Based Tactical Truck) hybrid electric vehicle

CURWOOD: With a hybrid electric, you can also be quiet.

SKALNY: Yes. When you have the batteries and you've charged the batteries, you're able to actually run silently. And that's very important in the military, particularly when it comes from a stealth standpoint.

CURWOOD: Now, what's the interest in the military in fuel cells? Of course, they came from NASA, to begin with, in the space program.

SKALNY: We are really taking a very close look at what fuel cells will do for us, certainly from a fuel efficiency standpoint, certainly from a clean power standpoint. The critical piece here for us is that we're able to look at fuel cells for soldier packs. And so the small fuel cells, fuel cells that can be used as auxiliary power units on vehicles to generate the power to run some of your hotel loads, like your air conditioning or your heating or whatever it might be.

Hydrogenics fuel cell.

Also, from the standpoint of, eventually, be able to use the fuel cells as a full-up power plant in a vehicle. We also know that fuel cells are a little bit further out in terms of its commercial application, in the amount of fuel cell vehicles that are going to be sold. But it pays us in the military to have to be very, very much in tune with what the industry is doing, and to be on the leading edge of getting this technology into our systems.

CURWOOD: And what kinds of vehicles are you talking about putting these technologies into at this point?

SKALNY: Really across the board. We have to be careful about how we do them, but we're talking about putting these technologies into trucks, our tactical trucks, as well as into our combat fleet.

Chevy Silverado COMBATT hybrid electric vehicle with a hydrogen fuel cell auxiliary power unit.

CURWOOD: How soon might we see this?

SKALNY: If you were to look on TV next week, you won't be seeing the hybrid solutions or the fuel cell solutions out in a battlefield. In the case of hybrid electric, one of the programs that we are working is a hybrid electric Humvee. That, potentially, is going to be sitting out in the field in the 2006,2007 timeframe. As we take a look at our objective force and our future combat systems of systems, you're going to be looking at a little bit after that.

CURWOOD: So, the military brought us the microchip, and Velcro, and garage door openers, and everything like that. How much of a driver for civilian technologies, civilian cars and trucks, will the work of the National Automotive Center be, do you think?

SKALNY: Well, what happens at the very beginning is the military may be an early adopter of some of this technology. Because for us, a return on investment is not, maybe, just based on, let's say, a consumer price and the dollars that would come in in terms of profits from an industry partner. So what we may do is, we may be an early adopter of these technologies. But industry is working right along with us to, obviously, incorporate these or integrate them into commercial products. We just may be able to push the technology a little bit faster. And in the long run, this technology is going to get into the vehicles that we drive as consumers, and fleet owners drive in terms of truck fleet owners.

CURWOOD: Paul Skalny is the Deputy Director of the National Automotive Center of the United States Army. Thanks for filling us in, Paul.

SKALNY: Thank you.

Related link:
U.S. Army's National Automotive Center

Back to top


Garden State Shines

CURWOOD: These days, if you're thinking solar, you might want to think New Jersey. The Garden State is right behind California when it comes to promoting solar power. This isn't the first time New Jersey has been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to energy. After all, it was there that Thomas Edison first envisioned what would become the electrical power grid. Today, New Jersey is transforming the energy market once again, this time with a program that gives businesses and homeowners generous rebates to help them go solar. Brian Zumhagen reports.

ARESTY: All the homes in this neighborhood are built sort of out of the same plan. You look at each one, and you'll see it's…

ZUMHAGEN: Robert Aresty lives in Princeton, New Jersey, in one of the many cookie cutter style houses built for GIs coming back from World War II. Over the years, people in the neighborhood have made various changes to their homes. But while most have been content to add a room or a sun porch, Robert Aresty has turned his house into a model of solar energy efficiency.

ARESTY: This is the active solar domestic hot water system. It's placed behind the glass in the front of the house. So it's not even visible from the street.

ZUMHAGEN: As he walks through his house, Aresty points out how the solar heating system works. The sunlight comes in through large windows downstairs where a brick floor creates a convection current that sends warm air upstairs. In the attic, Aresty has insulated the roof with a special paint that inhibits infrared rays from coming in during the summer. That keeps air conditioning costs down.

Aresty actually invented that paint. And he went on to become the president of Solar Energy Corporation, the world's leading manufacturer of the coatings, which are also used to make solar panels absorb sunlight.

Robert Aresty isn't alone in his commitment to solar power. State governments have become increasingly interested in promoting renewable energy during the past decade. That's because of the deregulation of the energy market, says Tom Leyden, vice president of PowerLight Corporation, which installs photovoltaic solar panel systems all over the country.

LEYDEN: What's happened over the last ten years or so with deregulation, the states have been forced to think about the issue. And how do they promote clean energy? How do they expand their distribution? And how do they meet the demand of new electricity? And renewable energy is a practical, viable, cost-effective way to do it if the proper policy is in place.

