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

May 22, 1998

Air Date: May 22, 1998


Back to Bonn: A Conversation with Senator John Kerry

President Clinton says global warming is a major threat to humanity. But he's coming under fire from diplomats abroad and from senators in his own party who say the President is not doing enough to offset climate change. Next month, diplomats meet in Bonn, Germany to continue negotiations over the reduction of greenhouse gases reached last fall in Kyoto, Japan. The Kyoto agreement set binding limits for industrialized nations, but left blank some of the details of implementation. Those details will be on the table in Bonn, and many diplomats say they'd like to see them worked out so that a major meeting planned for the fall in Buenos Aires can finish the job. Steve Curwood spoke with Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, who says that won't happen unless the Clinton Administration steps up its efforts to sell the treaty abroad and at home. (06:00)

Sex & the Single Snail / Bob Carty

In recent decades, ways have been found to combine tin with organic molecules to create new compounds. One such chemical used to keep the bottoms of ships clean saves the world-wide shipping industry billions of dollars annually. But as producer Bob Carty reports from Halifax, Nova Scotia, there's evidence that such chemicals are killing dolphins and changing the sex of harbor snails. (10:30)

The Return of Iron Eyes Cody / John Carroll

One of television's best known public service announcements first appeared in 1971. It showed a native-American, in full headdress, shedding a single tear for the environment. The "Crying Indian" was produced for "Keep America Beautiful"; a group created by packaged good companies to raise awareness about the nation's mounting litter problem. The image is back in a new television spot. But, commentator John Carroll says they just don't make them like they used to. Commentator John Carroll is media critic for WGBH television in Boston. (03:00)

The Living on Earth Almanac

This week, facts about...Carnivorous plants. (01:30)

Yellowstone Wolves: Ensnared Again in Controversy / Jane Fritz

Three years ago, thirty grey wolves from Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Many people celebrated the animals' return into country where sixty years earlier the packs had been eradicated to protect grazing livestock. But some groups, including the Montana Farm Bureau, objected to the recovery effort. And then, a federal judge ruled that the reintroduction programs violated the endangered species act. These wolves and their offspring, he said, need to be removed. It's one thing for a judge to order something to be done, it's another to make it so. Jane Fritz reports on the debate over the fate of the wolves of Yellowstone. (09:00)

What would Walt Whitman Say? / Paul Conlow

The celebrated poet Walt Whitman once wrote, "America does not repel the past." But, the congregation of a tiny, historic church in southern New Jersey is wondering if the nation still heeds its Poet. A road-widening project threatens to destroy two old trees which have flanked the church's entrance since the days Whitman himself spent time there. Paul Conlow has this story of how some in a small town are trying to hold off suburban sprawl as it is about to roll over historic places. (06:55)

Hawks Nest at Posh Manhattan Address

Consider the odds of sighting a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks in the middle of a city. If you are on Fifth Avenue along Central Park near 74th street with your binoculars, you can spy a nest just above the 12th floor window of a fancy apartment building. Central Park is their hunting ground, as it is home to about 275 different bird species. The hawks have prompted a book by Wall Street Journal columnist Marie Winn who writes about nature for the newspaper. Her new book is ‘Red Tails in Love’ and she spoke with Steve Curwood from the studios of Manhattan's radio station W-N-Y-C. (07:05)

Show Credits and Funders

Show Transcript

HOST: Steve Curwood
REPORTERS: Bob Carty, Jane Fritz, Paul Conlow
GUESTS: John Kerry, Marie Winn

(Theme music intro)

CURWOOD: From National Public Radio, this is Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: I'm Steve Curwood.

President Clinton calls global warming a major threat, but he's coming under fire from
diplomats abroad and from senators at home who say the President is not doing enough to offset the threat of climate change.

KERRY: I think the Administration as a whole needs to have a clearer strategy and needs to put more focus on how we're going to move this agenda forward.

CURWOOD: Also, evidence that chemicals used to keep the bottoms of ships clean are killing dolphins and changing the sex of harbor snails.

PROUSE: And I went out to a site, a rocky shore site in Halifax Harbor, and grabbed some snails and brought them back to the old lab. And saw that the females had small penises and I went, "Uh oh." That's not supposed to happen.

CURWOOD: We'll have those stories and more this week on Living on Earth, right after the news.

Back to top

(NPR News follows)

(Music up and under)

Back to Bonn: A Conversation with Senator John Kerry

CURWOOD: This is Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
Next month, diplomats meet in Bonn, Germany to continue negotiations over the reduction of greenhouse gases. This will be the first meeting since the Kyoto accord was reached in Japan last year. That agreement set binding limits for industrialized nations but left blank some of the details of implementation. Those details will be on the table in Bonn, and many diplomats say they'd like to see them work out so that a major meeting planned for the fall in Buenos Aires can finish the job. Senator John Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says that won't happen unless the Clinton Administration steps up its efforts to sell the treaty at home and abroad.

KERRY: The bottom line is that very little was done to actually implement the treaty. Very little was done to try to market it either by the Bush or the Clinton Administration, and that's why we find ourselves where we are today.

CURWOOD: What would you do different if you were in charge?

