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EarthTalk®

by E - The Environmental Magazine


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Can you explain the 2010 Safe Cosmetics Act? What does it purport to do and has it been signed into law?
-- Megan Wilson, Austin, TX

The Safe Cosmetics Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in July 2010 by Democrats Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. But it never got past committee reviews and thus never came up for a vote.

The proposed bill aimed to ensure that all personal care products for sale in the U.S. would be free of harmful ingredients and that all ingredients would be fully disclosed. The bill would’ve given the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to prohibit the use of certain ingredients, including carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxins, to recall products that fail to meet safety standards, and to require product labels to name each ingredient.

The FDA has only limited say in what cosmetics manufacturers can and cannot put into their products. And the cosmetics industry has essentially been regulating itself for some three decades, and would like to keep it that way. In response to failed efforts in the 1970s to force the FDA to regulate cosmetics more like drugs—with required pre-market safety assessments—the industry decided to take matters into its own hands, creating the Cosmetics Industry Review Panel to judge the safety of various ingredients.

Critics argue that self-regulation isn’t appropriate for an industry trading in potentially carcinogenic products. “It’s a panel funded by the trade association,” Stacy Malkan of the non-profit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics told the Washington, DC-based Corporate Crime Reporter. “For 30 years that they have been in operation, they have only looked at about 13 percent of the chemicals in cosmetics. They do cursory reviews. They look mostly for short term health effects. It’s a panel of mostly dermatologists, not toxicologists. So, they don’t have the expertise to be looking at long-term health effects like cancer.”

Another non-profit, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has identified upwards of 100 different products that passed Cosmetics Industry Review Panel safety assessments despite obvious violations of that body’s own guidelines. According to EWG’s research, 22 percent of all personal care products on store shelves today—including children’s products—may contain a cancer-causing ingredient (1,4-Dioxane), while some 60 percent of sunscreens contain oxybenzone, a potential hormone disruptor.

In response to the government not requiring cosmetics manufacturers to be more responsible, EWG launched the Skin Deep website, an easy-to-use, keyword-searchable database of cosmetics and their health risks and environmental footprints. The idea behind the website is to let users decide for themselves which cosmetics to purchase; EWG hopes that making this information freely available and easy-to-access will help drive demand for safer products.

Supporters of the Safe Cosmetics Act were hopeful that passage of their bill would usher in a new era of more rigorous mandatory screening of cosmetics here at home, and leadership in a global marketplace hungry for safer, greener products. Advocates for safe cosmetics hope that lawmakers will muster the resolve to reintroduce the bill, or another like it, in the current or some future session of Congress.

CONTACTS: FDA,
www.fda.gov; Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, www.safecosmetics.org; Corporate Crime Reporter, www.corporatecrimereporter.com; Skin Deep, www.ewg.org/skindeep/.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What will be the effect of all the flooding along the
Mississippi River for organic farmers, given all the pollutants in the water? When they recover, can they still certify their products as organic? -- Michael O’Loughlin, Tigard, OR

The combination of record floods and record numbers of organic farms has led many to wonder about the safety of even our organic groceries. Luckily for Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a policy in place to govern how farmers respond to such situations and how affected crops and fields are handled to ensure that consumers continue to have access to healthy and safe food.

For one, the FDA doesn’t allow any flooded out crops—organic or otherwise—to be sold or consumed by people. The agency considers “ready to eat crops...that have been in contact with flood waters to be adulterated due to potential exposure to sewage, animal waste, heavy metals, pathogenic microorganisms or other contaminants.” Given that there is no known method of “reconditioning” such crops that would “provide a reasonable assurance of safety for human food use,” the FDA instructs farmers to dispose of them “in a manner that ensures they do not contaminate unaffected crops during harvesting, storage or distribution.” So-called “adulterated” food can be seized and violators prosecuted under federal law.

Of course, many farms affected by floods have other fields that remain unaffected. The FDA recommends a 30 foot buffer between flooded areas and fields that can still yield edible food. Also, farm equipment shouldn’t be driven through or exposed to flooded areas (or their affected crops) to minimize the risk of contamination. As to when farmers, organic or conventional, can replant fields inundated with floodwaters, the FDA suggests waiting at least 60 days to ensure contaminants aren’t still in the soil.

No discussion of organic farming and flooding is complete without mention of global warming. Italian researchers analyzed runoff data recorded in the Swiss Alps to study how flood risk varies with temperature, precipitation and elevation in mountainous regions. They reported in the January 2010 edition of the journal Geophysical Research Letters that global warming does increase flood risk significantly, and that large floods have occurred more frequently in recent years than in the past.