ZUMHAGEN: Leyden says that, after California, New Jersey has been the leader among states when it comes to clean energy. The administration of Governor James McGreevey has made a commitment to get 12 percent of state government consumed power from renewable sources. It's all part of New Jersey's one billion dollar Clean Energy Program, a collaboration between regulators and the state's major utilities.

Dale Bryk is from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the environmental advocacy group that helped New Jersey officials design the program. Bryk says the Garden State's efforts stand in stark contrast to the environmental policies of the Bush administration.

BRYK: New Jersey came out a couple of years ago with a commitment to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol commitments to reduce emissions within the state. So they're going to reduce their statewide emissions of greenhouse gases to three and a half percent below 1990 levels by 2005. And a large part of the way that they're doing that is by promoting investment in clean energy.

ZUMHAGEN: New Jersey officials have decided to emphasize solar energy rather than wind power, which is only in abundance along the Jersey shore. Solar power, on the other hand, is plentiful in the state, especially during the summer. And that's when residents and businesses are overwhelming the power grid with their air conditioners, says Jeanne Fox, president of New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities.

FOX: In July and August, our peak demand is high. That's when the dirty energy generating facilities will come on board, the back-up plants. We still have air quality problems in New Jersey. So it really does help, also, with our air quality which is important to the residents.

ZUMHAGEN: For advocates like Jeanne Fox, it's not hard to convince residents and business owners about the long-term benefits of solar. The problem is the upfront costs of buying and installing solar electric systems. A homeowner can expect to pay up to 25,000 dollars for photovoltaic panels and the other equipment necessary to convert sunlight into electric current.

After looking at California's programs, New Jersey officials decided that the best way to get people to go solar is to give them rebates to help them pay the start-up costs. Under the Clean Energy Program, homeowners who install new photovoltaic systems can recover up to 70 percent of the cost from the state. That's significantly higher than California's 50 percent rebate cap.

Dale Bryk from the NRDC says the goal of New Jersey's incentive program is to transform the marketplace to make it easier for customers to invest in clean energy technology.

BRYK: Right now, I can't just walk into a Home Depot and buy a solar panel, have it put on my roof on the weekend by trained installers, and have a financing package all set up for me so that I just sign on the dotted line, and I'm paying a monthly fee that's maybe a little more comparable to my electric bill.

ZUMHAGEN: If solar systems become more popular, says Bryk, more businesses will be encouraged to offer the technology to consumers. State officials hope that will bring prices down, so that they can phase out the rebates within eight years. So far, the Garden State seems well on the way to meeting its goals. In a year and a half, New Jersey has committed to producing more megawatts of solar capacity than California did during the first two years of its program. For Living on Earth, I'm Brian Zumhagen in New Jersey.

Related link:
The New Jersey Clean Energy Program

Back to top


Environmental Health Note/ Poisoned Artifacts

CURWOOD: Coming up, keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists. First, this Environmental Health Note from Diane Toomey.

[MUSIC: Health Note Theme]

DIANE TOOMEY: Thanks to a 1990 repatriation law, Native American tribes can now reclaim museum items that rightfully belong to them. But it turns out these objects might present a health hazard. Museums have routinely used chemicals to protect their collections from pest damage. In the past, these pesticides have included everything from arsenic and mercury salts to DDT.

Researchers recently examined some Native American artifacts for these residues. The items in the study included ceremonial eagle feathers, a deer hoof necklace and leather headbands, all property of the Hupa Tribe of northern California.

The artifacts were taken from the Hupa in 1904, and eventually made their way to Harvard's Peabody Museum. When a Hupa representative retrieved the objects a few years ago, Peabody officials told him to wear gloves and a mask when handling them. That warning prompted him to obtain a chemical analysis.

Researchers took a number of samples from 17 items, and found that mercury, DDT, and naphthalene, the main ingredient in mothballs, showed up in many of them. But the actual risk posed by handling repatriated items is unknown since, historically, museums kept poor records on pesticide use. And studies such as this one are rare. That's this week's health update. I'm Diane Toomey.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Lisa Kane “Mother Nature’s Pace” Surroundings - www.lisakane.com]

Back to top



CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

[MUSIC: Pat Metheny “The Search” American Garage ECM (1979)]

CURWOOD: It lives. It breathes. It likes cheese. And it's patent number 4,736,866. Fifteen years ago this week, the United States government issued the first patent on a living animal. The invention: a mouse, genetically engineered to be susceptible to cancer.

Philip Leder of Harvard and Timothy Stewart of the University of California obtained the patent. They named it the oncomouse after the Latin word for tumor. To create the oncomouse, the scientists altered a gene that controls cell growth. This gene, a trigger for cancer, was injected into a fertilized mouse egg, and then the egg was implanted into a female mouse. All the resulting offspring contained the mutant DNA.