KERRY: Well, I think that the first and most critical thing, I mean it's not a question of who's in charge, it's just a question of what you need to do. You've got to be able to reach out to your business community in a legitimate way with sufficient levels of economic analysis that show the impact of what you're going to do. There's been very little economic analysis shared in this process. So a lot of people feel as if they're being dragged into something blind, the consequences of which could be very damaging to their businesses. The second thing you need to do is reach out to the developing countries in a very affirmative way in order to be able to show them how even the most minimalist kinds of steps they could take, for instance, switching to unleaded gas, beginning to require emissions control systems on their automobiles. I mean, there are a whole lot of things they could engage in that are not particularly pricey, that other countries have done, where there's a proven track record, where they could become part of the solution and get great credit for doing those things. The next thing you need to do is obviously do a better job of gathering, analyzing, and marketing the science. We are still seeing people debating things that frankly shouldn't be debated, and I think the reason for that is there's been a vacuum, that there simply hasn't been a clear articulation of what the science is, and we haven't found sufficient ways to persuade people.

CURWOOD: Now, the Administration is relying on an emissions trading program, in fact, to meet the targets that are in the Kyoto accord. This is something that does not please the developing world, Senator. They say we're trying to pass on our pollution burden to them. We're just trying to buy our way out of this. How do you respond to that criticism?

KERRY: Well, the truth is that that's not what happens, though I understand that argument. And what we need to do is show them how the trading that we've done in the United States for our sulfur dioxide emissions have in fact helped states to be able to phase out certain kinds of plants on an economic schedule, have helped people to be able to implement best practices and new technologies on a schedule that made economic sense, while still improving the air quality and still moving in a positive direction.

CURWOOD: Is that possible? I mean, I think you among other people have been saying that the rest of the world is really very angry with the United States.

KERRY: They are angry. I mean, I felt that anger palpably in Kyoto. It was quite stunning, as a matter of fact, to see the degree to which a lot of these countries felt that the United States had gone to the Earth Summit in Brazil and under President Bush had made a fairly significant commitment as well as exercised a fairly strong leadership role in saying we ought to move on this issue. And in the ensuing years, obviously, not only has the United States not moved, but things have gotten worse. We're actually emitting more at a faster rate. They're very suspicious that what we're doing is really trying to restrain their growth at their expense, and that the United States wants to continue to be the world's largest energy user without accepting responsibility. I mean that's their attitude. I think, however, we negotiated a pretty responsible position with some room for improvement, and I think we need to do more in the area of technology transfer, and we need to do much more on the diplomatic front to really market what is happening.

CURWOOD: You went to Rio in 1992 as a United States Senator, right?

KERRY: Yes, I did. I was part of the delegation.

CURWOOD: And there was another United States Senator with you at the same time, Al Gore was his name.

KERRY: Ah, I see what you're trying to set up (laughs).

CURWOOD: Well, that's exactly right. Here's the question: Senator Gore was saying that climate change is one of the most environmental issues, and a number of people are saying that he seems to have stepped back from this as Vice President of the United States. In your view, is Al Gore devoting enough time and energy to this issue?

KERRY: Well, listen, I'm not, this is not the moment, time, or place to start getting into a sort of personalized kind of contest of that kind. I think the Vice President is deeply committed to these issues. He has an enormous amount of, you know, other issues on his plate. It's a big agenda, and I know that he put personal time into Kyoto and made, you know, a good effort to try to help the process move forward there. I think the Administration as a whole needs to have a clearer strategy and needs to put more focus on how we're going to move this agenda forward. I think that is a critical thing for whoever is in charge or focused on it, and I think all of us need very much to be part of that process. And I hope we're going to be able to do it.

CURWOOD: Senator John Kerry, thanks so much for taking this time with us today.

KERRY: I'm delighted to be with you. Thank you.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: If you'd like a tape or transcript of this program, please call 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988 for transcripts and tapes. Just ahead, big ships and the sex lives of tiny snails. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

Sex & the Single Snail

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
For the past half century, industrialized societies have been conducting an experiment without thinking it through first and without controls. The experiment involves the creation and use of synthetic chemicals. The natural environment has since been permeated by them, and they will not go away. They persist and accumulate. One family of synthetic chemicals is made with tin. Ironically, tin was one of the first metals humans smelted and one of the first to cause toxic poisoning. But in recent decades, scientists have found ways to combine tin with organic molecules to create compounds that are highly profitable. One such chemical saves the worldwide shipping industry billions of dollars each year. But as producer Bob Carty reports, it's also having a bizarre and deadly effect on creatures that live in the sea.

(Fog horns and calling gulls)

CARTY: Point Pleasant Park at the entrance of Halifax Harbor is where bikers come to pedal between ocean surf and pine trees. Where kids come to throw around a frisbee, and where Nick Prouse comes to collect snails.

PROUSE: They're great. I love walking along the shore and seeing all these snails crawling around. It's just great. I'm the Snail Man.

CARTY: Nick Prouse is a biologist with Canada's Department of Oceans and Fisheries. He collects dog whelk snails: small, plentiful snails about the size of a silver dollar.

PROUSE: Dog whelks inhabit areas all around the coastline, so they're found in harbors, near boating activity, away from boating activity. They're everywhere, so you can use them as a good bio-indicator organism.