Furthermore, they predict global warming will result in such floods occurring more often in the future. If global temperatures increase by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as many scientists expect, so-called “hundred-year-floods” could occur every 20 years or so, putting untold numbers of people at risk. Global warming is also responsible for more frequent and more intense storms that can cause widespread flooding.

The good news is that farming organically is one way to stave off global warming. Research at the Rodale Institute found that “organic farming helps combat global warming by capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide and incorporating it into the soil, whereas conventional farming exacerbates the greenhouse effect by producing a net release of carbon into the atmosphere.” And
Cornell University
researcher David Pimentel found that organic farms use 63 percent of the energy used by same-size conventional farms, which rely on large amounts of nitrogen fertilizer produced synthetically with large amounts of energy.

CONTACTS: Geophysical Research Letters,
www.agu.org/journals/gl/; “Global warming increases flood risk in mountainous areas,” www.idrologia.polito.it/~allamano/lavori/2009GL041395.pdf; Rodale Institute, www.rodaleinstitute.org; “Organic and Conventional Farming Systems: Environmental and Economic Issues,” www.ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/1813/2101/1/pimentel_report_05-1.pdf.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: What is “tar sands oil” and what is the controversy over possibly building a pipeline for it from Canada into the United States? -- Bill Berkley, Omaha, NE

Tar sands oil (or “tar sands”) is slang for bituminous sand, a mixture of sand, clay, water and an extremely gooey form of petroleum known as bitumen, which resembles tar in appearance. Extracting commercially viable crude oil from tar sands is especially difficult because the thick and sticky mixture won’t flow unless it is heated or diluted with other hydrocarbons. Turning the extracted bitumen into liquid fuel requires large inputs of energy; the process also uses, pollutes and wastes large amounts of fresh water.


Research has shown that these processes alone generate as much as four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the post-extraction production of conventional oil. Taking the entire life cycle of both final products into account, the extracting, processing and burning of liquid fuel from tar sands emits between 10 and 45 percent more greenhouse gases overall than conventional crude. Extraction of oil from tar sands also damages land to the point where it can no longer sustain forestry or farming.


Despite the environmental pitfalls of harvesting oil from tar sands, those countries that have them are making the most of them. More than half of
Canada’s relative sizable oil production comes from the tar sands of Alberta and other areas, while Venezuela is also a big producer of tar sands oil.

Tar sands have been in the news of late because green groups and many U.S. public officials are worried that the construction of a new pipeline to transport tar sands crude from northeastern Alberta into the U.S. —TransCanada’s Keystone XL project—would greatly increase American consumption of this carbon-intensive fuel and jeopardize U.S. efforts to reduce its oil consumption and overall carbon footprint.

Plans call for running the 2,000-mile-long pipeline all the way from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries. On the way it will carry as much as 900,000 barrels of oil per day, passing through six U.S. states and possibly jeopardizing the integrity of farmland, public water sources and wildlife habitat.

In June 2010, 50 members of Congress signed a letter asking Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to block approval of Keystone XL because it would “undermine America's clean energy future and international leadership on climate change.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency subsequently announced that the State Department’s draft environmental impact study for Keystone XL was in need of revision because it didn’t sufficiently take into account oil spill response plans, safety issues and greenhouse gas concerns.

In December 2010, several concerned
U.S. nonprofits—including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club—launched the No Tar Sands Oil campaign to urge President Obama to halt Keystone XL, which is scheduled for completion by 2013. In March 2011 some two dozen U.S. mayors got into the act, asking Secretary Clinton to stop approval on Keystone XL as it could “undermine the good work being done in local communities across the country to fight climate change and reduce our dependence on oil.”


CONTACTS: TransCanada’s Keystone Project, www.transcanada.com/keystone.html; No Tar Sands Oil, www.dirtyoilsands.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How are wild dolphins faring on the high seas? Recent reports of dolphin deaths in the
Gulf of Mexico may well be due to last year’s BP oil spill, but I imagine there are many threats to dolphins from pollution, human overfishing and other causes. -- Henry Milken, Atlanta, GA


Dolphins are probably the most iconic and best loved species of the marine world. Their playful nature and high intelligence have endeared them to people for eons. But our love of dolphins might not be enough to save them from extinction brought on by overfishing, pollution, climate change and other environmental affronts perpetrated by humans.