The oncomouse was designed to help us understand the causes of human cancer, and to test new treatments for the disease. The mouse and its patent generated intense controversy. Some said a living being should never be considered an invention. Others argue that the patent was unfair because it was so broad. It included not just the oncomouse, but all of its descendants and any other animal created in the same way.

Although Harvard University holds the patent, they agreed to give DuPont exclusive marketing rights. That company now sells oncomice and receives royalties from all products derived from them.

Fifteen years on, the controversy continues. Many hail the oncomouse as a way of developing new cancer therapies. But some say it just makes those therapies more expensive. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.


Back to top


Avoiding Armageddon

CURWOOD: Weapons of mass destruction. We hear that phrase perhaps too often these days to suit our sense of security. Journalist Martin Schram is the author of a new book on the topic. It's called “Avoiding Armageddon: Our Future, Our Choice.” And it's being published in conjunction with an upcoming companion PBS series.

In his book, Marty Schram explores a specter of biological, chemical, and nuclear attacks, and talks with some of the people most closely associated with the security and manufacture of these materials. Marty Schram joins me now to talk about his book. Welcome to Living on Earth.

SCHRAM: Glad to be here with you.

CURWOOD: Now, part of your series and your book is devoted to the security or, rather, the lack of security in those facilities that house weapons of mass destruction. And to get us into this subject, I'd like to talk about Leonid Smirnov who is, as you describe, a rather ordinary looking man. You also write that he is the International Atomic Energy Agency's worst nightmare. Who is this man?

SCHRAM: Well, he's basically a bean counter. He would weigh and measure the resources at the facility where he worked. The resources happen to be nuclear material, highly enriched uranium. And what he figured out was that there was a margin of error of three percent in the accounting that they had in order to weigh and measure what they had.

Needing money, being very underpaid, as are so many people in this entire industry, unfortunately, in Russia, he decided that what he was going to do was steal just a little bit at a time. And he siphoned it off, always within the margin of error. So the books always showed nothing was missing.

He wound up accumulating quite a stash. He kept it in a lead-lined container on the balcony of his fourth floor apartment overlooking a playground for kids. Now that's why the nuclear inspectors, the same guys who used to go to Baghdad, said he is our worst nightmare. Because we don't know that anything is missing, and he's taking it.

CURWOOD: In the end, while he got all this uranium, he wasn't able to sell it.

SCHRAM: Well, that's exactly right. It turned out that the local police found the loot. And he did a couple of years for his crime. But the bottom line is there were 174 cases of weapons-grade material that was taken, of highly enriched uranium, 16 especially.

And, of all of the cases, the records back at the institute showed nothing was missing when the authorities went to return the discovered material to the institute. And that's the danger we face. I mean, here we are now in an era of terrorism. And Osama bin Laden has said obtaining weapons of mass destruction is our duty. It's a great concern. And that's why we're in a race, a race against Osama and the terrorists, and a race against time to secure the weapons before they fall into the wrong hands.

CURWOOD: Aside from Russia, what kind of risks do we run from countries like Pakistan, South Africa, North Korea for proliferation of nuclear materials into what people would refer to as terrorists?

SCHRAM: Let's take South Africa first because it's the one example of a country that developed its own nuclear program, and then decided to renounce the program. And if we're ever going to try to get these weapons closer to zero, countries have to take a look at what South Africa did, and decide if it's for them.

Now they had their own reason. De Klerk’s outgoing government realized that they were going to be turning the government over to the black majority of the population. And, that may have been an incentive for them to decide that this is the time to get rid of the nuclear program. Nelson Mandela, to his credit, decided we're not going to restart the program. And so South Africa has earned a unique place in the history books.

CURWOOD: Pakistan?

SCHRAM: Pakistan is – it's an area that I fear greatly. And, as we're talking, while the war in Iraq seems to be won, Pakistan could be the price that we wind up paying. My concern, and my biggest concern, and I happen to know it's a concern of many of the top intelligence people in the United States here in Washington, is that Musharraf may be overthrown.

It's very possible that pressure will build. A more radical, fundamentalist, military regime could come in with a general who is closer aligned with the Taliban sympathies. And, when that happens, they'll have the Islamic bomb. Pakistan has the bomb now. They're a nuclear nation. That's frightening.

CURWOOD: And North Korea?

SCHRAM: North Korea is an area that I am very worried about. Top officials in Washington will tell you that they are too, even though the Bush Administration, they've kept their concerns understated. The problem, though, is far from understated.

Why would an impoverished country that cannot feed its own people set out to develop one, two, and then as many nuclear weapons as they can possibly develop? Certainly not to put them on a shelf and just leave them there. That's not cost-effective. Not even to use them, because that probably wouldn't be cost-effective either. To blackmail the West into giving them aid of a whole variety, of oil, energy, food and so on? Probably.

But here's another thought. Maybe to sell it to terrorists. It's a real concern, and the entire world has to face up to it.