CARTY: And what Nick Prouse has found from collecting snails in dozens of harbors in the Maritimes is a testament to what humans have done to the oceans. He remembers the first day several years ago when he first took a very close look at the inside workings of dog whelk snails from Halifax waters.

PROUSE: And I went out to a site, a rocky shore site in Halifax Harbor and grabbed some snails and brought them back to the old lab. And saw that the females had small penises and I went, "Uh oh." That's not supposed to happen. Basically, I crack open the shell and then examine the soft tissues inside, and you can sex them very rapidly by looking at different factors. Looking at the gonad. And if it's female you look at the site behind a tentacle, a right tentacle. And if there's a little bud there it's possibly a penis, or in some cases it's a full-blown penis. Now you can measure, imposex by measuring the penis length and its relative size to males.

MACGUIRE: The phenomenon is called imposex: the imposition of male sexual characteristics on females.

CARTY: Jim MacGuire is a senior research scientist with Canada's National Water Research Institute. He has seen imposex not only in the oceans, but also in the freshwaters of the Great Lakes. The culprit, MacGuire explains, is a powerful hormone-changing chemical called tributyltin.

MACGUIRE: It causes those kinds of changes at concentrations as low as or less than 1 nanogram per liter. And that makes it in my book one of the most toxic chemicals that we've ever deliberately released to the environment.

CARTY: Tributyltin, or TBT, was created back in the 60s by mixing the metal tin with carbon molecules. It was designed for one specific purpose: to protect the hulls of ships from the algae and slime and barnacles that grow on them and that slow the ships down. TBT paint is a biocide: it kills everything it touches. To apply it, workers have be dressed like astronauts with air-fed respirators, full face masks, chemical-resistant gloves and clothes and footwear. Ironically, they call TBT an anti-fouling paint.

MACGUIRE: Historically, over the ages, people have tried different kinds of things to prevent fouling. Because, of course, they want to be able to keep up the top speed of their vessel and minimize the fuel consumption. So, various things have been tried like lead cladding, or pitch, or what have you. When TBT, as we call it, tributyltin, TBT compounds were developed as anti-fouling agents, what people didn't bank on was that such an effective and extremely toxic anti-foulant would likely be toxic to non-target organisms as well.

CARTY: TBT paint is formulated so that it leaches off the hulls of ships, slowly releasing toxic tributyltin into the water. Biologist Nick Prouse says it works so well that ships don't have to come into the dock yard to scrape off the barnacles for up to 7 years, instead of as little as 2 years.

PROUSE: Worldwide, use of tributyltin saves probably about $2 billion annually. That's a saving in ships' fuels and in ship maintenance. It's very, very effective.

CARTY: Too effective, it turns out. By the mid-80s, data started to come in about TBT wiping out oyster beds and causing deformities in clams. At the end of the 80s, the main shipping countries agreed to ban the use of TBT paints on pleasure craft and on ships less than 82 feet long. But big cargo ships and tankers can still use TBT. So can aluminum boats. And there's little control on illegal use. Now, it appears that TBT may be affecting more than the lowly snail.

(Newscast music. Male newscaster: "Scientists in the United States are trying to come up with the answer to a mystery: the death in the last 2 months of more than 200 dolphins all found on mid-Atlantic beaches. The scientists say that while bacteria or chemicals are doing the damage, what they can't understand yet is why the dolphins' immune systems have been so terribly weakened. Research is now going on to find out why...")

CARTY: Since the late-1980s, upwards of 800 dolphins a year have appeared dead on American beaches. At first, experts speculated that substances like dioxins, PCBs, or DDT were weakening the dolphins' immune systems. But one scientist decided he'd look for traces of tributyltin in the dead coastal dolphins. That scientist was Dr. Kurunthachalam Kannan of the National Food Safety and Toxicology Center at Michigan State University.

KANNAN: You know, we expected high concentrations in blubber, but we were really surprised to know that these compounds are accumulating in liver or kidney. So anything that is happening to these organs, it is going to directly affect animal. There's a good possibility for TBT to be one of the responsible contaminants for immune suppression in these dolphins.

CARTY: The cause and effect link between TBT and dolphin deaths is still not definitive. But Dr. Kannan is also finding tributyltin in dead sea otters on the California coast, and in birds living around the Great Lakes. In his lab, he has watched just one part per million of TBT cause cell death in human tissue. For dolphins, the problem seems to be that their digestive systems turn TBT into other forms of the compound: dibutyltin and monobutyltin. Those kinds of organo-tins are known to weaken immune systems, and those kinds of organo-tins are now turning up in human environments.

(A latch clicks; whooshing sounds)

FORSYTHE: This is a gas chromatograph. This is the kind of machine that we would use to detect organo-tins.

CARTY: Dr. Don Forsythe is an analytical chemist with Canada's Health Department. He's the government scientist who looks into how much humans are exposed to butyl-tins. Dr. Forsythe points out that butyltins are used in a number of products: in fungicides, disinfectants, wood preservatives, and in some polyvinylchlorinated plastics, or PVCs. And PVC plastic is a common material used in food containers.

FORSYTHE: We found that there were organo-tin compounds being leached into wines which were being transported in PVC transport containers. They took quick action to remove those particular types of transport containers from their well, from their transport fleets.

