Unexpected Wild Places at Risk From Oil Drilling
When we think of sensitive ecosystems at risk from oil and gas drilling, the Great Lakes probably aren't high on the list. But NWF's Great Lakes Natural Resource Center has been working hard to protect the lakes from "directional" drilling, in which a well is drilled vertically onshore and then angled underneath the water.
Despite strong opposition from NWF and other environmental and citizens groups, Michigan officials recently lifted a four-year-old moratorium on leases for drilling under the lakes, paving the way for up to 30 new wells to be drilled along the coastlines of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Congress responded in November by enacting a federal ban that prohibits the states from allowing further directional drilling for two years while the Army Corps of Engineers studies its environmental impact.
NWF will now try to persuade the Michigan legislature to reinforce the congressional action by restoring the state moratorium, originally imposed in 1997 because of public concern about the risks of drilling. At that time, Michigan already had permitted ten oil and gas wells to be directionally drilled beneath Lake Michigan and three under Lake Huron. Seven of those thirteen still are operating.
NWF maintains that no drilling should take place until the state implements all recommendations made by a scientific panel for reducing the negative impacts of drilling. "It is shortsighted to risk a treasure such as the Great Lakes without solid evidence that the quantity of oil or gas to be recovered would actually benefit the public," says Tim Eder, director of NWF's Great Lakes center. "And it is irresponsible to increase production of fossil fuels without a national energy plan that would encourage conservation, energy efficiency and greater use of renewable resources."
To learn more about this issue, log onto www.nwf.org/greatlakes.
U.S. Reintroduces Black-Footed Ferrets to Mexico
On October 2, 2001, U.S. and Mexican wildlife officials successfully released 39 captive-born black-footed ferrets in Chihuahua, Mexico, the first wave of a reintroduction expected to number 100 animals. (Plans for the historic cross-border rescue effort were first reported in the September/October 2001 issue.)
Biologists believe the site offers an excellent opportunity to reestablish a self-sustaining population of the endangered ferrets because it is home to the largest North American colony of disease-free black-tailed prairie dogs, the ferrets' chief food source.
Since the 1980s, when a small wild colony was discovered in Wyoming, NWF has played a key role in efforts to rescue the ferrets from the brink of extinction and a captive-breeding program was established. Since 1996, NWF has served on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Implementation Team.
Recently, NWF staffers helped break ground for a new National Black- Footed Ferret Conservation Center near Fort Collins, Colorado.
Mercury Unsafe in Milwaukee Rain, New Study Finds
Rain falling from the skies over Milwaukee contains levels of mercury more than ten times higher than what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers "safe" for the Great Lakes and other waterways, a new report reveals. The study was commissioned by NWF and co-sponsored by one of its affiliates, the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation.
NWF ordered the samplings and presented the findings as support for a proposed new mercury reduction rule in Wisconsin that--if passed--would be the strictest in the nation. It calls for a 90 percent reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2015. NWF is pressing for a phaseout of mercury emissions from all significant sources by 2020.
Power plant air pollution is the source of much of the mercury in rain, which ends up in lakes and streams, …