CURWOOD: I guess we can't talk about a topic called “Avoiding Armageddon” without talking about the possible solutions. You proposed several solutions to the problem of terrorism and chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare in a section of your book called “Toward a Global Marshall Plan.” Could you explain what this means and why this could work?

SCHRAM: The United Nations has made a significant start. And it involves the developed nations of the world contributing to an overall plan to develop aid to the undeveloped, underdeveloped parts of the world. The theory behind it is really something that goes to the heart of a war on terror. It's not so much that poverty breeds terrorists. Osama bin Laden was a rich man. That's not it. But what causes millions of people to feel that they want to harbor terrorists, to shield them, to protect them, to not say, hey, he's right over here, you can come get him? The answer to that, I believe, and so many experts in the world now believe, is a despair and hopelessness that people feel.

The question of a global Marshall Plan really comes down to the world's responsibility to see to it that all the parts of the world, all the segments of the world, are sharing in the globalization, sharing in the prosperity that people can see every time they sign on on the internet, and see what so much of the world has. And if they don't have it, they feel the despair and hopelessness. They are vulnerable to demagogues such as Osama bin Laden and so many others. That's a concern.

CURWOOD: Now which nuclear facilities and stockpiles do we need to keep a particularly careful eye on, taking into account the level of technology and the surrounding political situation and accessibility?

SCHRAM: There are more than a hundred research reactors in facilities and universities in more than 40 countries. We're talking about third world, second world, and first world. And we're talking about nuclear reactors that have weapons-grade material in them, that are secured sometimes not at all, and sometimes by the equivalent of private security guards. I don't think you want that. It's just too dangerous.

CURWOOD: Martin Schram is managing editor of the PBS series “Avoiding Armageddon: Our Future, Our Choice.” He's also author of the companion book to the series by the same title and a former reporter for The Washington Post and Newsday. Marty Schram, thanks for taking this time with me today.

SCHRAM: And thank you very much.

Related links:
- “Avoiding Armageddon” by Martin Schram
- PBS series “Avoiding Armageddon”

Back to top


News Follow-up

[MUSIC: News Update Theme]

CURWOOD: Time now to follow-up on some of the news stories we've been tracking lately.

The Bush administration has announced an initiative to reduce harmful emissions from diesel school buses across the country. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 440,000 public buses make the trip to school every day. And an average American child spends an hour and a half of each day riding a bus. The EPA program will focus on replacing old buses, installing pollution controls on newer ones, and reducing the time that buses spend idling. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman says that's a significant problem.

WHITMAN: School buses tend to sit outside the schools before dismissal. And they'll be idling for an hour or longer. We want to get everyone on the program, and train people so that we have reduced the amount of idling by half an hour a day by 2005.

CURWOOD: The goal is to replace or retrofit every school bus in the country by the year 2010. Officials and environmental health advocates applauded the announcement, but said more money is needed to make the commitment a reality. The EPA estimates cleaning up all public school buses will cost over $9 billion dollars.


CURWOOD: We have a couple of updates from the endangered species front. First, the environmental group, Defenders of Wildlife, has filed an intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The group disputes a recent decision by the agency to downgrade the gray wolf from endangered status to the less protective threatened category in most parts of the country.

The Fish and Wildlife Services says the species has recovered from a few hundred animals in 1974 to more than 3,000 today. Wolves in the Southwest will get to keep their endangered status. But Defenders of Wildlife claims that's not good enough. Nancy Weiss is with the group.

WEISS: In most part of the country where the gray wolf used to reside, there are still not yet wolves. Many of those areas still have suitable wolf habitat. And yet, the Service is declining to venture into those areas as further wolf recovery zones.

CURWOOD: Under the regulation change, any wolf that naturally migrates to an area such as the Northeast, where there currently are no wolves, would not be considered endangered. The Fish and Wildlife Service has 60 days to reconsider its reclassification of the gray wolf before the environmental group takes its case to court.

Meanwhile, court verdicts in Florida have ruled in favor of the endangered manatee. The slow-moving aquatic animals are often injured or killed by boat propellers. Recently, both federal and state judges ruled that setting speed limits for boats is a legal way to protect the manatee. Since the ruling, the Fish and Wildlife Service has posted 500 speed limit signs throughout Florida waterways, and issued 600 tickets to speeding boaters. Not everyone is happy with the low speed zones. And Christine Eustis of the Fish and Wildlife Service says the agency recently discovered some vandalism.

EUSTIS: We did have a case, and these were state signs, eight state signs, that were cut down from their postings. And we were really worried people were going to be out there on the water and not see the postings and get hurt. But I think the majority of people really are appreciative and want to protect manatees.

CURWOOD: Meanwhile, several independent boaters have filed a complaint in court against the speed zones, which they claim are unnecessary to protect the manatee.


CURWOOD: And finally, concern over SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, has prompted a health conscious fashion trend. SARS is the pneumonia-like illness that spread from China to many countries of the world.