CARTY: Did you find any leaching in food?

FORSYTHE: We did in fact find levels of tributyl-, dibutyl- and monobutyl-tin present in some of the products that we sampled, primarily in oysters and clams.

CARTY: Health officials say that low levels of butyl-tins in human foods are not a known health risk. But there's not a lot of data to begin with. This is largely an unexplored area of scientific research, and the people working on it tend to be government scientists with shrinking budgets. Scientists like Don Forsythe, who worries that each year, billions of pounds of PVC plastics containing butyl-tins are used in piping for water supplies. Dr. Forsythe ran tests to see if any of the chemicals were leaching into drinking water.

FORSYTHE: It appeared that even after repetitive use of the pipe, you could still expect to get a certain amount of leaching of these materials from the pipe surface into the drinking water.

(Foghorns and calling gulls)

CARTY: Back in Halifax Harbor, biologist Nick Prouse would also like to see more research on butyltins. The partial restrictions on TBT paints have helped some recreational harbors. But in commercial harbors like Halifax, 100% of the female snails are still affected by imposex. As the females become sterile, the species is disappearing. Nick Prouse says the problem is not restricted to seaports.

PROUSE: I'm also finding in shipping lanes outside harbors in deep water, worldwide there's been about, over 100 species documented that are affected by tributyltin.

(Gulls call)

CARTY: The governments of the United States and Canada are working toward a worldwide ban on tributyltin anti-fouling paint by the year 2006. Japan has already banned the substance. And the US Navy has also turned to alternatives, more of which are being developed but none of which are as cost-effective as TBT. But then, the question is what are the real long-term costs of using TBT and its derivatives? We really don't know. The experiment continues. For Living on Earth, I'm Bob Carty in Halifax Harbor.

Back to top

(Calling gulls and surf, fade to music up and under)

The Return of Iron Eyes Cody

CURWOOD: One of television's best known public service announcements first appeared in 1971. It showed a Native American in full headdress shedding a single tear for the environment. The crying Indian was produced for Keep America Beautiful, a group created by packaged goods companies to raise awareness about the nation's mounting litter problem. The image is back, now, in a new television spot. But as commentator John Carroll says, they just don't make 'em like they used to.

CARROLL: In 1971, Native Americans were still Indians and PSAs were still taken seriously as a public responsibility by the major TV networks. Now, of course, Indians are strictly those living in the triangle south of the Himalayas, and television networks have replaced traditional PSAs with politically correct bromides delivered by sitcom stars. But none of them will ever have the impact of Iron Eyes Cody, who gave pollution a bad name without saying a word.

(PSA music)

CARROLL: The classic PSA showed Cody canoeing down a river which becomes increasingly choked with trash as he approaches a smog-covered industrial area. After beaching the canoe, he walks up to a highway where a passing motorist tosses a bag of trash at his feet.

(Music continues. Male voice-over: "Some people have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once this country." Music continues. "And some people don't. People start pollution. People can stop it.")

CARROLL: The PSA caught the first wave of the environmental movement, making an impression that's lasted almost as long as a plastic trash bag in a landfill. But the same probably won't be said for the new version of the anti-litter PSA.

(Horns, people milling)

CARROLL: This one shows a group of people milling around a bus stop and performing their morning rituals: reading the paper, drinking coffee, grabbing a smoke. The bus comes along and as people board it, they drop behind the newspapers, cups, and cigarette butts. The camera tilts up to a large picture on the bus shelter: Iron Eyes Cody with a real tear running down the photo. The screen then goes black except for the words, "Back by popular neglect."

(PSA music up and under)

CARROLL: Creatively, this new ad is to the old one what naugahide is to leather. But the main reason it will never have the environmental impact of the original PSA is that today's media environment is itself polluted, in part by the same companies that underwrite Keep America Beautiful. While the makers of Glad bags sponsor the Bag-A-Thon Program to clean up litter and Sherwin-Williams foots the bill for an anti-graffiti effort, they and other corporations also clog the airwaves with endless ads, promotions, and mercantile white noise. Perhaps they could better improve society by bagging some of the media litter that makes it so hard for worthy causes to be heard these days.

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: Commentator John Carroll is media critic for WGBH television in Boston.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: You're listening to NPR's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the Ford Foundation for reporting on environment and development issues; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for reporting on western issues; the Pew Charitable Trusts for reporting on threats to the world's marine environment: www.pewtrusts.com; Jennifer and Ted Stanley; and Church and Dwight, a tradition of environmental responsibility: the makers of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, the standard of purity.

(Music up and under)

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.

CURWOOD: The complications of trying to reintroduce an endangered species into the wild. The wolves of Yellowstone are coming up. Keep listening to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)


ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include Stonyfield Farm Yogurt. If the planet's health isn't our business, whose is it?