The nonprofit International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which maintains a worldwide “Red List” of at-risk wildlife species, considers 36 of the world’s 40 different dolphin species to be in trouble. Yes, specific events can cause problems for dolphins—researchers believe that the deaths of 300 dolphins in the
Gulf of Mexico over the last year can be blamed on the BP oil spill there. But more widespread and constant forms of pollution—such as run-off of agricultural and industrial chemicals into rivers that drain into coastal areas of the ocean where dolphins spend much of their time—are having a more lasting negative effect on dolphins by poisoning them and causing reproductive problems.

Also, dolphins have long been the unwitting victims of fishermen targeting large prey, such as tuna. According to Defenders of Wildlife, fishermen started to notice a half century ago that schools of yellow fin tuna seemed to follow dolphins that swim higher in the water column, especially in the Eastern Tropical Pacific. “Fishermen there have consequently found that setting nets on dolphins to catch the tuna swimming underneath is a lucrative technique for tuna fishing, despite the fact that the practice is extremely injurious to dolphins,” reports the group, adding that some seven million dolphins have since been killed as a result of the practice.

Also, our unrelenting demand for seafood—which has caused rampant overfishing throughout the world’s oceans—means that dolphins, which feed on smaller fish such as mackerel, cod and herring as well as squid, are having a harder and harder time finding food. And in
Turkey, Peru, Sri Lanka, Japan
and elsewhere, dolphins are hunted as a delicacy and also to decrease competition for fish resources.

As if these problems weren’t enough, climate change also looms as one of the biggest threats of all to dolphins. “Due to the rapidly rising oceans temperatures, the dolphin’s primary food sources are seeking deeper cooler waters,” reports the Defenders of Wildlife. “Scientists are concerned that the dolphins will have difficulty adapting as quickly as necessary to find new feeding grounds to sustain their populations.”

But although the situation seems dire for dolphins, many countries and thousands of scientists remain committed to helping them survive. Marine mammal advocates are optimistic that the Panama Declaration, an international agreement signed in 1997 by several Eastern Tropical Pacific countries and others that bans using dolphins to track tuna, has already helped curtail the process that has been so destructive. Whether these efforts will suffice to get dolphin populations healthy enough to deal with what promises to be the biggest challenge yet to their survival—global warming—remains to be seen.

CONTACTS: IUCN,, 
Defenders of Wildlife, www.defenders.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear Earth Talk: How healthy is soy? I heard that, despite its healthy image, most soy is grown using chemicals like other crops and is even being genetically modified. -- D. Frinka,
Syracuse, NY

Food products made with soy have enjoyed great popularity in the
U.S. and elsewhere in recent years. Two decades ago, Americans spent $300 million a year on soy food products; today we spend over $4 billion. More and more adults are substituting soy—a great source of protein—for meat, while a quarter of all baby formula contains soy instead of milk. Many school lunch programs nationwide have added soy-based veggie burgers to their menus, as have countless restaurants, including diners and fast food chains.

And there are hundreds of other edible uses of the legume, which now vies with corn for the title of America's most popular agricultural crop. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration promotes the inclusion of soy into other foods to cut down on heart attack risk. Clinical studies have shown that soy can also lower the risk for certain types of breast and prostate cancer.

But there may be a dark side to soy’s popularity and abundance. “Many of soy’s health benefits have been linked to isoflavones—plant compounds that mimic estrogen,” reports Lindsey Konkel in Environmental Health News. “But animal studies suggest that eating large amounts of those estrogenic compounds might reduce fertility in women, trigger premature puberty and disrupt development of fetuses and children.” But before you dump out all your soy foods, note that the operative phrase here is “large amounts” which, in laboratory science, can mean amounts substantially above what one would consume in real life.

Also at issue is that upwards of 90 percent of the
U.S. soybean crop is grown using genetically modified (GM) seeds sold by Monsanto. These have been engineered to withstand repeated dousing with the herbicide, glyphosate (also sold by Monsanto and marketed as RoundUp). According to the nonprofit Non GMO Project, this allows soybean farmers to repeatedly spray their fields with RoundUp to kill all weeds (and other nearby plant life) except for the soybean plants they are growing.

The U.S. government permits the sale and consumption of GM foods, but many consumers aren’t so sure it’s OK to eat them—given not only the genetic tinkering but also the exposure to so much glyphosate. Due to these concerns, the European Union has had a moratorium on GM crops of all kinds since 1998.

The fact that genetically modified soy may be present in as much as 70 percent of all food products found in
U.S. supermarkets means that a vast majority of Americans may be putting a lot of GM soy into their systems every day. And not just directly via cereals, breads and pasta: Some 98 percent of the U.S. soybean crop is fed to livestock, so consumers of meat, eggs and dairy are indirectly ingesting the products of scientific tinkering with unknown implications for human health.