Now a doctor in Cleveland has designed silk ties and scarves with special air filtration linings so they can double as protective masks. These exquisite fashion statements can be yours for just 40 dollars each. And that's this week's follow-up on the news from Living on Earth.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to NPR's Living on Earth.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from The World Media Foundation. Major contributors include The Ford Foundation for reporting on U.S. environment and development issues, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for coverage of Western issues. Support also comes from NPR member stations and The Noyce Foundation, dedicated to improving math and science instruction from kindergarten through grade 12, and Bob Williams and Meg Caldwell, honoring NPR's coverage of environmental and natural resource issues, and in support of the NPR President's Council.

Related link:
FBS clothing, LTD: Clothing with filtration material

Back to top


Birdfeeder Jeopardy

CURWOOD: Many of us look forward to spring. But for commentator Mark Spreitzer, a high school sophomore in Chicago, each spring brings worries about the baby birds he watches in his backyard.

SPREITZER: When I was in fourth grade, a pair of mourning doves found an empty flowerpot on my back porch, and built a nest in it. Other doves have nested in the same pot off and on ever since. I like to watch the baby birds stretch their wings a few feet outside my kitchen window. They take turns walking to the edge of the flowerpot, flapping their wings and teetering on the edge, and then settling down again with mom.

My parents and I try to predict when the babies will leave the nest. I get to see the babies in the yard for a week or more after they learn to fly, with one of the parents watching from a tree for the first few days.

Of all the babies, my favorite was a bird I called Dumpling. She was from the very first batch of doves. And she stayed in the yard all summer. After seeing her around so much, I learned to tell her apart from the other doves by the pattern of spots on her wings. A few years later, she returned with a mate, and raised her own babies in the flowerpot where she was born.

My dad and I have always fed the birds. But now I'm afraid I might have been doing them more harm than good. By attracting birds, I also attract cats, and put the baby doves in danger. The first baby that I found dead was Dumpling's sibling, about a week after they had left the nest. When I didn't see him with Dumpling, I looked around, and found feathers under the trees where we hang the bird feeders. A cat had killed him.

A few years ago, I actually saw a cat attacking a mourning dove in my yard. I ran out and scared the cat away. But the bird was already badly injured. It was missing a lot of feathers, and I think it had a broken wing. There was nothing I could do for it. And it died later that day.

My neighbors have outdoor cats that come into my yard to kill birds. Their cats are well-fed. But they kill birds anyway because of hunting instinct. Some people put bells on their cats' collars. But the American Bird Conservancy says that bells don't stop cats from killing wildlife.

I have nothing against cats. I have three of them. They love to sit on the sun porch and watch the birds through the window. But unless my neighbors keep their cats inside too, they will find their way into my yard.

Last year, my dad and I decided not to put food out while the doves were nesting. I always assumed I was helping by hanging feeders in my yard. But my relationship with the birds is not as simple as it seemed when I was younger. I want to be able to watch birds in my yard. But I also want to do what's best for them. I'm still trying to figure out what I should do.

CURWOOD: Mark Spreitzer is a sophomore at Northside Prep High School in Chicago. He produced this commentary as part of Living on Earth's Ecological Literacy Project. For more on the project, and to hear other students' work, please visit the Living on Earth website, www.loe.org.

[MUSIC: Triakel “Old Sarah” American Garage - ECM (1979)]

Related link:
Living on Earth Ecological Literacy Project: High School Education Program

Back to top


Emerging Science Note/Colorful Beaks

CURWOOD: Coming up, a fight over grazing rights on historically Native American land. First this note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.

[MUSIC: Science Note Theme]

GRABER: Some male animals go to extremes to attract a mate. They may perform an elaborate courtship dance. Others sing. And still other attract their partners by the color of their beaks.

Scientists have suspected that the brightness of a bird's beak was related to its health. Now, a new study published in the journal Science demonstrates that the brighter the beak, the stronger the male's immune system.

Scientists in the UK added chemicals called carotenoids to the water of ten zebra finches. By doing this, researchers were hoping to stimulate the birds' immune system. Carotenoids are found in many vegetables, and have been linked to disease resistance.

Scientists then measured the strength of the birds' immune system by injecting them with a protein that causes swelling. Compared to birds who did not receive the supplement, the carotenoid-strengthened birds were better able to fight off the protein. And those same birds also developed brighter red beaks. What's more, in nine out of ten cases, female birds preferred these males over the drabber ones. This is the first time scientists have shown strong evidence that beak color is directly related to immune strength.

So when females go for the most flashy suitor, they're not being shallow. They're just choosing a healthy mate. That's this week's not on Emerging Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.


CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: Pat Metheny “Airstream” American Garage ECM (1979)]

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

MUSIC: [Kronos Quartet “Foday Musa Suso” - Pieces of Africa Elektra (1992)]

CURWOOD: A good time of day to go looking for wildlife in Africa is that moment when daylight slips into darkness, the moment when hunters and the hunted begin to play their game.