(Theme music up and under)

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

(Music up and under)

The Living on Earth Almanac

CURWOOD: The International Carnivorous Plant Society meets May 29 in Bonn, Germany, to share news on all manner of meat-eating vegetation. Botanists at the city's university recently solved the mystery of the Genlisea. The plant had all the signs of being a trap, except, well, no one ever saw it catch anything. Researchers recently discovered it actually prefers microscopic animals over insects. The best-known insectivore, of course, is the Venus Flytrap. It lures insects with the sweet smell of its nectar and then snaps shut, trapping its prey behind its teeth. It takes about a week for the Flytrap to digest its prize. Other carnivorous plants include sundews, bladder worts, and pitcher plants. One variety, the Cobra Lily, bears an uncanny resemblance to the hooded snake. Now, the carnivorous plant with the biggest appetite is the Nepenthes. Its foot-long, bottle-shaped appendages have been known to snare frogs, and occasionally a small bird or rodent. Contrary to some sci-fi films, carnivorous plants pose no threat to humans, or at least science has yet to document any plants eating people. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

Yellowstone Wolves: Ensnared Again in Controversy

CURWOOD: Three years ago, 30 gray wolves from Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park in central Idaho. Many people celebrated the animals return into country where 60 years earlier the packs had been eradicated to protect grazing livestock. But some groups, including the Montana Farm Bureau, objected to the recovery effort. And then, a Federal judge ruled that the reintroduction programs violated the Endangered Species Act. These wolves and their offspring, he said, need to be removed. But it's one thing for a judge to order something to be done and it's another thing to make it so. Jane Fritz reports on the debate over the fate of the Yellowstone wolves.


WOMAN: The pack might be up on a high mountain right now, and the signals probably are getting disturbed from the topography of the land. And so what we do is we kind of go back and forth, try it from different angles to see if we can figure out exactly where they are. So that's what Nathan's doing with the telemetry right now.

FRITZ: It's late winter, and the wind bites cold over the frozen, snow-covered ground of Yellowstone's Lamar Valley. It's just past dawn. The Park Service biologist I'm with says there's a good chance we'll catch sight of the park's newest residents. Her words still hang in the frosty air as a pack of 5 wolves suddenly appear chasing a herd of elk.

MECH: We're just going to kind of monitor them from down there.

FRITZ: Dr. David Mech, one of the world's foremost wolf biologists, pulls up alongside our pickup. He's here working on a film about the wolves. Despite his lifetime of experience, this is the first time he's seen wolves and elk interact as predators and prey.

MECH: It's certainly been a real thrill to be able to come out in the Lamar Valley and just sit along the road and watch the wolves chase elk. Sometimes they kill them in front of you and watch them feed on carcasses. And see the scavengers come in, the eagles and the ravens and the coyotes and it's something we hadn't anticipated would be happening for quite a few years yet.

FRITZ: These wolves are among the first to roam Yellowstone in over 60 years. They're here because of a recovery effort that began 20 years ago to return the endangered predators to some of their former range. Dr. Mech says these wolves, released in 1995, are already helping to restore balance to the ecosystem.

WOMAN: I just saw 5 wolves running down that way.

FRITZ: The wolves are also helping the local economy. They're an attraction for visitors from all over the world. Mary Soan and her husband Rolf came here from Florida.

(Bird song)

SOAN: I caught a glimpse of a wolf this year. He was coming over a ridge and he just looked right at us, and then he went back over the ridge and then he came back again and came down. And we watched him till he went into some trees. But last year, we were able to watch 5 adults and 3 pups.

FRITZ: This project is considered the most successful and popular endangered species recovery effort ever in the US. The original group of 30 wolves has grown to more than 160. The species could soon be removed from the Endangered Species List altogether. For wolf advocates, it would be a remarkable achievement. But for others, it's their worst nightmare.

(Footfalls through tall grasses)

FRITZ: Horace Brailsford tends to a few sheep on his ranch in Paradise Valley, north of Yellowstone.

BRAILSFORD: There was actually one ewe, that I call Yahtzee, and the sheep that are here are all her lambs and then there's one ram.

FRITZ: Shortly after wolves were released in the park, one of them showed up and started killing his sheep.

BRAILSFORD: I don't feel the same as a lot of other people about how wonderful it is to have them around.

FRITZ: The lone wolf was eventually caught and killed, and Mr. Brailsford financially compensated for the losses. But because he lives so close to the park, he believed he was fighting a losing battle against the wolves. He sold most of his herd and now drives semi trucks for a living. He's bitter about his fate.

BRAILSFORD: In terms of seeing wolves in my personal opinion, I would like to see them, their hides tacked to the wall of the barn. But if I can't kill the wolf, I'd like to see it go back to the park and be penned into the park so that I would not see them again.

FRITZ: The US Fish and Wildlife Service hoped to address the concerns of recovery opponents like Mr. Brailsford by applying a special Endangered Species Act rule to these transplanted wolves. They're deemed experimental and non-essential, and have less protection than other endangered animals. Legally they can be destroyed if caught killing livestock. But opponents challenged the special status anyway in Federal court. Supporters were stunned when Judge Williams Downes recently struck down the reintroduction programs and ordered the wolves removed from the wild.

CLARK: Certainly our reaction was one of deep concern and disbelief.

FRITZ: Jamie Clark is Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, DC, the agency responsible for wolf recovery.

CLARK: We felt very strongly that our decision to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone and into the Idaho area was based on complete compliance with the Endangered Species Act, through a regulation that provided maximum flexibility for the surrounding public and maximum opportunity for quick recovery of the wolves in that area.