Since GM soy has only been around and abundant for less than a decade, no one yet knows for sure what the long term health effects, if any, will be on the populations of countries such as the U.S. that swear by it. Natural foods stores like WholeFoods are your best bet for finding non-GM foods of all sorts.

CONTACTS: Environmental Health News,
www.environmentalhealthnews.org; Non GMO Project, www.nongmoproject.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Our community is talking of culling local deer herd numbers. Frankly I think it’s the people who are overpopulated, crowding out every last inch of habitat. What happens when we finally do develop everything? Pow! There goes the last doe? -- Anne Williamson,
State College, PA

It’s hard to believe that deer, those innocuous enough vegetarian browsers that occasionally tromp through our backyards, are considered the scourge of many a suburban neighborhood across the continent. Prior to white settlement of the “New World,” tens of millions of deer blanketed the continent, but their population density was kept in check by free-roaming natural predators such as bears, wolves and mountain lions.

The white man’s rifle took out the deer’s chief predators and did a number on deer populations as well; venison was a staple meat on the ever expanding frontier. Biologists estimate that there were only a half million white-tailed deer left in the U.S. in the early 1900s due to unregulated hunting. At that point many states jumped in and began to regulate hunting to try to conserve fast dwindling resources. The new rules set limits on when hunters could kill deer and banned hunting females altogether.

In the meantime, many of the one-time farms in the eastern
U.S.
began reverting back to forests, creating a habitat patchwork that in some areas was ideal for deer. The ensuing rebound of white-tailed deer populations—over 20 million roam the U.S. today—is viewed as one of the nation’s greatest conservation success stories, especially since it occurred long before the dawn of the modern environmental movement.

But there is a dark side to all this “success.” Too many deer can cause problems for humans, other wildlife, and even for the deer themselves, who must compete for dwindling forage sources. “Complaints from residents are often that the deer are eating things that they have planted,” reports the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). “Well fertilized and watered landscapes and gardens can be much more desirable to the deer than surrounding common ground areas that are likely not watered or fertilized.”

Other concerns beyond tearing up suburban backyards include damage to agricultural crops, deer/car collisions, transmission of Lyme disease, and the over browsing of habitat which deer and other wildlife need. “Increasing deer densities through time can lead residents to a feeling that they have to share too much with the deer as the damage they do becomes less tolerated,” reports MDC. It’s at this point that wildlife managers begin considering culling local herds, usually by tweaking local hunting regulations.

Many animal advocates oppose such practices. In Defense of Animals (IDA) reports that even permitted sport hunting, under current wildlife management guidelines and outdated land management policies, contributes to deer overpopulation problems. “Currently, there are approximately eight does for every buck in the wild,” the group explains. “Laws restrict the number of does that hunters may kill.” Since bucks will often mate with more than one doe, the ratio of does to bucks “sets the stage for a population explosion.” And open season on both sexes won’t solve the problem, as too many does would die, stranding needy fawns and depleting the reproductive pool—as happened in the early 20th century when deer numbers fell precipitously low. IDA and many other animal protection organizations believe that sport hunting should be banned and that deer populations should be allowed to regulate naturally.


CONTACTS: MDC, www.mdc.mo.gov; IDA, www.idausa.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Not long ago we were reading a lot about hydrogen’s role in a clean energy future, with cars transitioning from gasoline-powered engines to hydrogen-powered fuel cells. Where does hydrogen fit now in the mix with electric cars now coming on so strong? -- Amanda Jenkins, Troy, MI

It is true that just a few years ago everyone was talking hydrogen fuel cells as the future of petroleum-free automotive transport. Fuel cell cars can run on infinitely renewable hydrogen gas and emit no harmful tailpipe emissions whatsoever. A 2005 Scientific American article bullishly reported that car company executives “foresee no better option to the hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in the long run.” Likewise, the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggested, also in 2005, that some 30 percent of the global stock of vehicles—700 million cars and trucks—could be powered by hydrogen fuel cells by 2050.

But high development costs and implementation hurdles have kept fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) out of the mainstream for now. And in the face of competition from a new crop of all-electric and hybrid-electric vehicles lately, some analysts wonder whether the fuel cell’s future is as bright as once thought.

That’s not to say the technology isn’t impressive, and still potentially very promising. The concept was first developed by NASA some five decades ago for use in space travel and has since been implemented in a wide range of other mobile and stationary power applications. In an FCV, a stack of fuel cells under the hood converts hydrogen stored on-board with oxygen in the air to make electricity that propels the drive train. While automakers have been able to make fuel cells small enough to fit in and power a conventional size car or truck, the price per unit is high due to the need to incorporate expensive, cutting edge components. And the lack of widespread demand precludes cost-saving mass production. Also, the lack of hydrogen refueling stations around the country limits the practicality of driving a fuel cell vehicle.