Recently on safari in the Kruger National Park, I got in a Land Rover for a sunset drive and a chance to catch lions at work. There were plenty of antelope about, the always graceful impala in herds that seemed to turn as one, the kudu, big wishbone markers on their big sides. Surely, with so much to eat on the hoof, big cats would make a move. But as the sun slipped away there were no lions to be seen anywhere. And then, caught by a spotlight low in the grass, I saw them, a pride of eight or ten, looking rather lazy, sprawled about and not unlike housecats.

One lion was busy licking behind the ears of another, who sat with eyes blissfully closed as she enjoyed the massage of the rough tongue. She had to be purring, if lions purr, but I wasn't about to get close enough to find out. A couple of younger lions played a bit, but the pride was pretty quiet. Perhaps it was after dinner. We had missed the hunt, I guess, and perhaps that was a good thing. They wouldn’t be thinking about us for dinner in that case.

Thanks to Heritage Africa, you can travel to the great wildlife reserves of Africa and get a chance to see lions at home in the bush, perhaps grooming each other, or better yet, catching dinner. Living on Earth is giving away a 15 day trip for two on the ultimate African Safari, with visits to several wildlife hotspots, including Kruger and the Serengeti. Please go to our website – www.loe.org – for more details about how to win this 15 day trip to see some of Africa's most spectacular sites. That's loe.org.

Back to top


Shoshone Sisters Fight for Land

CURWOOD: When European-American settlers first crossed the Great Basin, they encountered the Western Shoshone, a people whose traditional lands stretched over two-thirds of what's now the state of Nevada and into California. In 1863, the tribe signed a treaty of "peace and friendship" with the U.S. government, but never ceded its land. Today Western Shoshone people are still scattered over Nevada and elsewhere in the region. They live in cities, towns, and tiny colonies while tens of millions of acres of what was their territory had been designated as federal land.

For decades the tribe fought to regain its territory. After 30 years of court battles, many Western Shoshone say they're now willing to accept a government payment for their land, but some continue to resist what they see as the theft of their ancestral homeland. Clay Scott has this report from northern Nevada.

SCOTT: The Dann Ranch is a modest collection of low roofed buildings patched together from scraps of lumber and corrugated tin, sheltered by cottonwood trees where the sage flats meet low mountains.

Carrie Dann is in her 60s, her sister Mary about 10 years older. They lead a simple life. A wood stove heats their house and a generator supplies occasional electricity. There's no hot water except for the natural thermal spring in the mountains nearby where, like generations of Western Shoshone before them, the two sisters go to soak. Every morning they get up early to see to their animals: white-faced cattle, a few chickens and goats. But their greatest affection is reserved for their horses.

Carrie Dann offers a bit of hay to a nervous Appaloosa mare, one of several dozen animals prancing and shuffling around a crowded corral. The horses are not used to being confined. They normally graze freely in the mountains on land run by the Bureau of Land Management. Not anymore. The Danns have never had a permit to graze their livestock on federal land, and the BLM has cracked down on what it considers trespassing. Carrie is eager to challenge that notion.

C. DANN: I'm not trespassing. As a matter of fact, I would just reverse that and say that the United States is trespassing on Western Shoshone land. I'm not going to get a grazing permit from the Bureau of Land Management because this is not their land. This is Western Shoshone land.

SCOTT: The Western Shoshone Nation never legally ceded its land to the U.S. government. But in 1962, the Indian Claims Commission, which no longer exists, ruled that the tribe lost possession of its land through gradual encroachment by settlers. That's a ruling Carrie and Mary Dann refuse to accept.

M. DANN: I know gradual encroachment is not a law. So what they got to stand on? The fact that the United States is mighty and more powerful than any other nation, that they can do as they want? They should show us how they took our land. They should show us. The date and the place where it was taken, where our proud people, our leaders, have signed our land over to them. They should first show us that.

SCOTT: So far, the federal government has not been swayed by the Danns' arguments. As far as BLM officials are concerned, the land in question is federal land and the horses are there illegally. And so the BLM has been rounding up the sisters' horses and trucking them back to the Dann ranch.

On this day the BLM is using helicopters to chase down horses, swooping low to head them off and keep them from hiding in steep-walled mountain gorges. At the BLM encampment, where armed officials in uniform and hired wranglers stroll around an assortment of pickup trucks and trailers, I meet District Chief Helen Hankins. I ask her if all of this is a disproportionate show of muscle, if the BLM is trying to make a statement.

HANKINS: I would have to disagree that all these things that we're raising are political. There's a serious concern in these areas because of the substantially high numbers of livestock and the impacts that those livestock being out on a year-round basis cause to both lands and watersheds.

SCOTT: Hankins points out the sparse vegetation, erosion, and noxious invasive weeds she says are a direct result of overgrazing. Not only are the Danns trespassing, she says, but they are grazing far more animals than this fragile land can bear.