FRITZ: Judge Downes' temporary release stayed his ruling, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has appealed the decision. Ms. Clark wants the experimental populations left intact. But Judge Downes' decision has caused a surge of anti-wolf sentiment in the west. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho feels the recovery programs have run roughshod over the rights of states and the people who raise livestock. Although the court order addresses narrow procedural points, Senator Craig says it speaks to broader problems with the Endangered Species Act.

CRAIG: I support the Endangered Species Act, and I have been supportive of the reintroduction of different species. But there has to be some reality placed with how you do it and the types of species you reintroduce instead of this blanket lockstep approach that all species have to be reintroduced, the human species be damned.

FRITZ: There are several possible outcomes to the appeal of the judge's decision. The wolves could be allowed to stay in the wild under the experimental status. The order to remove the wolves could be upheld and the animals either killed or put in captivity. Or the wolves could be granted full Endangered Species protection, meaning that ranchers could no longer kill attacking wolves. Senator Craig says if that happens, it would spell trouble for the Endangered Species Act.

CRAIG: If we get an absolute listing, then I think you're going to see a rebellion in the west, if there is no ability to manage animals of prey that might bring down domestic livestock. And there would be no ability to manage that.

FRITZ: For its part, the US Fish and Wildlife Service argues that these are exactly the kinds of concerns that the experimental, nonessential approach was designed to address. Director Jamie Clark says she's confident the reintroduction programs will be upheld on appeal, and the Agency will continue to implement similar recovery projects, like those for grizzly bears and Mexican wolves.

CLARK: We're very mindful of the judge's decision in Yellowstone, but we're also very committed to restoring and recovering endangered species in as flexible a manner as the Endangered Species Act allows us. And so, we're continuing to move forward on many fronts.

FRITZ: The appeal of Judge Downes' order will be heard later this year, with a decision expected by next summer. Meanwhile, the transplanted wolves will continue to repopulate Yellowstone and the Central Idaho wilderness, be studied by biologists, and attract visitors to the park hoping to hear or see a wolf.


MAN: Now, where'd the other 2 go?

MAN 2: The 3 are right up on the ridge but I don't see them.

MAN: The other 2 are going in the other direction.

(Bird calls)

MAN: Well, there's elk way up there.

MAN 2: Yeah.

FRITZ: For Living on Earth, I'm Jane Fritz.

(Wind continues)

MAN: Did those 2 go toward the elk? Where'd those 2 go? Oh, there they are, to the right. To the left.

(Music up and under: Paul Winter consort)

MAN 2: Oh, yeah, the 2 grays?

MAN: Yeah.

Back to top

(Music up and under)

CURWOOD: If you have a comment, a question, or a story idea for our program, please call our listener line any time at 800-218-9988. That's 800-218-9988. Or write us a letter at 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. That's 8 Story Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138. Our e-mail address is LOE@NPR.ORG. Once again, LOE@NPR.ORG. And check out our Web page at www.livingonearth.org. That's www.livingonearth.org. Transcripts and tapes are $15. Coming up: a magnificent bird takes a fancy address: red-tailed hawks move into Manhattan's posh East Side. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

(Music up and under)

What would Walt Whitman Say?

CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood.
The celebrated poet Walt Whitman once wrote, "America does not repel the past." But the congregation of a tiny historic church in southern New Jersey is wondering if the nation still heeds its "good gray poet". A road widening project threatens to destroy 2 majestic trees, which have flanked the church's entrance since the days Whitman himself frequented the site. Paul Conlow has the story of how some in a small town are trying to halt the juggernaut of suburban sprawl as it threatens to roll over historic places.

(A congregation sings to organ accompaniment: "Oh, come, come, come, come, come to the church in the wild wood Oh, come to the church in the dell...")

CONLOW: The congregation of the Glendale United Methodist Church in Voorhees, New Jersey, sings an old hymn during Sunday service.

(Congregation sings: "... as the little boy in church in the dell...")

CONLOW: Time seems to stand still in this church built in 1855 on what was a sleepy crossroads about 10 miles east of Philadelphia. Farmers gathered sandstones from nearby fields for the foundation. They raised the walls sheathed in white clapboard. And as a finishing touch, they planted 2 tulip poplars to frame the entrance. Today, the tulip poplars tower over the little church, and descendants of the farmers who built it, people like Pete Stafford, continue the long tradition of worshiping here. After the service, Stafford stands outside and points to the remains of an old shed, which served the congregation long ago.

(Traffic sounds)

STAFFORD: This is where they would have put their horses and wagons, at least the first ones that got here. Now remember, they used to come as a group. There'd be a whole family in a wagon, so it wasn't just like today where you have 1 or 2 people in a car. They would have a crowd in these wagons, so you didn't need that much space...

(Traffic sounds increase)

CONLOW: But the narrow road, which once carried wagons, now carries thousands of cars and trucks each day. Years of development have transformed Voorhees from a quiet farming community into an affluent, 11-square-mile suburb with 28,000 residents, shopping malls, office buildings, and lots of traffic.

(Traffic continues)

CONLOW: Every year scores of accidents occur within sight of the tulip poplars. Camden County, which owns the strip of land including the tulip poplars in front of the church, wants to cut down the trees and widen the dangerous intersection. County official Scott Goldberg says no one wants to disturb the historic site, but it's a matter of safety.