According to Richard Gilbert, co-author of the book, Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil, another big issue for hydrogen-powered fuel cells is their energy inefficiency. Creating hydrogen gas by splitting water molecules via electrolysis ends up using up about half of the energy it creates. Another half of the resulting energy is taken up by the conversion of hydrogen back into electricity within fuel cells. “This means that only a quarter of the initially available energy reaches the electric motor,” reports Gilbert. (Making hydrogen by reforming natural gas is also highly inefficient and relies on a fossil fuel from the get-go.) Such losses in conversion don’t stack up well against, for instance, recharging an electric vehicle (EV) like the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt from a wall socket—especially if the electricity can be initially generated from a renewable source like wind or solar.

But FCVs aren’t dead in the water yet. A few dozen Californians are already driving one of Honda’s FCX Clarity fuel cell cars. A $600/month lease payment entitles qualifying drivers to not only collision coverage, maintenance and roadside assistance but also hydrogen fuel, available via a handful of “fast-fill” hydrogen refueling stations. General Motors is part of an effort to test FCVs and implement a viable hydrogen refueling infrastructure in
Hawaii, currently one of the most fossil fuel dependent states in the U.S. The Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative aims to bring upwards of 20 hydrogen refueling stations to Hawaii by 2015. Other efforts are underway in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

CONTACTS: IEA, www.iea.org; Honda FCX Clarity, www.automobiles.honda.com/fcx-clarity.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I heard that timber thefts are increasing across the country. Why would people steal timber and is it a particular kind for a particular use? -- Rosie Ng, Stanwood, WA


People are stealing timber for the same reasons they steal anything: to profit from someone else’s hard work. What makes timber thefts that much harder to stop is the fact that, most of the time, they occur in remote forested areas and loggers typically don’t have to document their sales as meticulously as other kinds of natural resource extraction. With the economy still in the doldrums, it’s not surprising that timber thefts appear to be on the rise, at least based on anecdotal evidence from around the country.

“Timber theft can range from a landowner cutting down a neighbor’s tree to loggers stealing hundreds or thousands of trees from private or public lands,” reports Lori Compas in the September/October 2010 issue of E Magazine. “Investigators say it’s difficult to calculate the exact number of trees lost to theft, but losses are estimated at $3 million over the last five years in
Mississippi alone.” She cites one example there whereby a logger was arrested on three counts of timber theft after clearing some $375,000 worth of trees from land set aside to benefit local schools.

In some cases, thieves are targeting specific types of rare or expensive wood, such as the distinctively patterned birds-eye maple used in some high-end musical instruments. Since there’s no way to tell if the wood inside a maple tree will show the birds-eye pattern without cutting into it, thieves aren’t scared to damage or potentially kill a tree to find out. “We can see where they’ve notched trees [on state-owned forest land] to see if they have that desirable pattern,” says Larry Raedel, chief law enforcement officer for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. “When they find one that does, they cut down the entire tree and pack out a five- or six-foot section. They might make $300-$400 for a slab of birdseye.”

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, more complex schemes involve unreported or falsified mill receipts. “For instance, a logger might have a legitimate contract to cut timber on a parcel of land, with the understanding that he will cut certain trees, take them to a sawmill, receive payment and pay the landowner a portion of the receipts,” reports Compas. “The trick is that he might take the logs to several different mills and only report the sales from one mill, pocketing the proceeds from the others.” In response to these more sophisticated tactics law enforcement is starting to step up efforts to catch timber thieves red-handed by the use of tracking paint, surveillance and hidden cameras. Oftentimes other loggers will even tip off local authorities about a rogue member of their industry perpetrating such crimes.

According to Tree Farmer magazine, legislatures and courts in various states are also starting to assign stiffer penalties for timber thefts. “Not only will actual or compensatory damages be awarded, but also, in the proper situations, swift and severe penalty awards and punitive damages will be handed down by the courts,” Tree Farmer reports. Unlike in the past, timber thieves today often must answer to civil trespassing charges along with larceny of natural resources—and may be expected to pay back not only the value of the stolen timber but also the cost of reforesting the site(s) in question. Timber thieves who haul their take out of state might also face federal charges for transporting stolen timber across state lines.

CONTACTS: E Magazine, www.emagazine.com/archive/5294; Washington State Department of Natural Resources, www.dnr.wa.gov; Tree Farmer, www.treefarmsystem.org/cms/pages/25_14.html.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


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