HANKINS: Most of our grazing permitees in this part of Nevada have rotated grazing: they use one pasture and then they move to the next, and then move to the next. And so the impacts on any one particular piece of land are limited. On this allotment, for the most part, the grazing is everywhere, and it's year-round, and it's not managed in the way that industry commonly does it in this part of Nevada.

SCOTT: Back at the Dann ranch, as Carrie and Mary look on impassively, BLM wranglers unload yet another truckload of horses. They prod and coax the frightened animals down a chute into the corral where the horses join the milling bunch already there. The sisters own nearly 1,000 horses, far too many to keep at their 800 acre ranch. So ranches from as far away as California have agreed to take them.

This is not the first time the BLM has rounded up the sisters' livestock. Last fall the agency confiscated over 200 of the Danns’ cattle. Ten years ago they rounded up 250 horses. Both times, the animals were sold at auction and the money put toward the millions of dollars in fines the government says the sisters owe. Carrie bristles when I ask her if the BLM might have a point, if she feels they might be overgrazing the land.

DANN: In my mind, that case is not about horses, nor is it about overgrazing. The case has always been about Western Shoshone land. They have to address the land issue sooner or later.

SCOTT: There have been attempts to address the land issue for over 30 years, and Mary and Carrie have been at the forefront of the fight. But there's also talk of settling the dispute with money. A bill currently working its way to the U.S. Senate would allot a one-time payment of about 20,000 dollars to each of 5,000 or so enrolled members of the Western Shoshone Nation. But that amount is based on land prices in 1872, about 15 cents an acre, while land here today goes for several hundred dollars an acre. Meanwhile, mining companies in the area, working under government leases, are extracting millions of dollars of gold and other minerals from traditional Western Shoshone land.

C. DANN (at meeting): Well, eventually, in the future…

SCOTT: At a recent tribal meeting in Elko, Nevada, Carrie and other speakers talked passionately about the need to fight for their homeland.

C. DANN (at meeting): This is another one of those things they use to divide and conquer us. And I would like to see our people unite. Unite and stand strong. Let’s unite and stand strong, stand strong for the sovereignty of our people

SCOTT: Still, a large majority of tribal members have said they are willing to take the settlement. Many say they are tired of the endless legal wrangling. Many need the money. For people like Betty Robinson, the Dann sisters are fighting an unrealistic battle.

ROBINSON: We have no lands now. If you have a little bit of money, that something is better than nothing. Our people are tired of listening to "maybe let's have land, get all this land back." Well, when they talk about their aboriginal territory, it encompasses about two-thirds of Nevada. Well, you know, and I know as well, that that is asking for the moon and it will not happen.

SCOTT: But even if it's not realistic to expect the return of two-thirds of the state of Nevada, there are other approaches being proposed. Jim Anaya is professor of law at the University of Arizona and an expert on international indigenous rights.

ANAYA: It is possible to arrive at solutions here, in a practical sense, given the fact that there's so much land out here that's not yet in private hands that could be the basis for a negotiated settlement. A solution could be developed by which the Western Shoshone people could have a real land base, and not just these small little areas around these neighborhoods on the edges of town that the government calls colonies.

SCOTT: Another possibility, says Anaya, would be for the Western Shoshone and the BLM to manage the land cooperatively, or for the tribe to manage certain areas and the BLM others. The biggest obstacle to such a solution, he says, is one of attitude.

ANAYA: Policy makers, and by extension, really, the public at large, just don't want to look at these issues. They want to maintain these myths that everything has been settled, or that the problems went away a long time ago. And, of course, the other problematic premise is the age-old premise that Indians can't manage things for themselves. It's based on an attitude of paternalism that has plagued policy makers in this country probably since its founding.

SCOTT: That's an attitude that Mary and Carrie Dann say they have felt acutely since the time they first went to school along with non-native children.

M. DANN: (speaking Shoshone)

SCOTT: Speaking in Shoshone, the normally reserved Mary talks about the history of indignity she says she and her people have suffered. What outsiders have difficulty understanding, says Carrie, and what the government has always underestimated, is the strength of their connection to the land – this specific arid, wind-swept piece of land where they have spent their entire lives.

C. DANN: In our traditional and cultural and spiritual ways, land is not a real estate. Life cannot exist without land. Everything that you and I wear comes from this land in one way or another, and it's important. It's really important. It's life, meaning life – life to all things.

SCOTT: The Danns' stubborn battle with the U.S. government is one of conflicting and competing interpretations of history, of social and environmental justice, of sovereignty over land. What's at stake, they say, is this: that when their people's connection to the land is broken something vital will be lost forever. If they think we're going to give up and go away, says Carrie, one foot resting on the rail of a corral, then they're going to have to think again.

For Living on Earth I'm Clay Scott in Crescent Valley, Nevada.

For a slideshow of this story, click here.