GOLDBERG: This is about, you know, the 20th century and all of its ills and all of its challenges coming straight face to face with history. And I think the only answer is that history and progress work together.

CONLOW: But the Glendale congregation opposes the plan, which would put the entrance of their church just 13 feet away from the busy highway. They insist the road can be widened on the other side. County officials say that option would cost an extra million dollars. And public spending is a touchy issue in Voorhees, where taxes skyrocketed as the local economy slumped in the mid-1990s. Like many in town, shopper Helen Chambers of Voorhees would like to see the trees spared, but not if she has to pay for them.

CHAMBERS: A million dollars, I know some parts of that would come from us. And we pay enough around here. So you know, they have to do what they have to do.

CONLOW: But another shopper, Albert Haines, who once picked strawberries in fields now covered by a supermarket parking lot, says he would miss the trees and their springtime blossoms.

HAINES: Very pretty. The pink and white blooms on them and all, it's very pretty. They shouldn't be taken down, I don't think so.

CONLOW: Road projects ignite debates like this one in communities across the nation, where nearly $100 billion a year is spent on building, maintaining, and administering roads. Good roads spur economies, reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, and save lives. But Peter Brink of the National Trust for Historic Preservation says these benefits need not come at the price of the community's historic resources, like the Glendale church's tulip poplars.

BRINK: Roads are there to serve communities, and communities are not there to serve roads. And in this case it sounds like something very precious is being taken out in the name of the road.

(Milling voices)

CONLOW: After Sunday service the congregation gathers for coffee and cake in the church's sun-filled basement room. In 1995 the Glendale church and the tulip poplars earned a place on the state and national registers of historic places, and for good reason. Abolitionists met in this room, and it also served as one of New Jersey's first public schools, where students carved their initials in the hand-hewn posts and sat for visits by Walt Whitman. The author of Leaves of Grass came to the Jersey countryside while recuperating from a stroke. He stayed with the Stafford family, who lived for a time across the road, and often could be found hobbling by the little stream behind the church.

(Burbling water)

O'NEAL: (reading) "I'm sitting near the brook under a tulip tree 70 feet high, thick with the fresh verdure of its young maturity. A beautiful object, every branch, every leaf perfect from top to bottom."

CONLOW: That's Margaret O'Neal, curator of Camden's Walt Whitman House, reading a passage which Whitman penned during one of his visits. Pete Stafford says his grandmother was among the children who watched Whitman stand on a tree stump and recite poetry, smeared in mud which he believed had healthful qualities.

STAFFORD: They were terrified of the man. I mean, he had a long beard, he was smeared with mud, he was acting a little eccentric. And they spied on him but they kept their distance.

CONLOW: A shopping center now occupies the land where Stafford's grandmother grew up. An example of the new development which is helping Voorhees rebound from its recent economic slump. But what's good for the economy, says Camden County's Scott Goldberg, is hard on the roads, which will snarl with even more cars.

GOLDBERG: And these cars, you know, they're moving quickly, they're going to the store, they have to leave to get home, you know these aren't Sunday drivers. These are people on a mission.

CONLOW: The Glendale United Methodist Church also has a mission, says its pastor, the Reverend Charles Lay. Not to discourage progress, but to preserve itself, its history, and the history of the township.

LAY: There's a point at which you have to say enough is enough, this is history. We just want people to stop trying to take this part away from us and from themselves. There's other ways around this; we have to stop it.

(Congregation singing)

CONLOW: The congregation has rejected the county's offer to move the church away from the intersection and will continue to oppose any efforts to take down the trees. Camden County plans to appeal in June to the state's Historic Sites Council for permission to remove the tulip poplars. For Living on Earth, I'm Paul Conlow in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Back to top

(Congregation sings: "Yes it's true, there's a cross for you. The land of our savior is strong. And the love of our savior is long...")

Hawks Nest at Posh Manhattan Address

CURWOOD: Okay, for wildlife in Manhattan you'd expect squirrels, robins, and maybe some enterprising raccoons. But consider the odds of siting a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks. Well, if you saunter over to Fifth Avenue along Central Park near 74th Street and you bring your binoculars, you can spy the nest ,and maybe mom and dad hawk and their hawklets, just above the 12th floor window of a fancy apartment building. Central Park is their hunting ground. After all, the park is prime bird-watching territory, being home to about 275 different species. But the showy and dramatic hawks get the most attention. The birds have even prompted a book by a Wall Street Journal columnist. Marie Winn writes about nature for the Journal, and she calls her new book Red Tails in Love. She joins us from the studios of WNYC in New York. Welcome.

WINN: Hi, Steve. I'm very happy to be here, myself.

CURWOOD: Now, let's talk about these hawks. Is it the same pair that move into Fifth Avenue there every year?

WINN: One constant. There's been one male, and he arrived in 1991 and he's been around ever since. So he's our main man, or as one of the regulars call him, His Guyness.

CURWOOD: Marie Winn, I've been out hawk watching, and I have to tell you that, you know, red tails aren't all that common to see and certainly I don't think I've ever seen any one near a city. At all. I mean, they're pretty shy birds. Do you have any explanation as to why these particular hawks are so willing to live in the city? I mean, right there on Fifth Avenue.

WINN: Well, red tailed hawks appear to be a species that is on the increase and that are taking advantage of some of the circumstances of contemporary life that are damaging the chances of other birds.


WINN: And my story is a perfect example of this. Since this book has come out, or in fact, since the first column that told the story of these nesting red tailed hawks on the building on Fifth Avenue, news has filtered out of several other such nests. This is a bird that in books of the past has been described just as you've said, as a shy bird, nests in the deep forest, in very rural areas. And as Arthur Cleveland Bent, a writer of the past, described, if you come anywhere near to a red tail nest it might even abandon the nest. Well, this ain't so for our birds that we've been watching. And it seems to be decreasingly so for red tailed hawks in general.

CURWOOD: I guess the lure of those nice fat and juicy pigeons and those rotund rats down there is just too much for a red tail to pass up. It's good hunting, huh?

WINN: Oh, I think that's exactly the case.

CURWOOD: Maybe you remember a particular siting that you thought was just incredible.

WINN: I do remember one. This was one when I was sitting next to the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, which is right by what we call the Hawk Bench, where we spent all our hundreds and probably thousands of hours observing the red tailed hawks nesting on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street. I was watching with my binoculars, and on the edge of the nest up there was the hero of my story, and all of a sudden he was gone and I would say 4 seconds later there was a tremendous commotion right by my foot. And he had spotted a rat and zoomed and caught it, and I just couldn't believe my eyes. There's this huge thing right by me, and he takes off for a branch right by me and proceeds to eviscerate it. And this was pretty far out.

CURWOOD: I guess so. Now, why would Central Park be such a popular place for birds? I mean, it's in the middle of this asphalt jungle, as you describe it. Why do birds want to come to New York City?

WINN: Well, just like there are residents of New York and there are lots of tourists in New York, we've got our resident birds and we've got our tourists. And actually, the tourists are the ones that make Central Park an officially great bird-watching spot.

CURWOOD: Officially great? I mean --

WINN: Officially great. There was a list by the well-known ornithologist Roger Pasquier that actually placed Central Park among the top 15 bird-watching spots in America, and that included Yosemite and Cape May and all sorts of very famous places.

CURWOOD: In your book you have one of the regular bird-watchers saying that the whole experience of watching the hawks following their daily trials was like being in love, in fact perhaps better than being in love. It seems that for some of you there in New York, these red-tailed hawks have become, well, an obsession. Can you say why people feel so strongly about these hawks?

WINN: I'm not sure I would say that it's better, but it is like being in love. There is an obsessive aspect to it. You -- you feel sort of lucky and privileged that this has happened to you. And certainly, we all felt this way. It just amazed us that we were able to get involved with these creatures that normally we would never, that are so other than we are. Normally, you'd have no entry into their lives, and all of a sudden we could see everything. We could see how they courted each other, how the male always brought the female a gift before they mated, and she accepted it, and without that gift uh uh, baby, back into the woods. (Curwood laughs.) I don't know. I like getting gifts, and it's not that I demand them, but there's something about this kind of behavior that I think one could compare. And being able to just comfortably sit there on our hawk bench and watch all this is just fantastic. You should come, Steve, come and watch with us. (Curwood laughs.)

CURWOOD: I will. The hawk bench is at what corner?

WINN: It's right by the model boat pond.


WINN: And on weekends there are people with telescopes, very eager to let people to have a look. And the excitement is beginning since the 1998 red tails seem to have hatched, and by the beginning of June when they'll be ready to take their first flight, there's going to be hundreds and hundreds of people up there lining up for the telescopes and saying, "Oh my God, I don't believe this!" and et cetera, or "Oh wow!" or "C'est merveilleux!" In every language they express their disbelief and amazement.

CURWOOD: Marie Winn is a nature columnist with the Wall Street Journal. Her book is called Red Tails In Love. Thank you.

WINN: Thank you.

Back to top

(Music up and under: Bernstein's "New York, New York" from "On The Town")

CURWOOD: And for this week that's Living on Earth. We're produced by the World Media Foundation in cooperation with Harvard University. Our production team is George Homsy, Jesse Wegman, Terry FitzPatrick, Daniel Grossman, Liz Lempert, and Miriam Landman, along with Peter Christianson, Roberta DeAvila, Peter Shaw, and Julia Madeson. Eileen Bolinsky is our technical director. Peter Thomson heads our Western Bureau. Joyce Hackel is our senior editor, and Chris Ballman is the senior producer. We had help from Robin Honeywell, Jeremy Jurgens, and Jim Frey. Michael Aharon composed our theme. I'm Steve Curwood, executive producer. And thanks for listening.

(Music up an under)

ANNOUNCER: Funding for Living on Earth comes from the World Media Foundation Environmental Information Fund. Major contributors include the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for coverage of sustainable agriculture; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the National Science Foundation for coverage of science in the environment; the David and Lucile Packard Foundation; and the W. Alton Jones Foundation, promoting new economic approaches to advance environmental protection and human prosperity: www.wajones.org.

(Music up and under)

NPR ANNOUNCER: This is NPR, National Public Radio.


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
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.

Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.

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