Back to top


Lewis & Clark Trail

CURWOOD: This year marks the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition. We wondered who lives along the trail now, from the Northwest Coast to the mouth of the Missouri. Producer Barrett Golding bicycled the entire Lewis and Clark Trail and sent us back a series of audio postcards like this one from Idaho's Clearwater Forest, where he talked with firefighters getting ready for work.

FIREFIGHTER: …seen two fires starts on Maple Ridge last night…

WELLS: This is Blackfeet 39, wildland firefighters from Blackfeet Reservation in Montana. Some years you have over 100 dispatches just to Blackfeet. We man the most firefighters in probably the United States, 20 to 30 crews at once. I was up here last year and I think we had, like, eight fires in ten days. And every fire's different and you have to think about your escape route, your safety zones, and trees falling down. So you can't hear them when they're falling. Only time you hear them is when they hit the ground. Then you've got to think about the drought conditions when it's dry. It's just like pouring gasoline on a piece of wood and lighting it. That’s how fast it will ignite.

GOLDING: How long have you been doing this?

WELLS: About 18, 19 years.

FIREFIGHTER: Gets in your blood.

WELLS: I just grew up with it... Our dads mostly all did it when they were young. It's a kind of a pride thing with the Blackfeet. We just take pride in trying to be the best firefighters in the nation, probably the world, too. Yeah. I’d say the world.

FIREFIGHTER: The smoke gets in your blood.

FEMALE F.F.: She's a hotshot.

GOLDING: What's that?

FEMALE F.F.: She’s a hotshot, ask her.

GOLDING: What’s a hotshot?

MEESO: A hotshot's like--

FIREFIGHTER 3: Best of the best.

MEESO: Yeah, kind of like the Marines of the firefighters. We’re the first ones that go over there and the last ones to leave, mostly. So you see a lot of action, and it's scary, but you get used to it. And you kind of like that rush it gives you – getting chased by the fire and almost getting hit by a bunch of trees. Yeah, we had a couple close calls when we were back-burning down this mountain. And then the fire was coming up – that creates its own wind. So it blew up in our face and come up after us. And we were watching it, make sure it wouldn’t jump the line, and it did, and it just sounds like a jet taking off. That's how it sounds. So we got into our vehicles and we headed out and went further down the road and watched it blow up a little bit. And then we went back in there, trying to put it back out. Because there were houses down below, so we had to watch out. It's fun. Gets lots of money, a lot of problems solved. It's hard work. You stay away from your family a long time. We kind of miss them, and we write them every so often. I love it.

CURWOOD: Nicole Meeso is a chief mountain hotshot, and Eldon Wells is with the Blackfeet 39 Wildland Firefighters. They're at Golding's "Portraits of the Lewis and Clark Trail, 200 Years Later" and are part of Hearing Voices, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. For more audio images and interviews from the Trail, you can go to our website at loe.org. That's loe.org. And for this week, that's Living on Earth.

Next week we celebrate Earth Day by hearing from young people in inner cities across the country about their environment.

GIRL: I live in the part of Camden known as South Camden. Across the street from my home is an abandoned house, one of dozens in my part of town. There are times when I am sitting on my steps and I see rats from the abandoned house running across the street. The yard next to the house is full of trash and weeds.

CURWOOD: The voices of youth, next time on Living on Earth. And remember that between now and then you can hear us anytime and get the stories behind the news by going to loe.org. And while you're there you can also get a chance to win a safari for two to Africa. That's loe.org.

Back to top


CURWOOD: We leave you this week with sounds of spring migration in the North Dakota wetlands. Lang Elliott and Ted Mack recorded hundreds of canvasback and redhead ducks as they dived for their breakfast.

SOUNDS OF DUCKS DIVING, CALLING: Earth Ear “Inaudible World” Dreams of Gaia Earth Ear Records (1999)]

CURWOOD: Living on Earth is produced by The World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. You can find us at loe.org. Our staff includes Maggie Villiger, Anna Solomon-Greenbaum and Jennifer Chu, along with Tom Simon, Jessica Penney, Al Avery, Susan Shepherd, Carly Ferguson and Liz Lempert. Special thanks to Ernie Silver. We had help this week from Katherine Lemke, Jenny Cutrero, James Curwood and Nathan Marcy. Allison Dean composed our themes. Environmental Sound Art courtesy of EarthEar.


CURWOOD: Our technical director is Chris Engles. Ingrid Lobet heads our western bureau. Eileen Bolinsky is our senior editor. And Chris Ballman is the senior producer of Living on Earth. Diane Toomey produced this week's program. I’m Steve Curwood, executive producer. Thanks for listening.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the National Science Foundation, supporting coverage of emerging science, and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, supporting the Living on Earth Network, Living on Earth's expanded internet service. Support also comes from NPR member stations, and The Annenberg Foundation, and Tom’s of Maine, maker of natural care products and creator of the Rivers Awareness Program to preserve the nation’s waterways. Information at participating stores, or tomsofmaine.com.


This Week's Music


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth